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Crafting Your Partner Journey: Why PRM Tools Alone Are Not Enough

I've had the privilege of working with many businesses over the years to optimize their partner programs. And one of the most common challenges I see is ensuring companies are achieving scalable results from their partner relationship management (PRM) platform when crafting their full partner journey. 

So, let’s talk about partner relationship management tools. They’re like the Swiss Army knives of partner program management—a one-stop-shop for managing relationships, communications, and enablement. But just like a Swiss Army knife won’t fix all your problems (trust me, I tried to fix a leaky faucet with one), a partner relationship management tool alone won’t guarantee the success of your partner program. Don’t get me wrong, investing in a PRM tool is crucial, but it’s only part of the equation. To truly succeed, businesses need to complement these solutions with a strategic approach and ongoing effort.  

The reality is that partner programs are complex, and PRM tools are just one piece of the puzzle. To achieve optimal results, organizations need to focus on the entire partner journey and provide their partners with the right resources and support at every step. 

In this post, I’ll cover:  

Start at the beginning with partner experience blueprints 

A partner relationship management platform simply automates best practices. Whether you are standing up a new PRM or evaluating one you have in place, always start with the partner in mind. What does your partner need to succeed in their business? If you provide this solution, they will not only engage with your portal but will drive growth to your business. 

Regardless of the tools you are using (or looking to use), you will only see ROI if you have a strategic plan for how those tools will be used. Let’s say you want to build a treehouse (i.e., a partner program), what is the first step? It is not buying the hammer. First, you need blueprints to get to the desired outcome, the treehouse. Once you have mapped out your plan, then you know you need hammers and saws (i.e., PRM, marketplaces, partner marketing automation, etc.) and materials like wood and nails (i.e., marketing content, reward programs, etc.) to ensure your treehouse is built like your blueprints. 

Without a strategic plan and materials, the tools do nothing. This holds true for the integration of a PRM or any other channel tech that you may choose to invest in. 

The partner experience starts with the partner’s perspective 

When we are designing partner programs, we typically start with what we, as the vendors, need from our partners. We want more deal registrations, better engagement, higher closing rates, etc. When we build our programs around our needs, we are less likely to attract and retain the partners that lead to growth. 

I managed sales and marketing at a small systems integrator organization for six years and during that time I often encountered the misuse of the term “benefits” in reference to partners who did not actually provide them. If the friction we create does not outweigh the benefit of working with you, a partner will go elsewhere. That’s why the partner journey is so important.  

What is the partner journey? 

The partner journey begins with recruitment and onboarding and continues through enablement, deal registration, incentive management, ongoing support, and so forth. Partner journey stages can be defined differently based on your industry or business needs.  

The key to success in this journey is partner engagement. However, engagement is often easier said than done. It requires a commitment to provide partners with the resources and support they need to succeed and a willingness to continually evaluate and optimize the partner experience. 

Partner engagement is essential because it drives partner loyalty, which is a significant factor in the success of any partner journey and program. Engaged partners are more likely to work with your organization for an extended period and will actively promote your products and services to their networks. 

While PRM tools are an essential component to guide the partner journey, they are not enough on their own to drive partner engagement and generate ROI. Here are some of the reasons why. 

Build more value  

We often think about our own needs before our partners'. But let's be real, a flashy brochure isn't going to seal the deal. Studies show that 60% of buying decisions are based on the sales rep, not the collateral.  

So, the question is, are you equipping your partners' sales reps for success? If not, you're missing out on a big opportunity. 

Rethink your incentives 

Your partners are juggling multiple vendors for each given deal. They don't have time to sift through a dozen portals every day. So, why should they bother with yours?  

If your portal and incentives programs aren’t driving more deals, higher ACVs, better closing rates, and larger margins, then what's the point? If partners aren't logging in, it's time to reevaluate your resources and get results that matter. 

Fresh content 

I visit countless portals daily and see some amazing creative and innovative things our customers are doing to enable their partners. Yet, there are others that haven't updated their front page in months, or even years!  

It's not enough to rely on new assets to keep your portal fresh. The front page is prime real estate and should highlight the top resources your partners need. Keep it updated with the latest product releases, incentive programs, and events. Don't miss the chance to keep your partners engaged and informed—use this space and keep it fresh! 

The partner journey to success 

Partner relationship management tools are crucial for managing partner programs, but they are only a single aspect of the overall strategy. To ensure scalable results, businesses must take a strategic approach and focus on the entire partner journey, from recruitment and onboarding to ongoing support and optimization. This means starting with the partner's needs, providing value through resources and support, and continually engaging and optimizing the partner experience.  

So, while a Swiss Army knife may have many tools, it won't fix all your problems, and if you have a hammer and nails, you won’t get very far on building that treehouse without the blueprints—just as a PRM tool alone won't guarantee the success of your partner program. Invest in the right strategy, and the tools will follow to help build a successful partner program that drives growth for your business. 

At Impartner, we're committed to helping our clients do just that. Reach out to learn more about our partner journey solutions and how we can help you drive ROI from your partner program. 

About the Author

Mike Kirby is the Sr. Director of Partner Strategy and Growth at Impartner. Kirby is a growth-oriented and results-driven partnerships leader with a talent for cultivating collaborative partnerships that drive partner channel program success. A dynamic sales executive, he has a passion for building high-performing teams based on trust and customer-first culture. Kirby is a KPI-building mastermind, tracking metrics to ensure that objectives are achieved and exceeded. With his proven track record of exceeding quotas, growing sales, and expanding pipelines, Kirby is a leader who has built a reputation as a trailblazer in his field. He is an experienced and well-trained mentor, coach, and recruiter who is effective at building and managing relationships with both B2B and B2C clients. Kirby has extensive leadership and volunteer experience in local business organizations, including United Way of Salt Lake and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Profile Photo of Mike Kirby