We live in a digital first world - and the shift has happened very quickly. Let’s consider our personal lives. In a few short years, we now find a huge proportion of our time is spent engaging digitally.
Whether or not it’s updating social platforms like Facebook, creating content on blogs, photos on Instagram or making plans on travel sites, all of a sudden, we are all operators and creators of digital content. How did that happen?
And our working lives? People are now hired on the back of digital engagement. Marketers who know HubSpot, social media experts on Oktopost, everyone on Slack and any number of other SaaS applications that have changed the way we do business in so many ways.
But what about interacting with our Channel Partners?
Here - we have a LONG way to go.
Our solution providers are forced to access multiple glorified websites (partner portals), trying to remember (sometimes several) login details only when they really need something.
Bear in mind, for the partner, we are talking about sometimes interacting with 10 or more different vendor portals, all providing a different interface and set of functions. Many of these portals are limited in value, poorly designed and rarely error free.
Even a basic requirement like finding content to help support a sales cycle can be incredibly challenging. With our teams utilizing a myriad of different distribution sources (Website, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc.) it can be far from a simple task for a channel partner to get basic access to something as simple as a case study or technical datasheet needed for a particular RFP. This in turn creates an overhead for the Channel Managers who support partner relationships – the lack of self service in the portal means we resort back to sending email attachments backwards and forwards (or picking up the telephone!).
This lack of consistency, quality and cohesion is now not just a tolerable burden. It is (according to studies like Canalys Connecting Insights in 2015) the single biggest pain point in the channel - even ranking ahead of old favorites such as rules of engagement, rebate complexity and speed of deal approval.
This is directly revenue impacting both the top and bottom lines for channel partners and vendors. It is unacceptable and has to change.
So why is it like this?
The market for Partner Relationship Management (PRM) Software has been around for some time. Players like ImPartner and Relayware (now re-packaging as Zift) have long focused on helping software vendors manage their channel programs at scale. Salesforce.com has become a standard for collecting data but has led to a ‘management by dashboard’ culture where partners are being asked to provide ever increasing amounts of information with little gain in return.
And somewhere we have lost track of the key tech opportunity that has emerged - taking the friction of our engagement through improved, high quality digital interaction between channel organizations and managers and the business partners they support.
I have been a provider of Channel Technology space for over 15 years. A few years ago my company, Webinfinity, saw a major shift coming, based on four clear trends that together had started to create a perfect ‘digital’ storm.
- The Shift to a Digital First Experience - Recognizing that the shift to digital experience was going to replace the old ways of engaging in the channel.
- The Partner Roles Explosion - The channel has moved very quickly from the days when we could fall into simple boxes like Distributors, VAR’s, Retailers and so on. The contemporary solution sell can involve multiple players of different shapes and sizes, often with people playing multiple roles. Working vendor to rigid partner in silos just doesn’t cut it anymore.
- The Apple Effect - Users now have zero tolerance with bad software and expect everything to be easy and no more than 2 or 3 clicks away. The disparity between using a clunky PRM interface and a consumer app on any device was becoming too great.
- Channel Resource Contraction - Everyone is having to do more with less. This is tough in the context of any regular business but this becomes further amplified in a channel model where we often see a reality where a handful of vendor resources are dedicated to supporting hundreds (if not thousands) of diverse business partnerships.
The Digital First Channel
By understanding these trends, and by listening to the pains of solution providers (not just vendors), it was clear to see a new opportunity was emerging.
The opportunity to bring a new ‘digital first’ future to channel engagement, setting standards for experience that could be introduced across multiple vendors, in turn providing channel partners with a consistency and level of quality that are light years ahead of today’s reality.
This new ‘digital first’ channel needs to quickly move away from the website portal approach that is so prevalent across the industry today.
Intelligent personalization (through a tailor made digital experience) is the key to future channel success. Rather than accessing a one size fits all portal, imagine being able to get straight to key program, content, and systems via an individualized view that is truly unique to the user’s precise needs (based on who they are and what they need to drive success). We are becoming used to this in our personal lives but it seems a distant dream for partner portals.
And I’m not talking about token web personalization; think less is more . If as a referral partner all I need are two buttons and three documents that’s exactly what should be served to me. Or as a Gold Partner selling one line of business in one country why should I be seeing hundreds of documents that I don’t need? If it’s not relevant and impactful, it’s just noise.
It’s time to ditch the partner portal as we know it.
Webinfinity is on a mission to fundamentally address the problem of digital friction through a new, game changing SaaS technology.
We are challenging the traditional PRM system and partner portal marketplace with a codeless, standards based approach to the complex channel problem of needing to be all things to everyone.
We’d love to share our vision and show you why so many great tech companies are agreeing that now is the time to challenge the norm and move towards a new, digital first, channel future. If you’d like learn more, please join us for a public web demo or contact our business development team to start a conversation.