4 Ways to Onboard Channel Partners Faster and Boost Sales Sooner

It’s not easy to onboard channel partners. But when your partners succeed, you succeed. Quick and effective onboarding of partners is a big indicator of long term success for any channel program. Fast, successful onboarding means more revenue, greater ROI in every channel partnership, and higher retention. Thus, prioritizing your partners when you adopt a new TCMA tool is particularly crucial. It’s not enough to sign up for a platform, then dole it out to channel partners and expect them to invest the time and budget in learning how to use it.

Vendors need to be there every step of the way to ensure the investment in a promising new piece of tech can realize its full potential.

Making channel partners a priority

According to CSO Insights, one-fourth of vendors or manufacturers say partners take a year or longer to become active in their channel marketing strategies. So… a whopping 25% of indirect sales companies and/or teams land new partner contracts—and then allow them to go stale for more than 12 months. Why put in all that effort to land a new strategic channel partnership, only to let it slip through the cracks?

With 75% of global sales being transacted through indirect channels, this hands-off behavior squanders a valuable resource. It not only wastes the partner relationship, it also inevitably misplaces MDF among the channel sales and marketing team, and undermines their value add to the organization (which may also have a direct sales team they’re competing with).

This painful 12-month onboarding turnaround can be easily fixed. The problem we’re facing is the disconnect between vendors and partners, resulting in a deficit of knowledge, access, and capability for partners. From our research and conversations with customers, this all stems from a combined lack of 1) the proper marketing tools, 2) product and application training, 3) communication and 4) quality control.

Let’s tackle these one by one:

1) Proper channel marketing tools

Having the right tools to help onboard your channel partners swiftly and easily makes a world of difference. There are TCMA platforms designed to take this burden off your hands and do the heavy lifting on your behalf. Our own platform, for one, completely automates the through- and to- channel stream of communication, making it friendly and intuitive for partners to participate. Not only that, but our platform has onboarding training built in for vendors and partners.

In other words, the platform itself has a number of step-by-step tutorial videos within its dashboard to show users how to upload contacts, segment lists, upload content, create beautiful email templates, launch campaigns, share data, and review metrics.

Using our platform or another such TCMA tool will pay for itself—and much, much more.

2) Solution and application training

If you’re using a PRM or partner portal, odds are the solution doesn’t come with onboarding materials, so you’ll have to do this part yourself. It sounds like a lot of work, but just think—you’ll be expediting the 25% of partners who’d take a year or more to push your product to market in a world where 75% of global sales are indirect. Taking the time to produce partner success content is worth the investment.

Allocate a budget, a team, and a month of development to creating process documents, videos, and other training materials to send to every new partner. Schedule Lunch and Learns to get them excited about pushing your product and to answer any questions. Effectively training partners on how to leverage the collaboration tools you’ve put in place only makes it easier for them to consistently redistribute, extend your reach, and increase their own revenue as well as yours.

3) Communication with channel partners

Talking to people one on one goes a long way. Not only does it make people feel valued, but it also allows for personal pain points to be expressed and received. Use the metrics features of your marketing automation tool to check in on who’s redistributing your marketing collateral. (You should be using this anyway to determine priority partners and high-impact campaigns.) Reward the active participants with SPIFs, and reach out to the ones who aren’t participating to learn what’s holding them back. This leads us to quality control…

4) Quality control for the channel partnership

When you see certain partners aren’t participating in your co-branding efforts, follow up. Get feedback and find out what pain points are keeping them from participating. Then take that feedback to heart and try to fix the problem.

And if the PRM or portal you’re using doesn’t offer comprehensive partner and downstream metrics, it may be time to upgrade your tech stack to one that does. (Like xAmplify. 🙂 Just sayin’.)

How CloudStride Grew Channel Sales 30%

CloudStride is a small cloud security and data warehousing startup that serves India as its core service region. The lifeblood of this business is its channel sales, with big distributors (who have their own resellers) as its channel partners. The founder, Sumith Satheesan, noticed his digital channel marketing strategy was a tedious, labor-intensive process. His distributors took several months to engage in co-marketing, if they did at all. There was no fast, easy way to do the work, and he was understaffed.

