Most Effective Partner Engagement Strategies for Business Owners
What do you mean by partner engagement? These are the people you partner with to drive sales for your business – they are very important.
Image by Ronald Carreño from Pixabay
If you’re a business owner, you know how hard it can be to grow your business and keep your partners happy. But when it comes to channel sales, one equals the other. So read on to learn what partner engagement is, why it’s important and how exactly to do it right.
Partner engagement meaning
There are plenty of businesses that rely solely on this sales model. In fact, according to Forrester, it’s a staggering 75 percent of all world trade that flows indirectly.
This is simply because selling through your partners can be a great way to boost your sales.
One survey showed that almost 64 percent of participants managed to improve their bottom line by getting into partnerships with other companies.
But what does partner engagement have to do with it, and what does the term refer to in the first place?
Partner engagement is the process by which you keep your partners engaged with your partner sales program. It’s important simply because it’s directly connected to how productive your partners will be, that is, how big of a sales increase they will bring your business.
Considering it’s that important, it’s always a great idea to invest in partner engagement. But how exactly do you do this? Here are some strategies that should help you cover all the bases.
What Makes a Strategic Partnership Engagement Needful?
A key component of partner engagement is developing a trusted and loyal relationship with your company. The quickest way to foster loyalty amongst partners is by sending deals their way, especially in the early stages of the relationship. Keeping partners engaged provides a clear return on investment, just like retaining customers does.
New partners are a great asset to any team, but they also require time and resources to recruit, train, and onboard. And once you’ve found the perfect fit, you need to keep them engaged so they don’t leave. You need to give them reasons to stay invested in your community. Being technically savvy creates trust–and self-confidence. Channel partners who are engaged are also enthusiastic, and this enables them to generate excitement for your product when they’re on the sales floor.
Strategies for partner engagement
Create content and programs that are partner-friendly
When you have channel partners, part of your job is to make sure they have all the content they need to sell your products or services. This includes but isn’t limited to:
- Product information
- Case studies and customer reviews
- Marketing assets
However, when creating this content, you need to make sure it’s appropriate for sending to third parties. It can’t be the same content you use within your company, because more often than not that content isn’t that easy to decipher for someone outside it.
The best way to make sure your partners remain engaged and productive is to create content for them as if they’re your end consumers.
Be easy to remember
Small business owners must do everything possible to gain an advantage over their competitors. There are numerous practices that can help you stand out from the crowd and increase sales. Aside from establishing trust with your customers, you want them to remember your company through the use of visual elements.
Consider well-known brands such as Coca-Cola and Nike. Most of us could draw their logos from memory, which explains why these brands are so popular. A well-designed logo can tell your customers and partners what your company is all about, and it will stick in their minds longer than any other content you provide.
Of course, there are a few important guidelines to follow when you create a logo. The design must be visually appealing, with strong symbolic ties to people’s emotions and memories. The companies mentioned above, once again, use their logos to define their brand and build trust with their customers and partners.
Develop strong relationships
This applies to business just as it does to personal life. The closer you are to someone, the more engaged they are with what you’re saying and doing. That’s exactly why the best way to keep your partners engaged is to build strong relationships with them.
How exactly do you do this? There are several ways you can go about it:
- Set up clear expectations
- Organise socialising events
- Develop partner training programs
It’s pretty self-explanatory how a socialising event could help you and your partners build a relationship.
But why is it important to set up clear expectations? Simply because all good relationships are based on them. When your partners know exactly what to expect from you and what’s expected from them, you minimize the chances of there being any unnecessary friction.
As for partner training programs, it’s important enough to merit its own section so we’ll discuss it separately.
Encourage Regular Communication
Consistent communication, like in any relationship, is key for a fruitful partnership. If the only time partners hear from you is when there’s new content that may or may not interest them–or worse, out of nowhere to promote a product–chances are they will ignore your emails or see them as unimportant. Consistent communication, like in any relationship, is key for a fruitful partnership. If the only time partners hear from you is when there’s new content that may or may not interest them–or worse, out of nowhere to promote a product–chances are they will ignore your emails or see them as unimportant.
stay current with new technology,
adopt it early,
be fully supported to maintain their collaborative trusted adviser reputation.
