Partner Portal Best Practices to Improve the Experience
By: Ellen Linkenhoker
Is your partner portal experience as good as it could be? Revitalize your partner portals, and partners will thank you with increased engagement and business with the brand.
There’s no shortage of partner portals in the world of channel programs. It often seems like every core channel framework piece has its own dedicated portal, whether it’s for Channel Management (PRM), Channel Marketing (TCMA, Asset Management), Learning & Training (LMS) or Incentives (CIM).
And yet, two-thirds of partners report they are disappointed with the portals they use most often, especially with the lack of personalization.
Are your partner portals personalized to make them easy to use and relevant to specific roles?
If your portals are one-size-fits-most solutions, chances are the partners they’re supposed to be helping find the portals to be pain points instead of solutions.
If your portals are already personalized, you can still improve them to capture and maintain partner mindshare. And an improved experience will make for happier partners who want to work with you.
Related: Adding personalization to channel incentive programs goes beyond just improving partner portals. Check out real-world examples of how to personalize the partner experience.
Digging into both industry research and our findings from client work, we’ve identified some best practices for partner portals that promote a positive partner experience.
Enhance the Channel Partner Experience With Partner Portal Best Practices
We recommend shifting from basic partner portals to customizable partner engagement hubs, which focus on partners’ needs. The best practices for any partner portal can be grouped into three key categories: 1) integration and SSO, 2) communication and progress tracking, and 3) support and recognition. Here’s how the three best practices categories work together in an effective partner engagement hub.
1. Integration & SSO
One of the best first actions to create customizable partner engagement hubs is to pull together elements of various portals for a better user experience. Start by thinking about hierarchy and where you want partners to connect to the brand and partner program. Decide where they should enter the portal and make that the homepage (or the main portal access point).
Consider segmenting by role because each partner type might not need (or even want) the same info on the homepage. Decide if it works best to give different types of roles special access to their most used tools. Here’s an example you could follow with your own role types or personas:
|MAIN PORTAL ACCESS POINT|
|Role Type or Persona ||Key Focus Area||Main Program Use||Portal Homepage|
|PRM Portal |
- Sales Goals
- Personal Income
- Customer Impact
- Incentives (SPIFs, Promotions, Contests)
- Support Materials
|Incentives Portal |
|Marketing Roles|| TCMA Portal |
|Service & Support|
- Product & Service Information
|Learning & Readiness Portal |
The hard part about strictly segmenting portals by role is that sometimes a partner needs to access elements from other areas. You can make connecting simpler through a single sign-on (SSO) and widgets on the homepage. Then partners can quickly move between landing pages and get where they need to go.
Adding widgets to homepages and creating an SSO can only go so far though. Multiple widgets, for example, can become difficult to use (especially in SaaS implementations, which are good at bringing forward particular functions but not so good at sharing space when channel tech elements stack together). This is where a specialized partner portal, such as a partner engagement hub or partner experience platform (PXP), comes in handy.
What is a Partner Experience Platform (PXP)?
A partner experience platform (PXP) is a portal that aggregates all the technology and resources channel partners need to be successful. It is often personalized to specific audiences and designed to empower them in their roles through elements like SSO and user-friendly interfaces. A partner engagement hub is similar to a PXP, but it also focuses on building a better partner experience.
By focusing on the partner experience, a partner engagement hub allows you to take the best pieces from every portal and pull them together (with true SSO) to make customizable homepages that are relevant and useful for all partners, even the roles inside those organizations that support your joint go-to-market (GTM) strategies.
We helped one of our Fortune 100 insurance clients consolidate their disparate channel technologies into one portal with SSO. This engagement hub was used across three distinct audiences (and could even be scaled for more). With all information in one place, the agents and internal support teams gained the ability to have an overall view of program progress, to track ongoing certification and education efforts, and to redeem earned points and marketing credits.
As you make changes, conduct user testing in the hub to ensure the right elements are front and center for each role, partner type and region (global preferences matter a lot when improving the partner experience).
2. Communication & Progress Tracking
Using a partner engagement hub lets you add in elements as your program progresses and to communicate those changes across all your roles. Some of these communication and progress-tracking elements include:
Add widgets to share relevant data points and highlight progress toward goals.
|Partner Owners||Sales Reps||Marketing Roles||Service & Support|
- Program Status
- Dollars Spent
- Rebates Earned
- COOP Earned
- Progress to Goal
- SPIF Eligibility
- Requirements to Earn
- Claim Status
- Leads Earned
- MDF Spent
- MDF Available
- Satisfaction Rates
- Certification Level
Offer a suggested next step toward the goals you want partners to take. Even provide a behavior-based incentive for taking the step, if desired. Possible next-best action options include executing a new product campaign, submitting an invoice for rebate payment, registering a deal or adopting a new implementation checklist.
Ask for feedback on just about anything that’s important. All the better to ask in short pulse surveys (think 1–3 questions) instead of annual or semi-annual partner surveys that likely only get sent to partner owners. Use the partner engagement hub to ask the right questions at the right times to boost partner survey participation rate and gather valuable insights.
Continue engaging partners through the hub to create more frequent users, higher satisfaction and larger releases of serotonin (the brain chemical that helps connect positive feelings to a program). Add fun gamification elements, such as earning badges for things like a log-in streak, viewing a set number of assets or a training course, or claiming a personal-best large deal! The personalized gamification touches all add up and reinforce the care you have for your partners, which is especially important in an era where partner mindshare and motivation are low.
3. Support & Recognition
Support and recognize your partners by bringing internal resources together in one place—the partner engagement hub. These support functions help build up channel partner relationships between different roles. These resources include, but aren’t limited to, field team access and support role access.
Incorporate field teams in the hub to connect them with partners. Doing so helps both partners and reps. It puts the field team contact information in plain sight of partners who need it and it gives field teams increased visibility into the performance and adoption of channel incentives (e.g., marketing campaigns, goals, etc.)
A secondary benefit of field team access (and a fantastic channel partner relationship-building tool) is the ability to offer peer-to-peer recognition and ad hoc awards in the hub. Because partners and reps are in the same platform, they can connect in new ways like writing recognitions for jobs well done or milestones met (with or without a monetary award attached).
Consider giving field teams a slush fund of points to reward for on-site trainings, call-a-thon contests and other elements they might use while visiting partners. Clearly tracking everything in the partner engagement hub (versus a separate giveaway that pulls their attention in multiple directions) helps reinforce the value of your portal and technology investment.
Related: Field managers are in a unique position to reach channel partners and increase performance.Discover five ways to support and enable them to go above and beyond.
Similar to field teams, the hub can connect support roles like sales engineers, customer service reps and technician resources to partners. The connection provides additional tracking of requests and promotes your commitment to providing partners with the resources they need to do their jobs.
Motivate Channel Partners With a Partner Engagement Hub
There’s a better way to use portals to enable partners.
If you focus on a portal that’s more of an engagement hub—one that lets you put the partner’s needs first while improving motivation, adoption and reporting—you’ll find the portal can be very effective at fostering relationships between partners and reps, and putting what they need front and center.
Ultimately, even if transitioning to a partner engagement hub is only a future goal, work toward making your partner portals as relevant and easy to use as possible so partners can get the most of the portals’ benefits, without the drawbacks.
Ready to take your partner portals to the next level? ITA Group can help you make them more relevant and easier to use.