How can social media improve your Partner Relationship Management strategy?

Social media can be a very effective tool to improve brand awareness for your business--but did you know it can also help you with your PRM strategy?

Social media offers a unique opportunity to share knowledge and capture feedback from your partners. A solid social media engagement strategy can greatly improve your channel partner program by increasing confidence in your products and alerting your partners to better ways to resell. Here are ways that channel managers are tapping into social media to accelerate learning for their channel partners.

How can social media help you enhance your partner relationship management?
Social media offers many benefits that can go hand-in-hand with other partner engagement efforts. It can be --
  1. Convenient for your partners- Your partners are busy running their own businesses, but social media allows them to find information about your products when and where they need it the most. This makes blogs, articles and videos you provide on your social channels more effective than scheduled meetings and phone calls to answer questions
  2. Educational for account managers and success teams- Using social channels, your account managers can gather related information to improve their understanding of their partner's struggles and business needs. By encouraging your partners to share feedback, you have the opportunity to address their concerns up front and address any issues. You can even save and improve partner relationships before they have a chance to go sour by encouraging your account managers to play an active role on social, outside of the PRM Program.
  3. An effective way to share and promote new opportunities- With an increasingly mobile workforce, you can share new developments with your partners on the fly. By bringing more information directly to them, you can greatly improve their expectations and understandings of your offerings.
  4. A helpful way to gather referrals and reviews for your business- As online reviews become more and more important, tapping your partner base for their feedback can be a great way to increase your market share. As partners are likely to become more educated about your business and product, they have the chance to greatly influence your business reputation and status.
Start with training for your channel managers on how to represent your business on social media. Opening up conversations via social media comes with the responsibility of improving the way your channel managers respond to your partners. Carefully consider how your channel managers handle responding to partner's concerns or complaints. You may uncover holes in their communication skills.

Start by--
  • Keeping careful records of challenges your partners face
  • Working with your managers to ensure that their messaging is consistent--consider automated social media campaigns when sharing resources/articles.
  • Holding training sessions to get your channel managers on the same page when representing your business. For example, remind channel managers that they should not encourage advice or next-steps that could be harmful to your partner's overall experiences or perception of your business.

Above all, ensure that your end-game is always about improving the selling experience for your partners. Create content that answers their selling questions and needs and make good use of partner feedback to improve your channel program.

Before embarking on a partner engagement strategy via social media, think about how you can work towards better partner relationship management. Identify partner engagement goals, such as reducing support ticket numbers, support time on phone, and lost opportunities. Also, consider how you can re-evaluate your progress in 3-4 month cycles with a focus on continuous improvement.

A solid strategy of education and engagement on social media can improve your overall partner  relationship management by boosting activity, engagement, and experience.

About Mindmatrix
Mindmatrix is the only single, fully integrated platform offering complete marketing and sales enablement for direct and indirect sales.
Mindmatrix offers Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, Channel Marketing Automation, Asset Management software, Sales Enablement software and Marketing Automation software for the complete enablement of your sales and marketing teams.

Give your partner relationship management program a second chance-- thoughts from Sirius Decisions 2017

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak to several channel managers at SiriusDecisions 2017. This event was a great chance to share knowledge with channel managers with various levels of experience and exposure to the challenges of motivating, managing and rewarding their partners.
What stood out the most in all of these conversations were the common challenges that each manager faced when it came to Partner Relationship Management:
  • Tracking reseller/partner activities
  • Pushing partners to take advantage of free offerings to help them sell
  • Showing consistent product value to partners (improving the vendor/partner relationship)
Together, these all seemed like daunting tasks, but as we talked about the different tactics and strategies available to improve performance in each of these avenues, we realized that there were some basic things that everyone could do to improve their partner’s experiences.

