Is your company easy to do business with?

handshakeOne of the questions we posed in our blog series “five critical questions every channel chief should ask him/herself” was: Is your company easy to do business with?

Before you say YES! Let’s explore this topic a bit further.

The partner experience is always rated as one of the most critical aspects of the vendor relationship by partners in every partner survey. As we mentioned before, it makes sense considering that complex partner programs, cumbersome processes, and a poorly designed partner portal can make life a living hell for partners.

Time is money. For the average partner doing business with 6-7 top line vendors and communicating with an average of 30 vendors is a time consuming and resource draining proposition. The less time and resource a partner has to devote to “getting business done” with you, the vendor, the more he or she is likely to gravitate to increasing their business with you. The opposite is true as well. Partners get totally frustrated navigating through cumbersome portals, getting overloaded with content, having to follow complex procedures, etc. They’ll reduce their involvement with you to the minimum required. I know this doesn’t sound like rocket science but you’ll be amazed to find out how many vendors don’t recognize the cumulative impact of their communications, program requirements, processes, etc. on the average partner. This is particularly true for large vendor organizations with multiple product groups all vying for a partner’s attention.

Few vendors have thoroughly assessed the partner experience and put themselves in the partner’s shoes (especially a second or third tier partner). Put a channel chef or a senior channel manager on the “receiving end” for a day and let them experience the flow of information, processes, and interactions from a partner’s perspective. Let the partner tell you what works and what doesn’t. It will no doubt be an eye opener.

The following five tips for improving the partner XP may be of some help:

  1. Targeted content and a well-managed communication plan
    • Partner related content should be sorted and prioritized by partner tier
    • All partner communication should be funneled through one source and be approved as part of a formal partner communication plan
    • Research your partners’ communication methods and preferences by partner persona to determine the optimum communication tool by content type
    • Prioritize the use of email, social media and the partner portal accordingly
    • Leverage the partner portal as your partner communication “hub”
  2. Total transparency
    • Share individual program statements and benefit statements with your partners
    • Share technology insights and product roadmaps with top tier partners
    • Give partners ample time and sufficient information with regard to product launches, marketing campaigns and other initiatives
    • Communicate clearly what you expect from them while making firm commitments from your end and follow through
  3. Rapid response
    • Communicate how and how soon you will respond to questions and requests and follow through within the agreed upon time frame
    • Provide clear guidance and educate partners on how to avail themselves of the resources available to them
  4. Manage all interaction from the partner point of view
    • Simplify processes and workflows
    • Automate
  5. “Centralize” partner interaction
    • Manage the timing, frequency, and volume of content through a channel “gate keeper”
    • Less is more. Be precise when sharing content and keep it short

Since the partner portal represents your partner communications “hub”, we included the following partner portal “best practices”:

  • Consolidated
    • Seamless, consistent branded experience supports all partner business processes
    • Regional flexibility to deliver relevant local content
    • Combines static and dynamic content in “context”
  • User Experience
    • Simple, clean design enables partner to find what they need, get work done – task orientation
    • 3-click” IA to portal resources
    • Public and Private content zones
  • Profile-driven Experience
    • Role-based security provides fine-grained control over access to partner program resources & content
    • Enables delivery of personalized experience
  • Leverage enterprise CMS capabilities to deliver relevant and up-to-date content
    • YSIWYG content authoring & publishing
    • Mobile Optimization
    • Pre-built widgets & controls bring portal to life