One question we frequently receive from our customers here at Zift?

“How do I create a partner engagement plan that works?”

Stakeholders at all levels of the channel have asked us this million-dollar question. As we’ve mentioned before, partner engagement results in stickier and more successful programs… So we know asking this question pays off!

Since more and more companies rely on their partners for indirect sales, having a partner engagement plan and strategy in place is crucial to ensure success. Additionally, partners and resellers usually have multiple suppliers. This makes it even more important for suppliers to establish an engagement plan to build partner loyalty.

When creating and executing a partner engagement plan, we’ve found that there are a few key tips to keep in mind.

5 tips to create a successful partner engagement plan:

1. Build strong relationships

Building relationships is important in all aspects of life, both personally and professionally. When solid relationships are built, all involved parties achieve some level of satisfaction and value.

This is easier said than done; there are instances where a relationship is a one-way street and only one involved party is gaining value while the other is getting nothing. This concept also applies to suppliers and their channel partners. Treating channel partners as an extension of the supplier will only strengthen that relationship.

2. Develop partner-friendly programs and content

Take some time to understand partners’ challenges and be sure to structure channel programs to address those challenges and needs. This will only help drive partners to sell the products and services to the end customer and increase ROI. 

If channel partners are not receiving relevant marketing materials from a supplier, focus will shift to a different supplier that is taking their needs into account.

3. Foster consistent communication

As in any relationship, fostering consistent communication is key. If partner outreach only happens when new content which they may or may not be interested in is available or out of the blue to announce a new product, it is likely that the partner will brush it off or ignore it altogether. 

Keeping partners up to date on upcoming product releases or changes to existing products or solutions enables them to keep their customers up to date as well. 

Channel partners should be encouraged to: 

  • stay current, 
  • adopt new technology early, and 
  • be fully supported to retain their reputation as collaborative trusted advisers.

4. Get partner buy-in

Show that you care and that you’re listening to their needs and challenges. Your partners are only as successful as the tools you make available to them, especially when implementing a partner engagement process. Pushing out a bunch of direct marketing materials might not be relevant to your partners. 

Partners take notice if you’re providing materials that don’t suit their needs. So if they notice that as a trend, the end goal of increasing sales for both parties won’t be met and partners will begin to lose trust. If partners have the opportunity to provide input, they will be more likely to participate in programs.

5. Get channel managers’ buy-in

Channel managers play an integral role in providing partners with the tools and education they need to utilize marketing materials from the supplier. Demonstrate the value of programs to channel managers and provide them with the resources they can use with partners and resellers to keep partners engaged. The more program advocates, the better, and this will result in increased leads, more sales, and improved ROI.

Bottom line, partner engagement is essential to creating partner loyalty. Putting channel partners in a position where they can become experts on the suppliers’ products and solutions will enable them to go to market with confidence, build their sales funnel, increase revenue streams, and produce an overall increased ROI.

Ready to learn more about partner engagement?

Are you interested in reading more about this topic? Head over to the Channel Learning Center. Here you’ll find answers to your top questions related to partner engagement.