Coming up with a Partner Relationship Management strategy that fits for you and your partners

Partner Relationship Management programs tend to focus on 3 major features -
  1. Opportunity registration by partners
  2. Marketing and Sales Asset sharing with partners
  3. MDF (marketing development funds) distribution to partners
These are three options in your Partner Relationship Management toolkit that can be tremendously helpful to your partners or resellers--but how do you integrate them so they make sense together, and ensure your partners are using the right tools?

Leading with a Carrot instead of a Stick
Pushing partners who may be less knowledgeable of how beneficial marketing and sales assets or MDF funds may be to their business, is hard.

If you've ran a partner relationship management program before or at least worked with anyone who has, you've probably listened to them bemoan how difficult it can be to really get a partner engaged. After all--"MDF are right there, why don't they use them?!" (If I had a dollar for every time I've heard this, I'd be a rich woman.) The truth is, you are dealing with different levels of expertise when you speak to any partner. They may or may not have an experienced marketer on staff who understands the value of all of your offering--particularly when you are pushing technology dependent resources. I've seen marketers and channel managers struggle to explain benefits to partners; this is made even more frustrating by the fact that partner programs generally offer these benefits for free!

So how do you lead with a carrot in a program with low participation that is already free to your partner-base? You can start by nurturing your partners.

What on earth is Partner nurturing?
If you have a marketing background you may already be well ahead of me. If you don't, I'll explain nurturing in just a few sentences now. Nurturing is a common practice in email marketing and solution selling. The idea is, you gradually send automated emails that educate prospects/leads (potential future customers) about the value and benefits of whatever you would like to sell them. (If you have more questions about this, talk to a marketing manager who works in marketing automation.)

In the context of partner nurturing, you are educating your partners about why what you are offering them for free is important to their bottom line and will help them --
  • Sell your products!
  • Utilize whatever you are offering (opportunity reg, MDF funds, sales/marketing assets etc..);
  • Gain real ROI;
  • Reduce costs/simplify experiences for their sales/marketing teams
In other words, you want to win over your partners by virtue of your understanding and experience by sharing how easy it is for them to make money if they just participate in your program!

How do I create a partner relationship management strategy that fits for my partners and business?
By starting with a nurturing campaign, you can start to push your partners to take advantage of your offerings. The process will take some time, but you can use tools to track their interactions with your emails and focus on fleshed out areas of your program that you've confidently built out.

For example, let's say you have a lot of assets but not a lot of time to develop an MDF fund distribution process. Start your nurturing campaign focused on asset usage and awareness. Treat marketers or sales reps to easy ways to locate assets they need to help them close sales and nurture prospects. Target your messaging based on the benefits for your particular subset of partners you're enabling (marketers or sales reps).

One of the benefits of a nurturing campaign is that it takes time, so you can also spend some of your time on optimizing your campaign to realize the results you want to see. Start by -
  • Tracking clicks and interactions in this campaign.
  • Using lists of active contacts to plan a follow up call/email process to ensure engagement is on track.
By starting small on strategic initiatives in partner nurturing, you can improve your partner relationship management program by increasing engagement over time. This way, you can approach engaging your middling to low performing channel partners to push greater results.

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