How to Get Consistent Partner Feedback Using Voice of Partner Surveys

Ellen Linkenhoker
Ellen Linkenhoker

person taking voice of customer survey

Selling through the channel is becoming more complicated and has higher stakes than ever before. To earn, maintain and grow revenue, channel leaders must make informed decisions that position their channel partner programs for success. Leaders are grappling to get answers to critical questions:

  • How can we be easier to work with?
  • What do partners prefer about our competitors?
  • How satisfied are our partners?
  • How can we improve certain areas of our program?
  • Where are the biggest friction points in our program?

Infusing pulse surveys into an existing channel program and partner base can help reliably answer these questions. This is known as a Voice of Partner (VoP) program.

What is Voice of Partner (VoP)?

A VoP program helps channel leaders collect intelligence, preferences, feedback and sentiment from their partner base. This practice can help define in-depth partner profiles to guide investment decisions.

How Voice of Partner Programs Work

Savvy channel leaders are taking a page from Voice of the Customer programs to understand their ideal partners’ expectations, preferences and motivations. By capturing, analyzing and acting on partner feedback, channel leaders can keep their program relevant and beloved.      

A best practice is to proactively design VoP questions around the partner journey to ensure you’re capturing feedback at key points.

example of voice of partner journey feedback points

Asking the Right Questions at the Right Time

Some channel programs depend on periodic partner surveys sent only once or twice a year. The resulting reports may draw stale sentiments from a limited group of participants. Instead, we recommend moving toward a pulse survey practice. This shift tracks partner feedback in real-time by releasing surveys at various milestones or trigger points.

Our clients are seeing a stronger participation rate and wider audience reach than we’ve historically seen on lengthier annual or semi-annual cycles. And it’s not just the high performers responding. We’re getting a more accurate view of sentiment and motivation from the entire partner base by asking only a few questions at a time, right when they are relevant.

The data discovered through a progressive model is like the difference between studying a single snapshot and scrolling through an entire gallery. Snapshots give the viewer a glimpse into the subject’s attitude at a specific place and time, but mood can shift in a moment.

Think of it this way: When you ask someone how their day was yesterday, they’d probably shrug and offer “fine.” If you asked right after a morning workout, they may say “energized.” After struggling to make an exchange at a store over their lunch hour, they might be “frustrated.” Driving through traffic they might respond “drained,” but meeting up with friends over dinner has them feeling “connected.” Delaying asking until the next day can deplete the meaning in your data.

Adopting a Journey-Based VoP Process

Channel leaders are working to recruit, activate, engage and retain partners over the long term. It’s an ongoing cycle. Data collection should be too. Embedding a pulse survey methodology into your program will provide your brand with fresh feedback that enables the program to continuously improve.

1. Start by Mapping the Partner Journey

Identifying partner touchpoints from onboarding through incentivizing helps define which milestones make sense as a survey prompt. Certain activities—like engaging with a channel field manager, completing a training, submitting a claim or participating in a promotion—could lead to a pop-up pulse poll. Be careful not to get too survey-happy and overwhelm your partners, though. Home in on those key moments that have a direct impact on KPIs.

2. Identify Where You Want to Improve

There are lots of moments along a partner journey to ask about. Don’t set out to boil the ocean by collecting too much information. Choose areas where having a baseline on a few KPIs helps you see success. Do you want to improve ease of use or change up your incentive program? Perhaps you’re trying to benchmark against the competition. Start with the things you already suspect need help or where you need more data.

3. Think of Your Desired Data in Segments

A great starting point for progressive profiling is collecting the kind of information that will help you build smart segments. No matter what KPIs you choose, you’ll want to collect partner entity firmographic information. Personalization is the ultimate goal in channel partner programs and data is the key to making that happen.

You should build in questions that collect data about:

  • Number and/or types of employees
  • Dedicated marketing staff
  • Vertical industry expertise
  • Number of competitors’ products/services they sell
  • Product/service lines

Depending upon your goals, you can also seek intel around other key areas (Just not all at once!):

  • Participant-level sentiment: Their feelings about the brand after key interactions
  • Process friction: Feedback around UX. For instance, how easy was it to file a claim? 
  • Motivations: Understanding whether partners respond better to extrinsic or intrinsic motivations
  • Sales attribution: To inform lead generation campaigns
  • Enablement: Learning how assets, toolkits and certifications are effective

Designing the Collection Method

Most of your pulse surveys may happen within your partner platforms, but there may be instances when an email or text-based outreach makes sense, like when inactivity is an area you want more details about. Our channel strategy teams support clients knowing what, when, where and how to ask questions that can make or break VoP results.

Get Creative

Varying the kind of questions from simple select-the-emoji options to open-ended text responses will provide breadth and depth in responses. ITA Group can help you interpret open text responses with AI evaluation to determine common themes and sentiment.

examples of creative voice of partner survey questions

Create a Dashboard to Visualize Data

A dashboard brings focus to the initiative and helps tell the story for stakeholders. It can also help compile insights and suggestions for action. If you’re attempting to measure a partner experience score or satisfaction, this real-time view can work wonders on where to optimize a program next.

Act on Partner Feedback

Partners need to know their responses inspire change. There’s no need to make dramatic shifts based on a single comment, but if you hear repeated requests, elevate them. Closing the feedback loop by pointing out what you’ve changed based on their input builds buy-in for future asks.

Related: Formalize your channel program using the 8 steps in our guidebook.

A benefit of instituting shorter, progressive profiling practices in your VoP is you’re likely reaching different groups beyond the top performers who typically participate in longer surveys. This is helpful for redesigning incentive and engagement strategies that move lower performers up the ladder.

Related: Listen to our Audio Insight to learn more about designing measurements for maximum impact.

Channel leaders can get help in identifying and assessing “scored moments” that guide improvements for the partner journey. Work with ITA Group to align your channel partner survey methods to capture sentiments at each milestone. Learn more about our expertise in driving sales through segmentation.

Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen is a life-long learner who finds joy in exploring new ideas and thrives on disruption in all forms. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, incentives, and tech. In her role as an Insights & Strategy Leader at ITA Group she keeps a pulse on the changes in the market to direct the vision, position, and evolution of their incentives portfolio. Her position as a leader on the American Marketing Association board keeps her immersed in the latest trends and advances in the marketing field. When she’s not working or volunteering you can find her competing on the volleyball court or working on home renovation projects with her husband.