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4 Signs You Need to Revamp Your Channel Partner Program

Flexible partner programs are key to accommodate different business models, maximize opportunity and balance costs.

February 3, 2023

5 Min Read
Revamping
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By Jonathan Eisner

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Jonathan Eisner

Business leaders know that over time, a healthy partner program must evolve and change to meet the needs of both parties. But when exactly should a revamp of your program happen?

If there’s an immediate need, a program revamp can happen at any point in the year, but you do want to be careful not to make too many changes. If you’re continuously updating your program benefits and requirements, partners won’t be able to keep up and will lose interest. The start of the new year is often a good time for reflection, and the same can be said about your partner program.

When It’s Time to Re-Evaluate

Below are the four signs that it’s time to re-evaluate your channel program.

  1. Misalignment of goals: Every year, organizations shift their business goals to ensure continued growth. Your channel goals may also need to evolve to align with this shift. For example, as your organization expands geographically, have you considered what adaptation might be required to extend your partner program within that locale? Partner business models may vary widely between regions and your program may not be structured in a way that adequately sets goals and aligns with that segment of partners.

  2. Overcoming challenges: When you’re facing repetitive challenges, a single change to the program may help resolve the issue. Have you overengineered your requirements, making it too hard for partners to join or succeed within your program? If only a small percentage of your partners are meeting their program requirements, it may be time to look at reducing the commitment needed or even adding another tier or program to accommodate the different capabilities and engagement of partners.

  3. Performance indicators: Let’s say you have a partner exceeding the targets set for them. It’s important to understand what characteristics those partners possess and how they’re working within the program, then apply that to other partners. What are they doing that is making them so successful? Have they completed all the training and certifications you offer? Are they leveraging your market development funds program? Are they regularly engaging with content on your partner portal? Look at how they’re working within your program and determine if you can create a blueprint to share with other partners to help them on their path to success.

  4. Low conversion rate: Perhaps partners aren’t meeting the requirements you’ve set for your program. This could be an indicator that the partners need further training and resources, or it could indicate you need to take a hard look at how the product offering is positioned with partners. Do they have what they need to be successful?

We think of partner programs as a well-defined, structured arrangement, but flexibility is key. A successful partner program accommodates multiple partner business models and maximizes the overall market opportunity while balancing costs and operations.

That’s why we created multiple programs to meet partners’ unique needs. From a basic referral program for those who want compensation for sending referrals our way, to a consulting partner program that focuses on collaboration and mutual investments, to a reseller partner program where partners focus on helping customers while we handle the technology. And there’s also a technology partner program that lets partners build, maintain and sell a comprehensive solution without a large upfront investment.

Flexibility in supporting a diverse set of business models is a hallmark of a successful partner program. Most processes within a partnership program can be flexible if there’s a strategic reason for creating a wider scope, but it’s vital to set goals, incentives and levels with different definitions of success in mind.

Ensuring Your Partnership Program Succeeds

Participating in a partner program doesn’t need to be complicated. The easier it is to participate, the more likely the partner is to engage and expand their investment. Further, your partners are working with multiple vendors, often including your competition, so it’s important to simplify your program so partners engage more in their business model. It’s also key to make sure they see the value in the benefits (PDF) you’re offering them.

Make it easy for partners to communicate with you. Clear navigation is key, and they need to know who to reach out to when there’s a question. Make sure that resources are accessible and that your program isn’t dependent upon the technology being sold. Make it people-centric, not just product-centric.

If you do decide to change your program, consider getting feedback from your most heavily invested partners. Often, they can advocate for smaller partners and help fine-tune the proposed changes.

Once the changes are confirmed, start with your internal teams so they’re aware of any service-level changes and can answer any questions their partners may have. Next, communicate the modifications with all affected partners in as many ways as you can, whether that’s through email, webinar, partner calls, etc.

Don’t make the changes effective immediately. Give your partners time to consider whether they may need to adjust their business practices to continue to provide value to your program.

Jonathan Eisner leads partner strategy, programs and sales at Sovos as chief channel officer and vice president of global alliances. He works across the regions, product teams and functional areas on best practices and go-to-market execution. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @SovosCompliance on Twitter.

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