Ready for an easier way to manage your growing ecosystem of partners? Look no further than the best partner management platforms! This type of software empowers you to organize all partner-related activities into one place.
With the power of partner management, you can automate manual tasks, create a better experience for your partners, manage different types of partners at once, and set up processes that accelerate your ecosystem growth. We'll cover how to evaluate different partner management platforms, key features to look for, the best partner management platform review sites, and common pricing models.
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👉 How to find the best partner management platform for you:
- Study user reviews and analyst reports
- Define your goals and the features you need
- Look for an automation-first platform
- Prioritize native, seamless integrations
- Drive strategic decision-making with data
- Ensure the platform has industry-leading security
- Look for an easy, intuitive platform built for partners
- Dive into the platform's support resources
- Navigate pricing models and calculate your ROI
- Test drive the platform with a demo
What is a partner management platform?
A partner management platform is a dedicated space where you can interact with your partners and manage all partnership-related activities for your business partners, affiliates, referral partners, implementation specialists, resellers, ISVs, OEMs, distributors, or other partner types.
From onboarding and training to performance tracking and deal registration, a partner management platform covers the entire lifecycle of a partner relationship. It ensures that every stage in the partnership process is optimized and set up for success. By consolidating these different functions into a single platform, you can improve communication with your partners, drive greater partner engagement, and ultimately increase revenue in your ecosystem.
Since the best partner management platforms touch every part of your ecosystem, it pays to take time at the start to thoroughly evaluate your options to find the best fit for your organization. Here's how.
1. Study user reviews and analyst reports
Real customer reviews and in-depth analyst research reports offer invaluable insights that go beyond the marketing and into the real-world application and performance of the software you're considering. They can help you cut through the noise to single out the top three to five options.
The website G2 is one of the most trusted platforms for partner management platform reviews, with its peer insights, segmentation, and feature evaluation. Start here to begin comparing different platforms and how they've worked for other partnership leaders like you.
Dig deeper by reading reports from industry analysts. While reviews are helpful, these provide a level of scrutiny and expert evaluation that is hard to match. Find the best partner management tools by looking at:
- Gartner's Market Guide
- The Forrester Wave
- Canalys' Channel Ecosystem Landscape
- Research in Action Matrix
While user reviews and analyst reports are critical tools, they're just the beginning. Again, use this process to find top choices, and then dig into your organization's unique requirements, budget constraints, and strategic objectives. A partner management platform might come highly recommended, but if it doesn't align with your needs or business model, it may not be the right choice.
✅ Level up: We're providing free access to the 2023 Forrester Wave results for partner management here! Download your copy now to read the full version.
2. Define your goals and the features you need
Your next step is a deep dive into your business needs, your program goals, and your key priorities for growth. An emerging manufacturing company who wants to supercharge indirect sales by bringing on new resellers will have much different needs than an enterprise leader who offers partner-supported services to customers via implementation partners and ISVs.
Defining these goals upfront will provide an anchor as you start reviewing the different features and functionalities offered by different partner management platforms. Essential features should facilitate your core operations and address any immediate pain points, while additional functionalities can support future growth. This approach ensures that you won't outgrow your system and that it can adapt to your changing business needs.
Top features to look for in a partner management platform include the following.
These platforms are designed to foster collaboration, improve communication, and increase transparency between you and your partners. Look for tools for messaging and customer support.
Make your future job easier with a platform that provides on-demand access to the many resources your partners will need as well, like marketing campaign collateral and sales enablement materials.
Onboarding is the first tangible experience your partners will have with your program. The dream is an automated process where partners are led from the first signature to final certification without your team needing to get involved.
Look for a partner management platform that offers customizable, interactive onboarding journeys. Personalization here is key; partners should feel that their specific needs and business models are understood and catered to from the very beginning of your relationship.
The ability to set and track goals with your partners is crucial for growth. Your platform should provide a framework for collaborative business planning, allowing you to align each partner's activities with overarching company goals.
Sales pipeline management tools should offer clarity and ease in registering deals. Automated deal registration streamlines the sales process for your partners, reduces friction, and helps you forecast revenue more accurately.
The best partner management platforms include features that enable partners to register deals themselves, track their sales pipeline in a dedicated dashboard, and claim incentives and rewards, all of which can drive increased sales and better partner performance.
With today's influencer-driven economy, efficient referral programs are increasingly a cornerstone of successful partnerships. A platform that automatically sets up unique referral links and tracks sales from these referrals can significantly increase program participation and effectiveness.
While core partner management features are critical, a platform that's set up with partner marketing automation tools as well can provide a competitive edge.
For example, your platform should include a robust mechanism for managing marketing development funds (MDF), providing transparency and accountability while making it easier for partners to access these funds.
Also look for tools that have integrated paid ads tools for generating leads, email newsletters to swiftly communicate with your partner network, and social media tools that make sharing posts a breeze.
