Changing Channels: Why Partner Technology is Key to Navigating a Competitive Marketplace

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Tom Perry, CEO of The Sherpa Group

Competition in the Channel is keener than ever, driven by a frenzy of activity from rival vendors and many new partner types starting to deliver technology-led solutions. There are some obvious challenges that organisations face in activating and engaging partners, but at Sherpa we believe in a four-point approach to handling a fast-moving market.

The market is heating up 

Threats around cyber security, digital transformation, environmental and CSR issues and changing buyer personas mean vendors and partners are operating in a very different environment compared to just three years ago – things are heating up. This accelerated shift in the status quo calls for a good look at Partner and Alliance strategy.

Vendors may work with Partners that are not particularly compatible with their goals and long-term vision as a business– which can leave vendors feeling vulnerable. The processes around reporting, engaging, enabling and growing with Partners in an increasingly competitive market and may be threatened if there isn’t a way to manage this effectively. Instead, to succeed here, businesses should look to the latest systems and processes aligned to Partner growth. 

The problems this raises for clients vs. the opportunities it creates 

If Partner Experience (PX) is not in a great place, neither will customer experience be, as the two areas are closely linked.  

For some time, Partner comms have lagged behind prospect and customer comms in terms of sophistication. Increasingly,communication links between partner channel account teams and vendors are blurring, with diminished visibility into value add and ROI. However, there is a new opportunity here to create improved Partner comms that are relevant, make the best use of technology, and deal with new, multiple partner types. 

As the Channel ecosystem becomes increasingly complex – reporting can also become inconsistent, and requiring adaptation to align with these new environments. It can also be difficult to access historical data without a functional platform – which can impact future investment decisions, budgetary planning and internal reporting.  

However, all this also brings opportunities for our clients. These include, increased team efficiency from automating time-consuming tasks using new channel technology, or improved partner experience as the platform provides a single place to access training, assets and content at a global or regional level. 

The four-point strategy in practice 

It’s all about scale – with the requirement for many vendors to refresh the channel and attract new types of partners, they are investigating tech solutions to make this happen at scale. 

Secondly, Partner Experience (PX) is now paramount. With increasing competition for partners, Vendors are looking at how the Channel tech stack can afford them an advantage in the recruitment, onboarding and enablement phases of channel growth. These three phases of partner activation are critical to the experience because Partners have plenty of choices in today’s market. 

In launching PartnerActivate, we brought together several elements in the platform, all of which have a new approach to help tackle a fast-moving market: 

Partner data sources – Traditionally, Partner data has been held in disparate and different systems across an organisation. This has made interrogating that data and gaining insights extremely hard. With an API based approach to data sources, PartnerActivate unifies partner data and enables two-way processes to ensure data integrity.  Once you can create a single view of Partner data, it becomes possible to apply machine learning and AI to that data, leading to insight-based decisions to help grow partner ROI and revenues. 

MDF management – With deeper insights, powerful analytics and greater transparency, you can plan more strategically, measure more precisely and bring your MDF to life, making it more than transactional. 

Individual and team incentives – Designed to motivate partners, Activate_Reward delivers a multi-tiered, fully automated global incentive program linking Partner and individual performance to motivate and reward Partners.

Campaign management – Activate_Campaign provides a full suite of marketing campaigns for Partners. Ready to implement, on brand, measurable multi-tactic campaigns save Partners time and resource, delivering a more streamlined Partner experience.

By taking this approach, clients can expect to see a range of benefits and added value. Whether that’s improved efficiency and streamlining of channel processes or greater visibility into Partner performance (to help with the efficient auditing of activities, spend and revenue). The approach and strategy also offers a single view of Partner effectiveness and potential for growth, whilst delivering a positive Partner experience. This in turn can help expand the capabilities and improve the efficiency of client channel teams, as the platform streamlines and automates manual tasks, benefitting time and resource poor teams, allowing them to focus on value-adding tasks instead. 

Final thoughts 

As we mentioned, it’s all about scale. An agile approach between tech and services is so important as competition in the Channel increases. To avoid things like partner attritionand end-user dis-satisfaction or even slower growth andopportunities for investment being neglected, companies need to address any challenges head on. Investing in ways in which new tech can function alongside existing tech stacks and customising these to specific business needs are all steps the right direction. These changes can help overcome the above challenges, as well as enhance capabilities to provide a higher level of customisation, automation and functionalitythroughout businesses growth journeys. 

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