Establish the Foundation of Your Portal
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Define shared purpose.
- Explain the importance of use cases.
- Understand the value of executive sponsorship.
- Understand the value of developing personas and mapping member journeys.
Every good portal strategy begins with clearly defined purpose, often manifested in the form of a mission statement. This is very important, but often overlooked. Most vendors don’t even have a mission statement for their portal, and those that do often focus it on themselves. A well-defined purpose is one of the key foundational elements of a partner portal. What’s in it for the partner? How does the mission statement illustrate what you will do for them?
Let’s take a moment to think of the first thing a prospective partner might see when visiting your partner program landing page (and yes, you should have a public landing page that thoroughly describes your partner program). Here’s the perfect place to share your mission statement, and you should think of it in terms of shared purpose. What can you do with your partners (and not to or for them)? How will you enable their success?
Now that you’ve defined the purpose of your portal, next up is defining key use cases that you’ll support. These should be focused on the partner journey and what will make them successful. Will you focus on recruiting partners, or do you have a strong network of partners that need to be enabled to sell your products? Will you provide deal registration or lead distribution? Or both? Answers to these questions will help you decide where to prioritize these use cases.
You could organize them around key topics, such as:
- Partner Recruitment and Onboarding
- Partner Enablement/Training
- Lead Distribution/Deal Registration
- Marketing Support
- Support and Service
Then, define a pilot set of use cases that can be implemented quickly and align with your business objectives. Use these qualitative criteria.
- What business processes are important?
- What is the impact to business (low versus high) and ease of implementation?
- Who is the top-level executive sponsor?
- Who is a mid-level project champion?
- How will you measure and monitor success of the use case?
Getting executives on board to support your channel strategy is crucial to the success of the program. The most successful channel organizations have a direct reporting relationship to top sales executives in the organization. In some companies, the top executive overseeing the channel is a member of the executive team him- or herself. Executives can participate on many levels to support the PRM initiative, from attending partner events to building ongoing relationships with partner companies.
The best way to get executives involved is to define specific ways they can help, such as:
- Internal support for PRM initiative via employee communications
- Speaking at partner events/gatherings
- Hosting partner advisory board meetings or partner summits
- Providing welcome messages for the PRM portal
It’s always better to have a specific activity in mind when engaging executives, as opposed to a more general request for their support. And don't forget to have an ongoing communication and awareness plan to keep all executives (not just your sponsor) aware of what is happening with the channel and in the portal.
Once you’ve launched your PRM portal, it’s important to have a plan for how you will manage and drive adoption and usage. The first step in that process is to have individual(s) designated to manage the partner participation in the portal. These individuals can (and often do) come from the channel sales organization. Their responsibility includes:
- Hands-on user/admin of the portal
- Enabling channel partners on the use of the portal
- Reporting across all key performance metrics/ROI
- Staying current with the portal product updates
- Executing the portal strategy
In addition to the role of portal manager is the role of the channel manager. It cannot be overstated that having a channel manager, or similar role, is essential. According to the Harvard Business Review, the best channel managers tend to have more in common with great general managers than with great sales managers, especially in these three areas.
- Strategy. Thinking strategically about competitive positioning in a defined territory is table stakes for any good sales manager. But channel managers must take this capability one step further, coaching and collaborating with distribution partners to build their own competitive strategies. This requires a degree of knowledge of strategic planning processes that even the most experienced sales managers may not have
- Finance. The level of financial acumen required of an effective channel manager is substantially higher than that of a sales manager. Mastery of finance helps make for a profitable relationship.
- Coaching. At the end of the day, the job of a channel manager is all about developing the capabilities of distribution partners so that they can more effectively sell and service your offering. These capabilities transcend a simple mastery of sales fundamentals and require proficiency in things like logistics efficiency, value-added services, and regulatory compliance.
Other key roles that support your PRM initiative:
- Sr. VP/head of sales, chief marketing officer: Provide input to channel strategy and champion that strategy. The critical part of their role is to find partners, help them build demand, and help them successfully sell.
- Dir./VP sales, Director/VP marketing, VP IT: Oversee all channel sales ops and own channel strategy
- IT/admin/tech ops: Expertise in SFDC, implementation leadership, and support.
- Channel sales manager, channel marketing manager: Execute channel strategy and manage the portal; provide adoption know-how.
Develop Personas and Journeys
This is one of the most important best practices that companies need to understand in order to provide the best user experience for their partners. There are two key steps involved: Develop profiles for the key persona(s) that will be accessing the community, and map the desired experience (service design).
Starting with personas, we recommend you identify the top 2–3 roles from your partner organization that are (or will be) accessing the portal. What are their responsibilities? What challenges do they face in their day-to-day work? What are their goals and what motivates them? Examples of personas include:
- Sales manager
- Marketing manager
- C-level role (CEO, CFO, chief sales officer, chief marketing officer)
As described earlier, what is the shared purpose (or shared value) that is meaningful to these roles? How can the portal bring value to them? It is also important to identify the key persona(s) within your company and think of the same questions.
And it all comes together in the journey maps. These need to clearly identify stages of engagement and touch points for each stage. Journey maps are important for several reasons.
- Journey maps give you an opportunity to think both aspirationally
(what you want to provide) and realistically (what you can provide today).
- They help build consensus around the optimum partner experience.
- They set the high-level blueprint for implementation: the “frontstage”
journey determines the “backstage” product requirements to support that journey.
- Understanding your partner’s experience is more important than ever.
Now that we have the foundation of your portal, let’s talk next about what defines success in terms of goals and metrics for your portal.