My last blog talked about the value of partner programmes, and why it's important to plan them properly by taking the time to think about what you want them to achieve. Success depends on mutual enthusiasm and engagement: both you and your partners must feel you're getting something positive out of the whole process.
In the same way, it's also important to periodically assess this engagement to make sure you are both getting the most from it. By checking in regularly, you can make sure your partners are still feeling good, are on board with you and happy that their needs are being addressed.
Simple as this may sound, it can be difficult to do. With so many new innovations coming down the line in IT - like cloud computing, Big Data, mobility, machine learning, AI, VR and so on - channel relationships and priorities are constantly changing, and some vendors struggle to keep up – and some struggle to know they are lagging behind. This can leave partners frustrated and feeling like they're not being listened to – and worse still, unloved and unimportant, and under-valued.
So, show partners you care, by asking them what they think. Relationships thrive on open, honest communication, and the Channel is no different.
After all, technology is a complex business. The Channel can be a complex route to market, with many constituent parts and lots of competition. It's the strength of these partner relationships and how well they complement each other that makes the difference. So, it's important to be both transparent and proactive in sharing your thoughts.
One great way to do this is by conducting regular surveys - structured platforms for partners to provide feedback on the things that matter to them. Ask them how they're doing, what they're thinking and how they feel things are going. What's working well? What could be better? It gives you the perfect opportunity to seek out and explore the things you can do differently, better, and identify where the gaps and opportunities are, see what you are getting right, and more importantly, what you are getting wrong!
Don't worry if they're critical. Revealing a problem is the fastest and easiest way to resolve it. Thank them for their advice and assure them it will be used constructively. Ideally, feedback should come from a range of departments and roles; not necessarily just the people you deal with most. The wider the opinions, the greater the end benefit.
Surveys come in all shapes and sizes, depending on what you're looking to achieve. They can be a simple written Q&A; an online survey, a one-to-one interview; group discussions; networking at events; a phone conversation; workshops and forums, to name a few. It's all about ensuring partners feel comfortable exchanging their views… and even being rewarded for doing so if you fancy dropping in something like a prize draw to encourage people to respond.
At the very least, surveys foster engagement and positivity on a number of levels with partners. Whatever their views, they'll feel valued, and understand that you're working hard for them. This attitude will strengthen your working relationship and hopefully make them collaborate even more closely with you. Meanwhile, as you complete more surveys over a longer time period, you'll start to learn more about overall performance, spot trends, changes and patterns and what is driving your business and those essential partner relationships. It will also act as a foundation for change, providing you with perfect opportunities for comparison and measuring change.
After every new survey is done, share the results and communicate any actions taken as a result. This reinforces the fact that it is an inclusive process. By sharing the strengths and weaknesses with your partners, they'll start thinking about further feedback and ideas even before the next survey is in place. Ultimately, this communication will become more iterative, a constant dialogue between you that focuses on sustained improvement and success.
As a channel specialist agency, Purechannels takes partner surveys very seriously, helping some of the world's best-known tech brands get closer to their partners and drive positive change through their Channels as a result.
If you’d like more info or to see how we could do the same for you, please get in touch.
Alongside our friends over at Boost Technology Group and a number of clients – past and present – we have jointly developed the following List in Progress (LIP) to outline what a complex space the channel is. Read more