The Ultimate Guide for Partner Management

A significant part of the global economy flows through the channel and the same holds true in the software, SaaS and cloud sectors as well. A big part of the tools and solutions available by hundreds of thousands of vendor are being promoted and sold via channel partners.

In the old days, in some cases this is true even today, many vendors chose to manage their partner network with spreadsheets rather than using a software tool. This was due to the fact that there weren’t many solutions in the market and also because some of the products that existed were expensive and sold mainly to enterprise level businesses. But with the explosion of SaaS tools there are now many solutions a vendor can select to manage, optimize and enable their partner network.

Below is a list of 14 main categories and 48 tools including partner management systems, channel marketing or Through-Channel Marketing Automation tools, channel data management solutions, partner training and many more. We present the functionality and the importance of each tool as well as some well-known companies in every category.

Partner Relationship Management

Elioplus PRM Homepage

When it comes to partner management then the first tool to be considered is a PRM or Partner Relationship Management software or simply a partner portal. A PRM tool will provide you with enough functionality to manage, optimize and enable your partner network.

Some of the most common elements found in a PRM software include Deal Registration features that help you avoid conflict between channel partners, Lead Distribution to help you distribute leads to your partners, a Partner Directory and Locator to showcase your partners to your visitors, Partner Training and Certification that helps you to create and publish courses for your partners and also certify them and of course co-branding features.

Other important features that you should consider before investing in a PRM tool are the integrations with third party applications like CRMs, marketing automation tools, file storage solutions etc., partner recruitment features that can help you sustain and grow the number of partners in your network and in some cases a referral add-on for companies that rely on consultants and their clientele to drive new business.

Using a referral tool will help you to keep everything organized and keep track of payouts, it also signals to your referral partners that you have invested in this channel and it is important for your company. Having a PRM and referral tool under one dashboard will minimize your time to manage your partner network and can give you the complete picture of your channel efforts in terms of analytics and commissions.

There are enough options to review in this space and for every budget available, from small companies and new startups up to enterprise level companies that have complex partner networks and needs. We’ll start from our own PRM solution for two reasons, it has a complete free plan for vendors with a small partner network and all features are available for use and secondly it has a Partner Recruitment tool built-in that helps you to attract new channel partners and grow your network effortless and all under the same application.

When it comes to PRM, Impartner is one of the oldest (previously known as Treehouse Interactive) and most well-known companies that you should consider for your partner portal. Although it might be out of reach for some companies due to pricing as it attracts a lot of enterprise level companies Intel, LANDESK and EMC, Impartner also offer a referral product that can be handy for vendors that offer multiple partner programs.

LogicBay is another well-known channel sales software that specializes in the manufacturing industry and their recent FUSE product is the only member-based platform for the manufacturing industry. Some additional companies that offer partner portals with great functionality are Mindmatrix, that also offers a sales enablement suite, Allbound, that offers partner portal and partner engagement products, MyPRM which is a French software company, Channeltivity and PartnerStack that is ideal for SaaS vendors with referral and affiliate networks.

Channel Marketing - Through-Channel Marketing Automation

An effective partner management strategy should include some sort of channel marketing or Through-Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) to make the best out of your partner network’s reach. TCMA software tools will help you to create complex campaigns utilizing your partners reach in order to generate demand, manage leads and keep track of the performance for each partner.

Some of the most common features on each of these tools include co-branding and collaboration features so vendors and partners can work on collateral material, lead management, reporting and analytics to optimize channel marketing spend and measure ROI.

ZiftSolutions Channel Marketing Page

ZiftSolutions is one of the most well-known companies in the channel and offers products around partner management with channel marketing being one of those solutions. Their channel marketing product includes data analytics, MDF tracking and creative services for content like graphic design, microsites etc.

StructureWeb Homepage

StructureWeb is a SaaS company that offers a TCMA platform with features such as channel marketing process collaboration, channel marketing automation for repeatable marketing programs to thousands of partners, lead management and analytics. The company also offers solutions like content syndication and CRM integration.

TIE KINETIX Homepage

TIE KINETIX offers all the basic functionality including through-partner marketing feature, co-branding, performance and lead management. In addition, the company also offers Google Ads for the Channel tool to help you generate demand for your partners via Google Ads.

Sproutloud Homepage

Another contender in this field is Sproutloud that offer both a platform for TCMA and professional services. Their platform includes channel marketing automation, spend management and analytics among other features while the company also offers co-op advertising solutions.

Other notable solutions in this sector are distribion that offers content marketing and campaign execution, Zinfi with features like Social Syndication and Search Marketing, Averetek (now part of E2Open), Marketopia, SocialRep for partner sales, Channel Matters, OneAffiniti and Tune.

Channel Data Management

Channel Data Management products are essential in some cases, like manufacturers, that have complex partner networks with different types of partners such as distributors, resellers, ODMs and OEMs. These products will help you gain intelligent insights of your network and answer difficult questions like if your partners are stocking the right products or if you are overpaying incentives.

Model N Channel Data Management

Model N is a company that stands out when it comes in Channel Data Management. Their product includes functionality that helps manufacturers to monitor their network’s performance, maximize channel revenue and decrease operational costs for partner management.

E2 Open Channel Data Management

E2 Open is another great solution in this area that can help you take data-driven decisions on how to improve your channel and your supply chain planning. Their product can provide with great insights on your best sellers, inventory and how to structure your incentive payments.

Incentives

Having a productive partner network is not just about utilizing their reach in order to sell through your partners your products and services but also to provide incentives and rewards to boost their efforts. Incentives, rewards, rebates and Market Development Funds (MDFs) are all a great way to enhance your partner management efforts.

