Some tech providers and suppliers believe that creating partner communities, where partners can participate in online discussions, chat rooms and self organize, is enough to inspire them to self-organize into more productive channel partners. When that doesn’t happen, disappointment abounds. Yet, in Zift’s 10+ years of working with channel partners across the globe and most of the top 100 channel organizations, we have never seen partners come together organically online, then deliver measurable channel results.

Sure, the idea of partner communities is great. Community is a positive word that everyone wants to foster. Sometimes an online conversation provides new ideas and opportunities to learn more, but chitter chatter doesn’t move the needle.

Of course, there are anecdotal examples of partners synching up and sharing workflows online, but it’s just not going to happen at scale without solutions designed for the channel. Real working partner ecosystems are fostered by putting tools, integrated technology and support in place to meet the very real challenges of delivering channel revenue.

No One Needs Another Water Cooler

Focusing on synergistic communities is exactly the type of behavior that can lead to disappointing, even disastrous, channel program performance. Partners have tasks they need to get done. They have leads to follow up on and deals to close. They have money to make – and they need real help – not just another online water cooler.

Suppliers and their partners need easy-to-use applications that cover everything from planning, recruitment, enablement, demand generation, order transaction, and life cycle management. Moreover, these applications need to integrate with each other as well as the systems suppliers and partners already have in place.

You can’t just jumble a bunch of gears together, then expect a first-class engine to pop out of it. It takes sophisticated engineering to build a channel engine that works. If you want to boost the performance of your channel partners, then you need fully-integrated solutions, with strong back-end technology and support/services specifically designed and aligned for channel partners.

Rather than slightly tweaked SFA or CRM tools, generic social gathering spots and community facilitation, look for solutions that are engineered for partners. They should make it easy to recruit, onboard and segment the right partners for the right solutions. They should deliver leads and incentives within workflows as well as the right messages and tools to close more deals. And, most of all, they should go well beyond fostering conversations, and actually help channel partners drive performance, revenue and ROI.