Most importantly, the strategy he was able to get across his distribution channels had no trackable data to give insight on campaign performance or quarterly forecasting.

“It’s futile to send content when you can’t see who to follow up with,” Sumith told us during our case study interview. “It’s a blind cycle.”

“It’s futile to send content when you can’t see who to follow up with. It’s a blind cycle.”

Sumith Satheesan, CloudStride Founder

The CloudStride Interview

Let’s dive into the case study interview itself, which covers Sumith’s major pain points and how xAmplify was not only a solution for him—but is now also a solution for his distributors, who found the platform so game-changing they’ve since adopted it for their own businesses.  

Channel marketing pain points for CloudStride

  1. Ease of redistribution to scale rapidly
  2. Data insight for campaign optimization
  3. Following up with qualified leads to convert to sales
  4. Onboarding partners quickly

CloudStride had some channel partners in place, but Sumith was having trouble sharing campaigns with them and activating redistribution on a large scale. Sharing content was the main objective.

He would deploy his usual email campaigns, make the followup calls, and so forth. But his marketing team was investing time that he felt was a waste. They couldn’t see how the downstream end users were behaving. He would just wait and hope for a positive outcome. Taking matters into his own hands, Sumith would even attempt to interact with the resellers of his distributors himself. But many would never reply to his follow up emails and calls–and he was never certain if his distributors had even redistributed his campaigns to them in the first place.

The channel sales solution for CloudStride and its channel partners

  1. Metrics to view partner and end user activity
  2. Rapidly increasing sales (30% within the first 3 months)
  3. Easy co-marketing campaigns for him and his distributors
  4. Solidified distributor relationships
  5. Expedited onboarding of partners (now takes only 1.5 to 2 months)

Using xAmplify, Sumith got a more robust solution than he ever imagined. The first thing he boasted to us about were the Two-Tier Metrics. “xAmplify gives you qualified leads,” he laughed. “I now know who to call first! My team calls them [after we see their interaction with our campaign] and converts them.”

With these metrics and the ease of redistribution, his lead generation rapidly increased and his channel sales skyrocketed by 30% within only three months using the platform.  

Sumtih added, “The campaign has such an effect that we’re getting results from the very first email to go out in an entire campaign sequence. The end customers are responding to my distributors and asking about CloudStride.”

“The end customers are responding to my distributors.”

The most surprising outcome for Sumith was how xAmplify has helped solidify his existing relationships with distributors and bring on 49 new reseller partners. He reported that the platform played a major role in this acquisition because the distributors found it so useful and intuitive. As soon as he onboarded his distributors, xAmplify in turn made it much easier to communicate to and through their resellers. Now he has these new partners lined up who want to use the xAmplify platform. “They’re obsessed with it,” Sumith laughed again.

And the icing on the cake? An onboarding process that used to take several months getting his distribution channels to engage in co-marketing strategies now only takes 1.5 to 2 months on average.

3 Ways to Gain and Retain More Channel Partners with TCMA

The partner experience should be at least as important to your channel management team as customer experience is to your company. But how do you ensure that all your channel partners feel valued, supported, and important even as you scale your program? Your channel program must always be expanding to cover the turnover of partners leaving or the lack of engagement from a percentage of partners (that 80/20 rule generally applies accurately to channel partners, although true TCMA has the power to change this). And yours certainly isn’t the only channel program they’ve signed up for, which is why your program needs to be one of the best.

You need to support and empower your partners with clear sales enablement tools, mutually beneficial co-branding material, up-to-date content and regular communication, all the while making it easy for them to engage and redistribute. Simply put, deliver your co-branded strategy to them in the most functional way possible and you’ll not only gain more partners, but you’ll see higher retention among the partners already in your program.

There are three simple ways to achieve this using a bona fide TCMA platform like xAmplify. But first, let’s quickly talk about the current shift in technology.

Channel marketing technology: past and future

Traditional PRMs and portals never made the channel marketing process “easy” for partners, and now, with the rise of outbound solutions, these platforms are becoming antiquated. An outbound approach to the partner experience is a more thoughtful way to earn partner participation, as opposed to hosting a portal where partners must download your assets and do all the co-marketing work themselves.

