Is it time for a Partner Advisory Council?

Partners have a unique perspective into your customers, competition, and the landscape your products fit into. But what’s the best way to tap into our partners’ insights? One way is to bring them together in a Partner Advisory Council (PAC).

If you do not currently have a Partner Advisory Council, consider starting one. If you already have a PAC in place today, here are some considerations to drive success.

What is a Partner Advisory Council?

Partner Advisory Councils bring top partner executives together in a forum that allows for strategic discussion. The goal is to align common interests that will help validate strategy and provide insight on areas where you have blind spots.

Who should be on the Partner Advisory Council?

An effective Partner Advisory Council starts by bringing together the right leaders from your partner organizations.

The size of the council should be based on the size that makes sense for your partner organization. Bigger does not equal better, in fact, some of the most successful PACs have only 5-10 members. A few thoughtfully selected members will yield more insight than larger cohorts.

When determining who to invite, focus on getting a sampling that is representative of your partners. Then make sure you invite the executives at these organizations and not just those that own your vendor relationship. The goal is to tap your partners’ leadership, those at the top that can communicate business goals and challenges.

What makes a Partner Advisory Council successful?

Commitment, communication, and honesty are three elements found in all successful PACs.

Participation in the PAC must come from your internal stakeholders as much as it needs to come from the partners you have invited. Both sides need to have well-defined rules of engagement. This will ensure that partners know what their commitment is from a timing standpoint and the commitment your company has to the PAC. The frequency of meetings and term of the position should be communicated to partners along with any other participation expectations relevant to your engagement. Internal ownership must be well-defined so that partners know who their points of contact are for questions and communication.

Partner Advisory Councils must create a space for listening, a safe space for open feedback. It is critical that most of the time is spent on partners sharing their thoughts and experiences. Be mindful that agenda items you present still allow for enough time to gather partner input. All feedback and insights should be documented and acted upon. There must be an internal commitment to follow up and communicate on the action items from each session.

When launching a Partner Advisory Council, remember to start with the partner in mind. Determine how partners want to work with you and provide a mechanism for partners to score your company, products, support, and program. Create a space to identify areas where things might be broken and address what can be fixed. A thoughtfully designed and executed Partner Advisory Council will provide a vehicle to gather insight and increase partner loyalty, customer retention, and adapt your products to the changing landscape.