With these marketing tools, partners can execute personalized marketing campaigns, drive new leads more effectively, and utilize real-time analytics to measure the success of their marketing efforts.
When you consider software that aligns with your needs and these types of features, you are setting the stage not just for a solution that addresses your current requirements but also one that anticipates and scales with your future ambitions.
These are the key features—now let's dig below the surface into the foundational differentiators that set platforms apart.
3. Look for an automation-first platform
Smart automation is the engine that powers modern partner management by simplifying your team's processes, increasing accuracy, and allowing your team to focus your attention on high-value activities.
Automation isn't a luxury but a necessity for a scalable and responsive partner ecosystem. It ensures that the partnership lifecycle, from recruitment to revenue realization, is as smooth and efficient as possible. Key tasks that a platform should automate include any that would require your team to send out emails or maintain records in a spreadsheet.
Look for partner management platforms that automate:
- Onboarding processes
- Deal registration
- Content distribution
- Sharing of news and events
- Contract management
- Tier rankings
- Incentive programs
- Data integrations
Through predefined rules and workflows, automation reduces the scope for human error, empower partners to do a lot of the work themselves, and ensures your processes are carried out flawlessly. Further, real-time alerts for partners about deal registrations, expiring contracts, or required training keeps everyone on the same page without manual follow-ups.
How can you make sure a partner management platform prioritizes an automation-first ethos? Gather evidence from case studies where automation features have directly led to tangible improvements. Or seek out first-hand accounts and reviews from customers that highlight the efficiencies they gained, such as reduced onboarding times or faster deal velocity.
4. Prioritize seamless, native integrations
If you're looking for the best partner management platform, seamless integrations aren't just a feature, but necessary for your partner activities to become a natural extension of your existing tech stack. It's about creating a streamlined workflow where the platform acts not as a standalone tool but as a hub that enhances and simplifies interactions across all your business systems.
In fact, integrations were one of the main evaluation criteria highlighted by Canalys, a global technology market analyst firm:
"PRMs should automatically sync and update with CRM systems to make lead tracking, deal registration, opportunity management, and customer management seamless and transparent between partners and account teams."
A partner management platform with comprehensive API capabilities can offer seamless integration with popular CRMs such as Salesforce, ensuring that leads and deals are consistently updated and managed across systems. It should also sync with your ERP, account mapping tools, and other essential systems to ensure you get a cohesive, real-time picture of full business operations.
Change is inevitable, especially in technology. A future-proof platform will have the flexibility to adapt to new technologies and industry standards, ensuring that you're always ready to grow.
5. Drive strategic decision-making with data
Your platform should not only aggregate data, but also offer the tools to interpret and utilize your partner information strategically. It should help you answer two important questions: which actions drive revenue and what makes a partner profitable?
The best partner management platforms allow you to monitor a range of metrics in real-time, such as partner portal utilization, partner engagement levels, sales performance, lead conversion rates, program adherence, and more.
Look for the ability to customize these metrics to match your unique KPIs and to drill down into data for more granular insights. This can reveal not only how your partner program is performing overall but also highlight the performance of individual partners or partner tiers.
Data is only as good as your ability to understand it. Built-in visualization tools such as graphs, heat maps, and charts can transform complex datasets into clear, actionable insights.
The platform should then allow for easy sharing of these reports and visualizations across your organization and to your partners as well, ensuring that everyone has transparent access to the latest information.
🔎 Discover more: Not sure which partner analytics to track? Our full guide on the top channel partner analytics and metrics covers 20+ important ones to measure!
6. Ensure the platform has industry-leading security
The security and compliance foundation of any partner management platform is incredibly important. It's not just about protecting your data, but also your partners' and customers'.
Scrutinize the platform's encryption mechanisms—this is your first line of defense. All sensitive data, including partner information, transactional records, and communication exchanges, must be protected using industry-standard encryption protocols.
Compliance is not optional; it's imperative. Verify that the software complies with relevant international standards and regulations, such as ISO/IEC 27001, which sets out the specifications for an information security management system (ISMS), and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for businesses operating within the EU.
The ideal software vendor doesn't just react to incidents; they proactively engage in enhancing their security landscape. This includes employing advanced threat detection systems, implementing regular security training for their teams, and updating their incident response protocols.
7. Look for an easy, intuitive platform built for partners
Last, but not least, when it comes to the platform itself: opt for a system designed with the end-user in mind—simple enough for beginners yet powerful enough for seasoned partners. It should be built with an intuitive, user-friendly interface with a partner-first ethos.
Here's what to look for:
- Easy navigation: The platform must be straightforward, enabling all users to find what they need without unnecessary complexity or confusion.
- Immediate accessibility: Ensure that partners can effortlessly access the information and tools they need, from deal registration to resources, anytime and anywhere.