Three great partner activities to pay attention to:
We all agreed that tracking a partner’s “activity” levels can tell a channel manager how engaged a partner is in reselling their products. What activities should channel managers be interested in? Here are a few that were mentioned—
  1. Marketing assets used - This can give you a clearer picture of where you are underserving your partners. Are you making too many sell sheets about products your partners don’t bother to resell? Do your partners know that you have presentation decks or white papers available on that hard-to-move product you just released? Knowing what marketing assets your partners use cuts down on your time and can improve their sales numbers.
  2. Opportunities created - Opportunities are great ways to gain insight into the value of deals your partners manage to close when reselling your products. We agreed that a common place for opportunity registration and tracking would be a great way to push partners to sell and help channel managers determine when and if their partners need help to build out their sales pipeline.
  3. Support tickets submitted - Knowledge share is an important piece of any vendor-partner relationship. For example, keeping track of tickets submitted can help you gain a better view of how engaged your partners are and how challenging they may think your products are to support/deliver to the end-consumer. We all agreed that support ticket tracking gave us greater insight into partner sentiment, success, and overall engagement with the vendor.
With all of these points in mind, the big question was asked—if you could repeat the next year over again, what would you do differently to improve your partner program?
Here are their top ideas—

Research more PRM options and Channel Enablement options in the market
Instead of combining many different tools together to achieve their goal, most wanted to spend more time researching a Channel Enablement software that worked for their businesses.
This made sense, because a better decision on this front could ultimately cost less, improve productivity time, and decrease headaches for already busy account managers.

Spend more time cultivating partners with MDF programs
Most MDF programs are underutilized and misunderstood by many partners. More education for partners on the benefits of MDF for their businesses and a streamlined process to deliver funds and track their usage effectively was a very popular point.

Work more closely with Support to identify Partner “hiccups”
This is a little trickier because it requires collaboration with technical support managers and greater buy-in for most organizations—but the agreed upon benefits seemed very tangible to the channel managers I spoke to —tracking tickets meant —
  1. More insight into product adoption challenges
  2. Better relationship building with partners
In the end, my biggest take-away from our discussions is the power of sharing thoughts and ideas on what makes partner program grow. It was interesting to see that regardless of industry, most managers agreed there was room for improvement if they refocused their efforts in the right way. As someone who has worked with many channel managers, this enthusiasm was a great and exciting thing to see!

Now, I have a question for you--what would you like to do differently in your partner program this year?

About Mindmatrix
Mindmatrix is the only single, fully integrated platform offering complete marketing and sales enablement for direct and indirect sales.
Mindmatrix offers Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, Channel Marketing Automation, Asset Management software, Sales Enablement software and Marketing Automation software for the complete enablement of your sales and marketing teams.

Channel marketing blog post: How marketers can create BETTER sales assets for channel partners

If you are a part of your channel marketing team, you may have been approached to create assets for channel partners, or you could be just starting to help channel managers improve partner programs. Providing assets to channel partners is a great way to boost their sales teams and improve the odds that they can close deals quickly. But how do you know you are providing the best assets for your channel partners?

Successful channel management heavily depends upon your ability to syndicate and share content with your partners that is easy to access, relevant to the products they sell, and up-to-date. For a channel marketing team, continually updating and sharing content that works can be a daunting task.

What can you do to get started with an organized sharing and production method that makes sense?
Start out by taking a step back and reviewing your content library.

How many marketing or sales assets do your partners need?
Take time to review this with your Channel Manager. Channel managers have a lot on their plate, but discussing the request for content with them can help reduce your workload.

Here are questions you can ask -

What content are Channel Partners using the most?
This can be very useful for identifying what matters the most to channel partners. Your channel manager may have a good idea from their account calls and interactions with partners.

Are there any assets Channel Partners find less useful?
Channel partners may have complained in the past about any assets they don't find helpful. If you can work with your channel manager(s) to identify your lowest performing assets, or have access to a handy asset rating and usage tool (like Mindmatrix!) you can check reports to determine the best assets to create.

Do you have enough sales assets for Channel Partners?
Check your inventory. You likely have sales assets partners can use, concentrate on those first. Even if your partners aren't marketing effectively they still need tools for their sales team! Make sure that they can easily access an entire library of the most up to date sales materials.

Do any of the most successful Channel Partners have playbooks or sales plans you can review?
This can give you an idea of the most effective assets for your top performers. If you need to create anything new, concentrate on their recommendations first.

