Creating an engaging online Partner Relationship Management (PRM) community - which your resellers, service providers and/or alliance partners will actually use - doesn’t need to be a complex coding exercise. Even if your core business is devoted to developing innovative web and/or mobile applications, your developers can be better utilized on billable customer projects or on minor customizations.
One-to-many partner relationship management portals serve important functions, including:
Onboarding, training and certification
Managing partner profiles including contact information and specializations
Sharing and storage of rich content like video, marketing collateral and technical documentation
When integrated with a CRM application like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics: tracking leads, sales opportunities and support tickets
Real-time analytics for managing partner performance
A “many to many” partner community, with functions like forums, news feeds, social profiles and groups support collaboration in a self-service portal. Trying to extend a traditional cloud-based CMS to match this level of engagement isn’t always feasible. Often, it will require a great deal of custom development and script writing. Additionally, you have to ensure the PRM portal is mobile responsive and consistent with your branding.
Take a long-term view when investing in your portal
When budgeting for a partner self-service community, many companies feel that they can control project costs by using an open-source CMS, hosting the site in their own data center/cloud infrastructure, or utilizing their own database and application server software. Be aware, there are many hidden costs in this equation which should be considered, such as:
Your company’s bandwidth usage based on the volume of community traffic
Infrastructure maintenance, upgrades and testing
Security costs like web application firewalls, SSL certificates
Consumption-based cloud pricing for development, backup and production environments
Overhead related to developing, maintaining and adding feature enhancements to the portal as business requirements evolve
The complexity of integrating business applications like CRM, e-commerce, inventory and accounting.
It takes a fraction of the time and investment (between a quarter and a fifth of the time in many cases, though each project varies) to deploy a PRM community on a SaaS platform. You can use drag and drop content and infrastructure building blocks instead of developing a complex custom portal framework. A purpose-built partner community, with a flexible REST API and easy integrations with your structured applications like CRM minimizes expense and effort.
Consider the frequency of upgrade releases, patches, and maintenance requirements for applications like CRMs as well as web servers and databases. All of these functions can be handled by the PRM application service provider, ensuring your business partners don’t suffer any service interruptions.
Feature Rich and Future Proof
Many partner portal solutions are licensed based on named users, functional tiers, utilization and/or the amount of storage space your portal takes up in a vendor’s data center. In deploying many partner communities over the years, we’ve found that there are functional requirements which are common to most channel-centric companies.
Our tier-based user licensing approach serves the needs of all businesses regardless of size. The relationship management services they use and the value they reap from their online partner community far outweighs their monthly subscription - just ask our customers.
Consider: the average contact center interaction is just over $1 per minute vs community site interactions (about 25 cents per interaction for all self-service portal visits), you can see how self-service partner communities are a lot more affordable than interactions which require a live representative.
Self-service portals also enable partner managers, channel support representatives and other professionals to be more productive with strategic tasks. Achieving these goals without high development cost, overhead or time offers a far higher return on investment.
Community Discussions and Partner Engagement
Social media has become an integral channel for engagement even in professional partnerships. Due to the confidential nature of many partner/vendor discussions, a private partner community provides a safer, semi-confidential forum for discussions which aren’t suitable for public channels like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
That said, content which is suitable for the public domain can be easily shared by reseller, integrator or solution provider partners, significantly amplifying its reach. It can be challenging to develop the foundation and controls required for targeting and distribution within a portal framework solution. Many other SaaS portals require third-party add-ons (with related build and integration costs) to facilitate community discussions and news feeds. A cloud-based partner community with self-service functionality offers these features with no additional cost.
B2B Sales and Forecasting
Building a dedicated B2B site for your partners with e-commerce and forecasting functions can get costly quickly. Your portal requires the capability of managing multiple price lists for different partner tiers and product lines while synchronizing that data in real-time with your CRM system. You can create great efficiencies in your business by utilizing a partner relationship community customized to your specific business needs including:
Tracking the products a partner has sold against their certifications and quotas
Managing RMA’s for defective products
Ensuring the accuracy of opportunity forecasting
Managing shipment/billing information
Managing revenue attainment against MDF programs and SPIF awards
Tracking the influence of co-marketing campaigns, partner manager activities and local events
Lead/deal registration and opportunity commits
Developing custom functions like these, or buying 3rd party solutions to deliver them is far more costly and time-consuming than subscribing to a comprehensive self-service partner community portal which offers this functionality out of the box.
Have you started a development initiative to build a partner community portal project on top of an existing framework? Subscribed to a “cookie cutter” SaaS portal service, and found it lacking many of the features you need to serve your channel or alliance partners? Contact Magentrix to discover how an affordable, engaging, flexible, secure partner community can create efficiencies for your partner channel.