PerksWW homepage

PerksWW is a leading company that provides channel incentive marketing solutions like rebates, rewards and Marketing Development Funds. Their channel incentives automation platform can be used for multiple programs across your entire portfolio.

WorkStride channel incentives

WorkStride provides an impressive portfolio of solutions around channel incentives that will help you manage promotions, boost partner engagement, keep your partners motivated and reduce manual processes for claim validation.

Other notable companies in this category are Power2Motivate that offers sales and channel partner incentive programs, MTCPerformance with their incentive solutions for manufacturers, distributors and large resellers, Incentive Solutions which as their name suggest helps you run incentive programs, fielo with their incentive automation platform that also runs on Salesforce and ChannelAssist that helps you increase channel sales and engagement.

Partner Training

Training your partners is essential for partner management, it guarantees that your branding and messaging stays consistent even in complex partner networks in which hundreds or even thousands sales reps and support people are involved. Most PRM systems will have a partner training module either native or as an integration with a third-party application but there also exist Learning Management Systems (LMS) that are focused in the channel.

NetExam homepage

One such example is NetExam that offers an LMS system focused on training channel partners and can be integrated with most CRMs like Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics.

Litmos from SAP is another company that although they offer an LMS product they also have a specialized solution for partner training and some great functionality that allows you to even charge your partners for the training courses.

Integrations Management

apideck homepage

Most SaaS applications offer various integration with third party providers that not only helps their end-customers to easily transfer data from one application to another but also makes it easier for their product to be adopted by channel partners that are interested to upsell their clientele. The logistics of having an integration ecosystem of partners though can make it difficult to manage different APIs, scale your connectors and showcase your partners.

Apideck provides a platform to help you eliminate some headaches as their products will help you build your app store and showcase your integrations and their unified APIs make it easy to create native integrations with other SaaS companies.

Ecosystems

Partner networks are in essence ecosystems, sometimes simple and some other times very complex in a way that are involved different types of companies from various sectors using multiple applications to run their businesses. That makes it challenging to have transparency in the channel and align strategies towards customer acquisition.

Crossbeam homepage

In the recent years many great applications have emerged to help vendors manage their partner programs and ecosystems more effectively. One of these companies is Crossbeam that can help you uncover overlapping prospects and customers by analyzing the CRM system of the vendor and the channel partner.

Another great platform is WorkSpan and its cloud ecosystem will help your to manage your partner programs and connect with your partners. Their products also include Joint Sales, Funds and Marketing for vendors that run more mature partner programs.

Finally, there is TIDWIT with their Cloud Ecosystem Network that enables scalable collaboration, distribution and information exchange between customers and partners.

Channel Enablement

Atrivity Channel Partner Enablement

An effective partner management strategy takes in consideration how to enable channel partners and stand out of the crowd. Channel companies partner with multiple vendors and getting your message to the right ears without distractions is a challenge. Atrivity offers a gamification tool to deliver training material in a true gaming format. The training material can be anything from product knowledge, sales promotions and negotiation skills.

Subscription Management

Iasset homepage

In the age of SaaS economy, recurring subscriptions tend to dominate the landscape and this creates all sorts of issues for vendors and their partners. Iasset has acknowledged this issue and is offering a product for vendors with vast partner networks to manage every recurring revenue opportunity and renewals as well.

Another great application in this space is Appbind that makes it easy for your channel partners to create different credit cards and manage subscriptions for their partners and also manage commissions as well.

Partner Program Scoring

myChannelScore homepage

Prospect partners expect from you to have a partner program in place that fully explains the benefits and requirements of the partnership. myChannelScore offers a quick way to evaluate your partner program and some key indicators.

P2P Network

P2PGlobal homepage

As we mentioned on a previous section there are hidden opportunities in a partner ecosystem between the vendor and its channel partners. The same is true between channel partners that can collaborate in joint efforts to win more deals. Partner-to-Partner networks enable channel partners to share and receive deals with other companies in their network. A typical example is a channel company that has a potential lead but no expertise in that industry so they create a one-off collaboration with another channel company that fulfils the criteria to win the customer.

One such network is P2PGlobal that is open for many different types of channel partners. Also, our platform has a P2P built-in feature P2P built-in feature that allows channel companies to share and receive such leads.

Partner Recruitment

SaaSMax homepage

In the partner recruitment space there is an abundance of options to help you identify your ideal channel partners and create outreach campaigns to attract new partners. First of all, there are hundreds of channel consultants that can help you to set up a proper partner program, in case you don’t have already one, create an ideal partner persona and get in touch with potential partners to drive new partnerships.

In terms of tools, there is SaaSMAX with their Partner Optimizer tool to help you find the right partners and partnerprograms.io that is an ideal solution to connect you with all types of agencies. You can also consider our platform that actively promotes your partner program and matches you with the best potential partners around the globe or in specific countries.

Channel Directories – Communities

ascii community homepage

Joining IT communities is not only great in terms of engaging with new partners but also will provide you great insights knowing the thoughts, troubles and current trends in the channel from trusted leaders and professionals. One such community organizing many local events is the ascii group. Other communities and directories in the channel industry include The Reseller Network and The Alliance Partners.

Databases

For vendors that would like to access databases in order to actively go after new partner recruitment then there are multiple options that provide data from channel companies. Some companies that shouldn’t go unnoticed in this space are PartnerOptimizer and Channel Navigator in the US and compuBase in the European market.

Conclusion

Partner management is an essential component to scale your indirect sales. Having a partner network is only half of the job, keeping your partners motivated, organized and making the best out of your partnerships is equally, if not more, important. There are multiple solutions as we described above in every category and for every budget these days. Just take your time to review every solution and make the adoption process for your partners seamless in order to not waste their time and resources.

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