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Eight Must-Haves in a Partner Portal

Eight Must-Haves in a Partner Portal

You can’t get far down the path of building a partner program without having some kind of partner portal, where partners can get the training, resources and support they need to meet your objectives, whether it’s selling your product, integrating your product into their solution or service, or developing third-party applications that are compatible with your platform. 

Making the wrong choices for your portal can be devastating.  Portals can become money pits, costing you precious credibility with your internal stakeholders.  Or portals can deliver such a lousy partner experience, that your partners will end up walking away and taking their business with them.

Here are the must-have characteristics for a partner portal, based on my experience launching Brocade’s first partner sales and marketing portal, the Brocade Partner Network Resource Center, which exceeded even our own, aggressive targets.

1. Design for your ecosystem

Your portal should be flexible enough to serve your various types of partners.  Too often the silos of, say, separate channel and OEM organizations, result in separate portals or microsites, duplicative capabilities, missed opportunities for alignment of sales content and tools, and consequently sub-par returns.

2. Tailor the experience

Once a partner logs in to your portal, they should have an experience tailored to them.  For instance, when a system integrator logs in to the Brocade Partner Network Resource Center, they see only training and vertical industry content relevant to them.  If a distributor or a reseller logs in, they’ll see only the channel program benefits and sales promotions that correspond to their specific partner tier or region. 

3. Offer broad choices for lead generation

When I joined Brocade three years ago, Brocade only offered reseller partners email nurture campaigns – 12 to be exact, and all in English – as a means to generate leads.  My focus groups with partners and regional marketing made clear that email is not a preferred tactic for many partners, due to legal restrictions and the difficulty of finding good email lists.   Partners wanted support for events, for instance, for inbound marketing on their own websites, and for telemarketing call-downs.  Our portal today offers all of these choices and then some.  We still offer a range of regularly updated email nurture campaigns, but here, too, in response to partner feedback, our portal offers resellers more choices in customizing and sending emails.  They can a) create and broadcast emails using our partner marketing automation platform; b) create the email htmls and use their own CRM to send; and c) grab copy blocks and assets and create and broadcast using their own marketing team and platform.

4. Build in social selling support

Without belaboring the stats you’ve probably also seen plenty of, the fact is that both B2B and B2C buyers are looking increasingly to their social networks for referrals, to gauge what others are saying about customer service (United Airlines anyone?) and to decide if they want to even engage with a solution provider.  If your portal doesn’t help your partners up level their social selling skills, you can bet your competitors are!

5. Link to training resources

Year after year, our survey of Brocade channel partners confirmed that the kind of support they want more than anything else from Brocade is technical enablement.   They want help keeping their technical skills relevant.  No matter what your industry, chances are your partners are facing constant change, if it’s change in applicable government regulations, competitive dynamics or a new set of cloud-based services that can help end users better control costs.  Our portal provides partners with certification requirements at-a-glance by partner tier, curriculum maps with direct links to courses on our Learning Management System (LMS), and on-demand webcasts for informal learning.

6. Be mobile compatible

Be sure your portal has a responsive design, for accessibility from a range of mobile devices.  And ensure that those tools and content that partners are likely to want to access and download on the go -- such as social posts to share or case studies to send as a follow up to a customer meeting -- are also mobile-optimized. 

7. Measure, ask for feedback and optimize

You want to be able to track what sales resources, training and co-marketing activities a partner company, and specific contacts at that partner company, are utilizing.  Are their activities consistent with your requirements and expectations?  If not, you’ll be able to reach out promptly to encourage them, for example, to download that sales playbook, or to start streaming that amazing free software trial offer to their website.  To encourage partner feedback, we set up 1-click feedback pop-ups after partners launch any kind of campaign activity.

8. Have one front door

Offer your partners one place to go – one URL, one login – to find what they need across their journey with you:  onboarding support, training, sales collateral, co-brandable assets, lead generation, website and social content, and quick links to incentives tools such as for submitting proposals and claims for Market Development Funds (MDF).  The easier you can make it, for your partners to do business with you, the more likely they are to lead with your solution.

 

Investing in a partner portal is one of the most critical investments you can make for the success of your partner program.  Make sure you are designing the portal to deliver your target return to your business, and your target experience to your partners.

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