A true through-channel marketing automation platform leverages delivery to and through your partners to simply, seamlessly provide them with everything they need. Using one such TCMA solution, you can attract new partners, onboard them faster, and retain them longer.

Here are three methods for gaining and retaining channel partners:

#1—Expand your channel program through personalized outreach

The first step in starting or growing a successful channel is to determine what type of partner will be best for your product or service.

Are you developing an ecosystem of solution partners that offer additional tools to round out your solution, like value-added resellers (VARs) or independent software vendors (ISVs)? The value message here is the access they’ll have access to your client base and a co-branding opportunity to sell their solution through your sales team. You’ll need to provide co-marketing campaigns that strengthen their branding and tell the story that their offering is an integral piece of the full solution.

Or are you primarily looking for resellers and/or system integrators (SIs)? The value message to  this type of partner is more straight-forward—increase their revenue by adding your product to their portfolio.

You could also be in need of referral partners, who simply refer your solution to their client base and get a commission for doing so. Similar to an ISV or SI, except with no integration, the value here is that they’re pointing their customers to a known and trusted solution which their platform doesn’t offer.

Finally, you might also be looking to attract distributors. You’d traditionally have a closer relationship with this type of partner. Distributors will rely heavily on regular communication, sales enablement tools that you provide, and channel marketing material that you develop and deliver.

Once you’ve determined your ideal types of channel partners and created a list, follow these tips for initial outreach using an outbound platform:

  • Take that list of ideal partners with whom you should be doing business and enter it into the software as a new segmented list of Potential Partners – you could further segment the list into ISVs, Resellers, Referrals, Distributors, or SIs
  • Create the content with the value message that applies to each type of potential partner. Think about the qualifying questions they might have for you, and answer them before they have a chance to ask. For example:
    • For referral partners:
      • How large is your client base?
      • How many sales people could be introducing them to your client base?
      • How often do you run programs to introduce partners to internal sales teams?
      • What type of co-marketing programs do you run and how often could they take part?
      • What are the requirements for co-marketing opportunities?
    • For reseller partners:
      • What is the average sales price, time to close and close rate?
      • How much revenue could a standard partner generate?
      • How much training and co-marketing do you provide?
  • Create the templates and campaigns with personalized content, ready to be sent to your corresponding partner lists at any time. Of course, be sure to include a Request a Demo link and create an auto-sequenced series of targeted follow-up emails.

#2—Onboard channel partners faster than ever before

The faster you onboard partners, the sooner you’ll both see the mutual benefits of the partnership. As soon as they’ve signed up for your channel marketing program, cover the introduction basics:

  • Leverage your segmented lists again to ensure that their welcome and continuing journey with you feels personal.
  • Let them know their participation is appreciated and they will soon be rewarded.
  • Remind them of why they signed up in the first place—that redistribution will be easier than ever because you’ll be delivering campaigns in true automated through-channel fashion.

xAmplify makes this whole introduction incredibly simple and functional by allowing you to build nurture campaign templates and launch them from the same platform your channel partners will be using to redistribute. Not only do partners feel welcomed, they’re simultaneously becoming familiar with the platform they’ve just adopted… The faster they become familiar, the faster they onboard and begin putting the platform to use for mutual benefit.

#3—Use your TCMA platform for to-channel initiatives, too

The incredible thing about compulsory outbound solutions like xAmplify is that they force various and previously scattered pieces of channel marketing strategy to happen in one platform. This makes the first half of the TCMA acronym—the through-channel portion—an unprecedented model for success. With ease and simplicity, partners participate, you get insight into never-before-seen metrics, and you can dole out MDF (the reward you promised earlier) knowing that it’s going to partners who’ll put it to the best use.

This may all be enough to keep channel partners from leaving your program. But don’t forget that there’s a “to-partner” mode in addition to the “through-partner” mode.  

Using this alternate mode allows you to keep that initial introductory momentum going by delivering check-ins, newsletters, videos, case studies, white papers, educational materials, current sales enablement tools, product highlights, SPIF campaigns (more reward!), and more straight to their inbox. No portal or PRM login necessary.

Plus, with data insight to show you how often they’re opening, clicking, reading and watching, you’ll know exactly when to pull back and when to keep reaching out.