5 Strategies to Elevate Your Partner Program in the New Year

Updated March 22, 2023
Published in Channel Marketing Strategy, Partner Lifecycle

With the start of each new year, we reflect on where our partner program is today and what we’d like to achieve in the coming year. At the start of a new decade this seems to take on more gravitas, but while change in the channel is occurring, the strategies that consistently move the needle center around having strong foundational blocks—a well-honed partner journey, partner enablement, deal registration, etc.— within your program.

This list is designed to help you understand the partner program areas most commonly in need of a critical eye on an annual basis, and how to tackle them:

Assess Your Content

It’s one thing to create content you believe partners will find valuable and another thing entirely to know it is delivering value. Take inventory of the content you have on your partner portal once a year and analyze which documents partners are and are not using.

  • What content is most popular?
  • Are there similarities between what is most used?
  • How many downloads are you getting per piece of content?
  • What are your most successful partners using?
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If you’re not getting any clicks or downloads on a particular piece of content you believe should be valuable, connect with some partners (see the next section) to understand how it misses the mark. Is it the wrong format? Too high level or too detailed? Is it too hard to find? Do they know it even exits? Even evergreen content can use a freshening to stay relevant.

Sometimes it’s simply about the document title – maybe it doesn’t capture partners’ attention when they scan your library or doesn’t come up in the right searches.

After a proper audit, make sure to remove any content that has gone stale, is out of date, or has low/no usage and is cluttering the library.

Solicit Annual Partner Program Feedback

You may be working with partners on an ongoing basis, but how often do you stop to take an assessment of their needs and ask how else you can align with them on their goals? The beginning of a new year is a great time to build or refresh a business plan with partners, then perform Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) based on that initial plan to measure program progress. Talk about:

  • Revenue goals
  • Their marketing capabilities and goals
  • Business focus and customer base
  • Sales and technical training needed for success
  • Support you can offer them
  • Their experience with your PRM and other channel tools and program

This leads us to the next section:

Focus on Partner Enablement

What is your partner’s journey within your program? If you don’t know the answer your partners definitely don’t. Start by asking your partners about their experience starting with your program and tools. You can start with the onboarding process and move through the other elements of your program. What parts of that journey can be best served through partner enablement? When you focus on a few core functions that help partners grow their business through your offerings and execute them well, partners will benefit.

A few key areas to consider with the greatest benefits are:

  • Deal Registration
  • Lead Management
  • Training
  • Content Library

Once you have a well-designed partner enablement process in place determine if your partners are leveraging it to the best extent they could be. If not, do a refresh on how your portal can benefit them.

“Organizations tend to look at the customer journey only. But we must do the same for our partners and analyze the touchpoints we have with them as well. From the moment we onboard them to the support of that first sale, we must make sure we are equipping them for success. For partners, look at the journey, look at touchpoints, and learn how to fill the gaps if there are any. Sometimes those gaps can be fixed with better communications or better process. Also, as I’ve mentioned before don’t expect that success will come from the relationship piece only. Use tools such as Channeltivity to provide that self-service approach.”

Jayme Kiester, VP of Channel Partnerships at HGS

Measure, Measure, Measure

CFOs don’t fund what they can’t measure and you can’t build your best channel program without understanding what is working and what isn’t.

  • Partner marketing isn’t just demand generation. Be honest about what activities are driving sales and what can and should be measured.
  • When you pick the right KPIs to measure you can begin to best understand what your high performing partners looks like. Expect more from those that aren’t performing to that level, and really focus your energy on the partners that you can up level.

Create Your 2020 Partner Communications and Content Plan

You’ve interviewed your partners, scrutinized the data and have a good understanding of what your partners need to be successful. Now create a partner communications and content plan for your new year that will deliver for your channel program.

  • Review your portal homepage and make sure you’re highlighting what partners need to get in, get what they need and get selling. (For pro tips, see our post “Get your Partner Portal Home Page Right: 4 Ways to Keep Partners Coming Back”)
  • Keep things fresh. Creating new content is always one of the biggest challenges for any sales and marketing team, but it’s effective. Give partners a reason to keep talking about you. When you continue to regularly offer new content and activities, they’ll want to come back to your portal and see what’s new.
  • We can’t say it enough: Measure usage of what you’re creating and adjust as needed.

This shouldn’t just happen at the start of each year. Assessing your program’s health and partner success should be an ongoing process. Just remember to light a match, not a fire. Don’t try to do everything at once. If you prioritize and focus on crushing each project, big results will follow. Happy New Year!


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