Channel partner programs

Partner Portals — Love That Dirty Water

Nobody wants to dive into a dark, murky river, and if I had a nickel for every time I heard that a partner portal is only for good deal registration, I’d be rich. There was a time when deal registration was the soul of the portal, and everything else around it was broken, obsolete or hard to find.

Twelve years ago I remember working on my first partner portal. I thought it was funny that it was basically a gated website that contained much of the same information as the company’s public-facing site. Sure, we would put up sales enablement tools, deal registration, link to an LMS, and post details about the partner program but that was really it.

Channel Partner Portals: What Was Missing

There was no content management system in place, no automated lead dashboard, no way for a partner to manage the training required to remain certified and no instant way to connect.  And keeping it “fresh” turned into a quarterly nuisance for marketing and IT alike. Our portal was like many of our IT counterparts: a place we wanted partners to go on a regular basis, but didn’t have the budget or resources to make it place our partners deemed useful. The main reason for visiting the site — deal registration.

This trend went on for years. Slowly, new partner-focused applications came to the market — content syndication, tools that would help the partner build marketing campaigns, areas that housed incentive programs and microsites, and many other flashing lights that were designed to keep the portal sticky. Things were getting better, but the waters were still murky. Multiple sign-ons proved to be frustrating, and while the applications brought new partner offerings, there still was a lack of persona profiling that in turn made the portal impersonal and difficult to navigate. Not to mention, it lacked the centralization of all things related to the partnership. Simply put, it lacked collaboration.

Channel Partner Portals: Progress

Flash forward to today, I’m happy to say that just like the Boston Harbor, IT vendors are doing their part to clean up what was once the waste of the portal abyss. They are realizing the importance of budging money and resources to create a collaborative experience with their partners. And without a doubt, the SFDC partner community plays an enormous role in improved functionality, timely response and account management.

You talk with any IT partner and they will give you the same laundry list of must haves:

  • A deal registration section that is more than just a form. It needs to be an area that they manage the opportunities with vendor. Distributors want to be able to manage the deals with both the partner and the vendor.
  • Marketing management as a place not only to apply for MDF, but where leads can be uploaded by both the vendor and the partner. A place to pre-qual a deal reg, and review marketing programs ROI.
  • Technical support with both documentation and interactive functionality that will give immediate responses.
  • A robust search function that can index all of the pertinent materials from assets, to videos, to images.
A partner portal can no longer be viewed as a “check the box” line item in the laundry list of must have for a channel partner program.  If you want partners to remain loyal and continue to drive your product through the market, you have to create a space that is representative of the partnership.  A place where collaboration outweighs the submission of a deal registration.

Kari Oldach is a strategic channel consultant at ESG. Read more ESG blogs here.