- Clear dashboards: A well-structured dashboard should be functionally efficient, displaying key metrics and updates at a glance.
- Regular training: Platforms that offer ongoing or on-demand training sessions help users stay up-to-date with the latest features and best practices.
- Community-driven learning: Look for platforms that provide a continuous learning experience through additional courses, user forums, webinars, and educational content.
You and your team can't afford to spend countless hours navigating a complex platform, and neither can your partners. A partner-first platform makes all the difference.
8. Dive into the platform's support resources
The customer support provided by your any partner management vendor should be readily accessible. This includes various channels such as phone, email, and live chat. 24/7 support is also essential, especially for businesses that operate globally and cannot afford downtime due to time zone differences.
Support teams should not only be reachable but also knowledgeable. They should have an in-depth understanding of the platform, a long-standing presence in the industry, and be able to resolve issues fast. Look at their client testimonials and successes, awards and recognitions, and client portfolio to learn more in this regard.
Beyond basic support, the vendor should sponsor industry events and host forums moderated by experts, where users can seek advice, share experiences, and discuss industry trends. Ongoing educational resources such as workshops, webinars, and courses should be part of the package to keep you updated with new features and best practices.
Ensuring that a vendor has a robust support process, a vibrant community, and extensive training resources is not just about troubleshooting; it’s about building a partnership that empowers your ecosystem to thrive.
9. Navigate pricing models and calculate your ROI
Have you narrowed it down to your top picks? It's time to look at pricing, which can help you make your final decision. These are the most common partner management pricing models so you can understand which one might be the best fit for your company and stage of growth.
- Per user or partner licensing that charges you based on the number of users who will access the system
- Feature-based pricing with custom pricing per feature you use
- Flat-rate pricing that charges a single or subscription-based price for access
- Tiered pricing, which offers differently-priced tiers based on the size of your partner program
Beyond the base price, take time to scrutinize what exactly is covered. Some platforms may offer an attractive base rate but then charge extra for essential features, integrations, or additional user accounts. While not necessarily a bad thing, make sure the vendor fully outlines any additional costs in their quote. Ask about these different types of charges:
- Setup, training, or onboarding fees not included in the subscription price
- Support and maintenance fees
- Module or feature add-ons
- Integration fees
- Data migration fees
- Renewal price hikes
Take all of these factors to calculate potential ROI on your partner management platform. \First, use ROI calculators provided by the platform to determine the return on spend—how the platform's features can increase partner revenue or decrease costs.
Second, calculate the return on staff hours saved. This includes evaluating how the platform reduces manual work, potentially reducing headcount or reallocating resources to more strategic initiatives. These calculators can be a vital tool in forecasting the tangible benefits of a new platform. The best partner management platforms have a payoff period of a year or less, with proven increases in partner-sourced deals and efficiency.
As you navigate this part of your decision, take the time to ask detailed questions, compare options, and ensure that the value promised aligns with the total cost of ownership.
10. Test drive the platform with a demo
Ensuring the platform can support your goals before investing is not only fiscally responsible; it's essential to avoid the disruption that could come from adopting a system that falls short of your needs.
To effectively measure success during the demo or proof of concept phase, refer back to the goals you set at the start. Consider those and the following criteria while going through your demo:
- Ease of implementation and integration: Discuss the implementation process with the platform’s team. How straightforward is the setup? Can the platform seamlessly mesh with your existing tech stack?
- Operational metrics: Evaluate performance based on your operational metrics. Does the demo showcase how it could improve efficiency in your partner management processes?
- User satisfaction: Gather feedback from the team members testing the platform. Are they finding it intuitive and helpful?
- Feature evaluation: Test each critical feature outlined in your goals. For instance, if partner communication is a key requirement, thoroughly test the communication tools provided.
- Scalability: Assess whether the platform can handle an increase in users or partners without a dip in performance or a significant jump in cost.
By establishing concrete metrics and discussing setup with the integration team, you can ensure that the platform is not only a theoretical fit but a practical one. By immersing yourself in the experience, asking a lot of questions, and gathering feedback from your team, you're ensuring the partner management platform you choose aligns perfectly with your goals and needs.
Learn more about Impartner
At Impartner, we're committed to helping channel leaders like you learn more about the industry so you can make decisions that drive growth.
Today, millions of partners in nearly every industry across the globe access Impartner's partner management tools. We coined the term "PRM" and have been active in the channel community since the beginning. We'd love for you to take a look around at our partner management platform.
Impartner is the most award-winning channel management solution provider on the market. Our partner management and partner marketing automation solutions help companies accelerate revenue and profitability through their indirect sales channels at every partner lifecycle touchpoint.
From partner training and onboarding to pipeline management and performance tracking, Impartner handles it all and more with best practices and automation built-in.
Need to accelerate your partnerships? We’re ready when you are.