Invest In Training Your Channel Partners
Without proper training, your partners will not be able to sell your product efficiently. Many third-party sellers don’t have access to in-house marketing experts, so it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to educate associates on how to sell features and troubleshoot problems. You may know every intricate detail about your product, but chances are your partners won’t. Not only does proper channel partner training ensure that your partners know why your product is the best, but it also empowers them to provide solutions to customers. Confident and knowledgeable users are essential to a successful business. Having a good program fosters goodwill and demonstrates to partners that you are committed to their success, which in turn tears down the adversarial “us vs. them” dynamic that is all too common in manufacturer-distributor relationships.
Develop partner training programs
What is partner training? It’s the training program you develop for the purpose of making your partners capable of selling your products or services. Of course, what this program involves varies significantly from business to business, but it can refer to:
- Getting your partners familiarized with your products or services
- Training your partners in your sales process
- Teaching your partners how to communicate with the end consumer
Developing a partner training program like this can take up a lot of your time and resources. Luckily, we live in a digital age and can take advantage of everything automation can offer. That’s exactly why lots of businesses invest in dedicated software for running their partner training. Such software uses best practices and automated processes not just to train your partners, but to lower your operational costs, build expertise and meet compliance needs as well.
Develop partner buy-in.
Your partner’s success directly relates to the tools you make available to them. When implementing a partner engagement process, don’t simply push out direct marketing materials that might not even be relevant to your partners. Instead, show that you care and are listening to their needs and challenges.
If you continuously provide your partners with unusable materials, they will eventually catch on and lose faith in you. If you want to maintain a good relationship while also increasing sales for both parties, it’s important that you take their needs into consideration. Partners are more likely to participate if they feel like their input is valued.
A buyout agreement aids business partners in preparing for the eventual departure of a partner from the company. If a partner wishes to quit the company, gets divorced, or passes away, a buyout agreement helps to avoid misconceptions over ownership.
Business partners sign into a buyout agreement to address potential ownership disputes and partnership changes. A buy-out agreement, despite its name, has nothing to do with purchasing or selling a joint business. A buyout agreement is a binding contract that can be created separately or as a component of the partnership agreement.
The following business choices should be covered by a buyout agreement:
- Whether other partners will be able to purchase the shares of a departing partner.
- What an ownership interest is worth once a partner leaves.
- Somebody qualifies to purchase a partner’s interest when they exit a partnership.
- Events that cause a buyout.
A buyout agreement is comparable to a prenuptial agreement in the world of business. Even though the partners want the company to last forever, it helps them prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
Recognize actions that speed up engagement
If you really want to keep your partners engaged, you’ll need to keep an eye out on how they respond to your strategies.
As with everything else in life, some moves you make will be successful and some won’t. The important thing is to be aware of this and not give up. At some point, you will figure out what works and you’ll be glad you kept trying.
But to up your chances of success, there are two things you can do. You can keep track of the companies you think do it well and copy their strategies and you can ask your partners directly how they feel about your processes and general way of doing things.
Avoid over-engineering partner trips
We don’t have to stress about acquiring vast amounts of data. Having some data is better than having none at all. There should be a plan in place that engages individuals based on the three A’s:
This allows participants to interact with the journey on their own terms and timeline.
Taking into account the uniqueness of participants (different roles inside a partner organization) will help you to design a process that prompts these different roles with personalized behaviors on a self-paced timeline.
If you engage in personas and journey mapping, you can improve your website traffic by 100%. The data doesn’t have to be extensive; strong personas and journey mapping are all you need.
Last but not least, to be successful in channel sales and have engaged partners, you need to make decisions based on data. Your gut feeling just won’t cut it, simply because you’re only human and you have your own preferences and biases.
But if you make sure to keep track of all your strategies and their results, you won’t need to play guessing games when it comes to your partners’ engagement with your sales program. You’ll have actual data that will point you in the right direction.
What is the best way to achieve these results?
If you have to pick a single strategy to base your efforts on, go for building strong relationships with your partners. That’s the best and the single surefire way to keep them engaged. It’s simply because, if they have a quality relationship with you, they will feel compelled to communicate any potential problems to you. And if they don’t, no content or training program, no matter how great, will be able to guarantee the same kind of results.
There are many ways to keep your partners engaged with your sales program, but the key thing is to build a strong relationship with them. Once you have that, you can streamline the process and work on making your partners more productive. And if you want to make it in channel sales, keeping partner engagement at a high level is the best thing you can do for your business.