How partner portals can empower the channel

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What should be the key goal of your partner portal? Enabling the business to close more sales? Allowing you to track every client deal effectively? Helping you build profitable ongoing relationships with business partners?

Most resellers would agree that all three are critical to their success. Unfortunately, the reality falls far short of this vision. The truth is that today most partner portals have fallen so short of expectations that many organisations no longer even think of them as sales enablement tools. Instead, partner portals have become administrative spaces to register leads, update opportunities and download case studies.

Today’s partner portals are mainly used for tasks like registering new leads, updating opportunities, posting business plans and searching for up-to-date marketing collateral. These activities have little direct benefit for the partner and are seen as time-consuming and as distractions from their real goal of increasing sales. Even from the channel manager’s point of view the benefits are marginal – as their effectiveness is typically measured by new revenue not by new registered leads

Too little thought is put into the design and structure of most portals. Often, they reflect a concerted effort to put a glossy front end onto an enormous business product catalogue or legacy system. In fact, the user experience is often not the primary driver for a partner portal’s original development. Rather, the legacy portal design was focused on highlighting data from one particular platform and adding in links and bespoke features to fill in any gaps.

Too much focus historically has been given to the needs of the vendor and not enough to those of the partner. Yes, registering a lead or updating an opportunity is important to the vendor, but what is in it for the partner? How does the portal help the partner close more business?

Complex, dull and unimaginative portal layouts and user interfaces often make matters worse by preventing channel users from rapidly sifting through information to find what they need. And in an age where user expectations have been heightened by simple intuitive digital technology in the home environment, platforms that make it difficult to access content or that struggle to deliver content personalised to users’ needs are no longer acceptable.

Finding an Answer

Contextual content delivery can provide a solution to the above challenges, putting the user in complete control of what they want and how they want to see it and enabling a completely personal, two-way, online conversation between a company and every person in its channel – anywhere in the world, on any device.

This kind of bespoke user personalisation may sound complicated but it’s far from unachievable. Some of the latest partner portal technologies use sophisticated user interfaces and robust APIs to integrate with all data sources that may be relevant to the channel - from CRM solutions to marketing automation software and consolidate it all into a central data source.

They can then start to apply audience intelligence that drives the unique experience for each user. Using technology in this way to understand all of the different members of the channel group, from channel managers to partners, their specific requirements as well as the relationships between each, ensures vendors can deliver the right content to the right person at the right time on any device.

Reaping the Rewards

There are a raft of benefits that stakeholders across the channel achieve from this new way of doing business. Channel managers gain a central hub to manage content and tools that the channel needs to be successful as well as a central view of all partner activities across all content and systems. The approach also gives them the tools to easily package content around any theme, like a product launch, campaign or opportunity, and then distribute it to the right audience. The channel partner also benefits from access to the central hub to view the latest up-to-the-minute content, relevant to their role, and collaborate on activities with the vendor, no matter whether they are in the office, or on the road.

They can gain a better understanding of what they are selling and what their challenges are in doing so. Building on this enhanced awareness allows them to self-serve and update their records more quickly. By using the model to drive enhanced efficiencies, partners can streamline their operations and make cost savings - and by gaining faster access to more relevant information, they can make more sales and generate more revenues. It’s a completely new, more personalised approach to partner portals and it’s bringing real benefits today to vendors and their partners alike.

Image source: Shutterstock

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