Do the assets you've made available have space for co-branding OR white labeling?
Depending upon how your partners sell, check to make sure you've shared assets with the proper amount of space allocated for their branding standards. Be careful to ensure they have space for logo, address details and most importantly--contact information! This is great for sales reps.

Are your assets up to date?
Finally, ensure that all of your marketing and sales materials that are available are up to date. Make sure partners have access to the latest versions to reduce support requests and frustration. Even if you are just getting started, taking an audit of what is needed and speaking with your Channel Manager is a great way to concentrate your efforts on the sales and marketing assets partners need the most.

Are you a marketing manager with any tips on how to prepare your assets for your Channel Program? Feel free to share.

About Mindmatrix
Mindmatrix is the only single, fully integrated platform offering complete marketing and sales enablement for direct and indirect sales.
Mindmatrix offers Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, Channel Marketing Automation, Asset Management software, Sales Enablement software and Marketing Automation software for the complete enablement of your sales and marketing teams.

Questions to ask your top performing channel partners

In a few articles I've mentioned the importance of speaking with your top performing partners to create your ideal partner persona profile. This process lets you narrow down and improve your partner recruitment and retention strategies. Now I'd like to dig into this process a little more to share some helpful questions you can ask your Partners. These questions are designed to help --

1. Create a baseline assessment of your top performers
2. Find any strategic strengths or weaknesses you can plug program benefits into
3. Support better relationship building with partners at future program development stages

Demographic Questions
These should be simple and to the point. You should have most answers in your CRM (customer resource manager) however--it doesn't hurt to confirm details! Ask about company name, size, such as number of employees, location, number of offices, and other locational details.

Identifying what makes your top performers stand out - Sales and Marketing Resources
By asking questions about your partner's sales and marketing resources, you can start building a solid profile of your partners. These are questions that you can layout across a grid and use to make judgements about the average stats of each partner in your program.
  • What is your most successful target market when prospecting?
  • How many sales reps do you have?
  • Do you have a dedicated in-house marketing staff or rep? Or do you work with a marketing agency?
  • How large is your current customer base? (This affects referrals)
  • How large is your current lead pool? (This can give you an idea of how strong their sales funnel may be)

Current Marketing or Sales Strategies
Very often, companies have marketing or sales plans but no strategies.
If you are having trouble identifying the difference, think of plans as a fuzzy image of where you would like to be, and strategies as carefully plotted goals with testable outcomes.
You can ask your top performers about their marketing or sales strategies to get a better idea of whether or not your product line forms a key part or is just happening to "pick up steam". You can also ask them about their strategy to find out if they've taken on selling your product as a part of their overall business plan in a real, tangible way.
  • Do you have a marketing calendar you can share with us? (If you have resources to review it)
  • Have you planned out any assets to support a campaign for our product line?
  • Do you have a marketing or sales plan? (There's nothing wrong with being direct!)
  • What role do you see our product playing in your current plans?

What they think makes them stand out
It never hurts to get their opinion about what they think makes them stand out from the competition. Your partners are likely to be a part of the same market space. Find out what they think means the most to them and their customers.
  • What do you think makes your business stand out?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What do your customers think of you and why do they pick you?
  • Why did you choose to take on selling our products?

Find out what they think of you--and share some free advice.
No survey is complete without feedback.Your partners will feel better about answering your questions if they feel like they can gain some useful input in return. Don't be afraid to:
  • Accept criticism. 
  • Talk candidly about where your partner program has succeeded or failed to enable your partners.
  • Ask followup questions about situations that frustrated your partners.
  • Ask for input or advice on how they would improve any shortcomings.
Finally, thank your partners for their participation and offer something tangible in return for their advice and time.Remember that good partner relationships start with strong communication and responsiveness.Take feedback seriously and let your partners know that you plan to use it to improve your program and offering.

About Mindmatrix
Mindmatrix is the only single, fully integrated platform offering complete marketing and sales enablement for direct and indirect sales. Mindmatrix offers Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, Channel Marketing Automation, Asset Management software, Sales Enablement software and Marketing Automation software for the complete enablement of your sales and marketing teams.