The term PRM covers a broad range of channel technologies. Just as in the CRM market, there are narrow products that serve specific needs, and there are comprehensive products that reach into multiple disciplines.

We differentiate what have been called ‘pure play PRM’ or ‘best of breed’ systems from more comprehensive systems called ‘Enterprise Channel Management (ECM)’ or ‘Unified Channel Management’ or ‘all-in-one’.

Even within these categories, there is a wide range of product capabilities to consider.

Some vendors offer a suite of applications from which you can pick and choose modules to integrate into your PRM. A caution is to make sure you are clear if the various modules were actually built to work together, or if the suite is a result of a vendor acquiring a bunch of separate products and stitching them together to appear to be complete. User experience and consistency typically suffer when the pieces were not built from the start to act as one platform.

What Are the Different Types of PRMs?

A pure play or best of breed solution will generally address your needs for launching a partner portal and many of the administrative requirements for managing the partner community. It may extend into additional capabilities such as lead or deal registration, and perhaps training and content management. The principal consideration is how you will integrate a pure play solution into the rest of your infrastructure and what additional systems you will need to consider licensing down the road in order to facilitate the entire partner journey. Often, pure play solutions have a broad set of shallow elements to complement the areas where they are deep. As an example, they may store marketing content and provide for basic partner co-branding, but they won’t go deep enough for true partner marketing. 

The journey your program will take will span all the way from partner recruitment, to onboarding, training and certification, enablement, demand creation, transaction support, and ultimately post-sale support. A comprehensive all-in-one platform will generally cover the entire journey.  Often they will include more capable partner onboarding with extensive learning management and certification, and marketing automation tools for demand generation. 

If you think of the entire sales funnel from marketing and lead generation at the top, all the way through the middle of the funnel with sales enablement, to the bottom of the funnel with deal management and transactions, the goal of an all-in-one platform is to facilitate the entire journey. An advantage of managing the top to bottom funnel is that these platforms can provide comprehensive analytics and telemetry about the partner community that’s very hard (or impossible) to piece together from component or pure play systems.

What Do I Need For My Company?

You may not need to do all of these things upfront, or you may already have some of it covered. As your program matures, you want to consider how you will extend a pure play solution, and what the incremental licensing costs and integration costs will become. A pure play starter solution will have a lower initial cost that lets you get going, and then you can buy separate components down the road (or integrate with components you are already licensing). Just keep in mind that the costs will add up quickly if your program succeeds. Buying separate systems is always more costly than an integrated system, but it may work for you if you think the partner maturity curve will ramp slowly and you don’t anticipate needing more sophisticated capabilities anytime soon (1-2 years).

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of PRMs, you’ll need to know how much they’re going to cost. Our next article in this PRM series will answer “How much does a PRM cost?” – and talk about whether this is a tool that a company can build themselves.