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5 Ways to Harmonize Your Channel Partner Program

Do you look at your channel partner program and see beautiful orchestration? How do you make sure your program is the star attraction to all of your channel partners? Bring harmony to the performance.

Relayware Partner Relationship Management

5 Ways to Harmonize Your Channel Partner Program

Posted on October 10, 2016

Concerts are beautifully complicated orchestrated events that fulfill and enliven fans. Have you ever thought about all that happens to make 1 great concert come together?

Promoters create interest and let you know where to go when. Then, once you’re at the venue, just to entertain you, roadies construct the stage; sound technicians make sure you can hear, and the musicians entertain you and all the other people -- people who may be nothing like you.

Do you look at your channel partner program and see beautiful orchestration? Someone at your organization creates the marketing materials for channel partners; someone measures and enables partner sales; someone else is focused on creating training and certification for your channel program. All of that activity is internal. Then, externally, there also other factors that impact the shape of your program. You may have many different types of partners, many partners across the globe or different partners focused on selling different solutions. And all of this internally and externally makes up your Channel Partner Program.

So, how do you make sure your program is the star attraction to all of your channel partners? Bring harmony to the performance.

1. Know Your Audience

Before you jump into the tactics, you (and all of your colleagues working on your partner program) must know your audience.

Concert attendees come from different backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: they’re there to watch the performance. The musicians appeal to a variety of demographics and personalities. The same concept applies to your channel partners. They may be in different countries or focused on different product portfolios, but you want them to engage with your partner program. You have to create something that’s compelling for everyone and keep them coming back.

Develop channel partner personas.

  • Who are the individuals logging into your partner portal? Do the professionals at your partner orgs have different responsibilities (i.e. sales, marketing, customer support)?
  • What are their goals and how can your products or services help them achieve their goals? What are their challenges and pain points? This is a great place to examine how your program alleviates their pain points (i.e., how YOU help THEM).
  • What kind of content do you see your partners interacting with the most? Are some partner types more interested in particular solutions or products? Does a particular type of messaging speak to one type of partner professional more directly than others? And more broadly, what other topics are they interested in?

Developing channel partner personas requires an investment of time, and it pays off—not only as you build brand awareness, but continuously engaging your partners and ensuring you stay top of mind.

2. Compose a Catchy Tune

Once you have a thorough understanding of who your channel partners are, then start developing your channel strategy by determining how you’ll engage your partners through your partner portal.

To develop an engaging partner portal, you must:

  • Set the tone, style and delivery strategies for your content – that is your refrain. When you go to a rock concert, you expect flash and dance. When you go see an orchestra play, you expect to stay seated and no one to talk. Knowing your partners, what’s your tempo, voice and conventions?
  • Know what topics your partners are looking for the most, and develop content around it. Use discussion forums to ask partners, “What would you like us to cover or address?” Also, go further, it’s not just what topics your partners want to hear from you, but how they want this information delivered – newsletter, videos, discussion forums? Most likely the answer is in several places, but pay attention to where it’s not. Don’t waste your time on a Facebook group, if your partners aren’t actively seeking you out on Facebook. It’s not always a case of “build it and they will come.”
  • Understand where your partners get their industry information. What events do they attend? Are they avidly reading trade magazines? Are they members of professional groups? How do they reach and listen to customers?

3. Set Your Tempo

Build a relationship with your partners by setting expectations – a tempo.

What are some of the different types of messages that you can deliver over social media? Is there other information that needs to come out at a regular pace via a webinar or newsletter?

For example, we offer Relayware Academy webinars for customers to help them dive into our deep product, and we send out quarterly newsletters to our customers. These are just two examples of the way we aim to feel predictable to our customers, which builds credibility and trust.

Inform all your partners via your partner portal. Cut down on emails, calls and chats, and address them on your partner portal. This is incredibly useful for product releases, events, and other large scale happenings.

4. Find Your Voice

This is the fun part. Just like every musician has their unique sound, your brand should have a voice that embodies its values.

  • Are you conversational in tone? Are you authoritative? What assets speak to them – infographics or more text-based? Like a musician knows their voice (e.g., good for rapping, better for ballads, best for solos), know your strengths and lean into them.
  • What are your company values? Incorporate your culture into your tone and language on your partner portal. Think about who your company is and how you want to be perceived, then go out and have fun with it.
  • Personalize—have two-way conversations with your channel partners. This where an activity stream on your partner portal can be incredibly instrumental. It lets partners know you’re really listening and appreciate their interaction. Have a personal touch in your responses to set yourself apart from other brands. Some of the most popular stars (e.g., Taylor Swift) do this very well
  • Create a community. Talking about nothing but your brand is boring. Listen to your audience so you can understand just what it is they’re looking for from you, then give it to them. Learn to speak their language and go where they are.

5. Listen

You may think that because we are using a concert as an analogy, that it’s all about blasting out from the stage, but actually the best musicians listen for cues from their audience to know if they are resonating with their audience. And you can too with an effective partner portal. Like all effective relationships, it’s a two-way street.

  • Use social media to listen to what how your partners are using your brand name. We aren’t talking about spying, but this helps you see if there’s a gap between the way you believe your messaging should be going out, and how your partners overlay their expertise and voice on your offers to customers.
  • Social media is also an avenue where vendors talk to their channel partners. Make sure to look for questions and comments your partners are saying about / to you. Don’t ignore their questions. Everyone can see you ignoring your partners, which doesn’t vibe well for customers or other partners. Even complaints – best practice is to say something back in a public forum, even if it’s “thank you for the feedback.
  • Concentrate on engaging with your partners on your partner portal. Continue to show your partners even after the initial onboarding stage. Remember that your channel partner orgs are hiring new employees every day, so you continuously have new opportunities to make a first impression, even with long-standing relationships. Increased engagement leads to increased partner revenue. The more you can get your partners to engage with your portal, the more they are to return, continue engaging with you and sell your products to end customers.
  • ¥ Listen for product feedback. Your partners have a pulse on customer feedback. Listen to what they are saying and incorporate their feedback into your business/product roadmap. Partners want to provide their unique insights into ways you can improve your products and you can both make more money.

Channel partner programs are like concerts in so many ways, with all the different moving parts and personalities that have to come together to get to that final event. However, with the right strategy, you can create harmonic experiences over and over.