Re-sellers, outsourcing and channel partners, suppliers, contractors, marketplace agents, franchisees… what do you need to do in order to keep all your partners happy and engaged?
It can be daunting to find new ways to maintain a lively interaction with your partners and continuously offer great support to foster this crucial business relationship that has such a big impact on your results. But partner engagement doesn’t have to be hard! All you need is to have some key strategies in place and the right tools to help you.
Loyal partners make the best partners because they (want to) perform better. The rule of thumb is: the better the engagement, the happier the partners are. You need to actively foster a partner enablement culture and execute strategies to create emotionally engaging relationships — because engaged partners are more likely to take a greater interest in your company’s success. If your partner engagement strategies are effective, they will positively impact your KPIs.
Here are five strategies that will help you increase your partner engagement rate:
1. Offer helpful and relevant content
Take some time to talk to your partners and understand their challenges and needs regarding your relationship. Whether your partners sell your product, assemble or deliver your goods, use your platform to do business, or any other type of partnership, it is very likely that there is a way you can help them improve that experience, usually by sharing relevant information that will help them perform better. This is especially relevant when your partners’ success is intrinsically connected to your partnership and business success. And it usually is.
Develop and offer content that addresses those challenges and needs and keep an open communication. This may mean giving them access to your product experts for additional information; to your sales team for best practices and tips on how to sell; or even to your marketing team to understand which message they should be conveying.
Being relevant and helpful is the best way to maintain or increase your engagement with partners, and to foster a healthy and long-lasting relationship with them.
2. Create a community on social media
Other partners can also be a source of relevant information. If you think about it, other partners probably have the same challenges, issues and victories — so they can relate to each other. Moreover, partners that have found a way to overcome certain issues can help other partners going through the same.
This sharing of ideas creates a sense of community and belonging. But this doesn’t mean you create a forum or community and just let it ride on its own. Quite the opposite. It is important you are attentive to what is being said in the community and offer your assistance whenever it makes sense to do so.
Also, use your partners community to celebrate your partners’ success and company milestones, and to share important information such as product updates, new courses or certifications available on your training program and other relevant content.
Fostering an active partner community is an amazing way to drive engagement, inspire loyalty, recognize the human effort behind their success and yours, and get the sense of how your partners feel, and what needs to be improved or reviewed.
3. Create a partner academy online
Having a partner academy is key to succeed in partner management. Firstly, most — if not all —your partners need training for one reason or another: product training, skills training, certified training, compliance or regulatory training, how to use your platform, about your company, and more.
Secondly, it is important for your partners to have a place where they can access information and materials to get the job done effectively at any time.
An online video training academy will allow you to offer new relevant skills and knowledge to your partners available 24/7, with consistent communication, global reach, and the ability to monitor training and certification progress in an efficient way.
You should include a user guide and a how to section in your online training platform. This will help your partners feel confident that, regardless of their location, they have a place they can refer to at any time to check quick and relevant information that will help them do their job.
Choosing the right tool for your online training is paramount. Select a tool that is easy to use, flexible, customizable to your brand, responsive, that allows reporting and that is pleasant to the eye, for both training managers and audience. The platform you use to deliver the training should not be an additional problem to deal with, but a helping hand in conveying all the formal and informal knowledge you need to share with your partners.
4. Reward Engagement
Are you still offering branded sweaters, pens and calendars as rewards to your partners? There is nothing wrong with that! After all, most people like the occasional freebie. But if you want to get true commitment and loyalty from your partners, you need to step up your game.
Make sure you have a rewards program in place that is desirable, attainable, flexible and regular.
Monetary rewards are the usual go-to solution; however, the most effective reward isn’t necessarily money. In fact, multiple studies have shown that other types of recognition have a deeper impact on your partners commitment and performance.
According to research from the Aberdeen Group and the Incentive Research Foundation, companies that implement non-monetary rewards and recognition programs get an average increased revenue of 9.6% (and other business indicators), compared with an average of 3% increased revenue from other companies.
So what type of rewards should you offer? Here are some ideas that you can use and get inspired by:
- Offer certificates for training completion
- Sponsor group trips or events, where you can have your team and your partners bond over cocktails
- Offer additional training or special sessions with a dedicated consultant
- Recognize partners’ achievement publicly on your communication channels
- Have an awards event and offer prizes for specific achievements (create categories such as: best idea to increase productivity; partner with the most certifications; partner with best conversion rate...)
Make sure your rewards programme matches your partners’ goals, and don’t forget to keep in mind the best situation is a win-win situation — and to communicate your rewards program.
Not sure what your partners value the most? Ask them!
5. Get their feedback and ideas
Your partners are premium sources of information about your product, your service and your relationship. Regardless of the type of partners you manage, they will have key information about what’s good, what’s bad and everything in between.
If your partners sell your product they will have first-hand knowledge about your customers’ objections, about what makes your product or service easy or hard to sell, and about what pitch works best. If your partners use your product, for example, in a marketplace, they will be perfect to let you know what they need, what features would be more important to prioritize, what type of information they lack and what would help them be more engaged. If your partner delivers your service or assembles your product, they will have crucial information about how to improve shipment and assembly. If your partners are part of your supply chain, they will have key information about how to make processes and procedures more efficient.
You get the point, right? So, what’s the strategy here?
Make sure you have a regular way of collecting your partners feedback in place. You can do it through surveys, polls, interviews. This is a great way to have additional interaction with your partners, and to let them know that their feedback is important.
A good way to take this strategy to the next level is to show their feedback was heard and acted upon. If you implement something new on your product or made a change in the way your service is delivered that was based on partners’ suggestion, let them know. Show them you care!
Finally, adopt a “Not you and me, us!” approach to partner management. Embed your partners in your organisation’s culture and make them feel like they belong. Your partners should feel proud to be a part of your brand and have an emotional bond that is stronger than the business aspect of day to day partnership.
To ensure the success of all parties — improve business KPIs for both your company and your partners — it is important to make partner engagement a priority, and to create and execute a communication and engagement strategy.
Of course, not all the strategies above apply to all types of partners, but if you can implement at least one of these suggestions, your partners will thank you and your partner engagement rate will certainly rise.
Ultimately, everyone likes to be heard, to feel respected, recognized, and part of something bigger. If you can make your partners feel this way, they will most likely have your back.