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Tips & Guides — 31 Mar 2022
Guide to PRM Marketing Strategy
75% of all world trade now flows indirectly, according to a recent report by Forrester. Much of this trade is done via channel partners—from dealers and retailers to VARs, resellers, managed service providers, affiliates, and more.
To stay competitive, companies need to find efficient ways of managing their increasingly complex yet lucrative partner relationships.
Partner relationship management provides businesses with a way to do so. It’s a strategy designed to streamline operations, increase sales, achieve goals, and grow your business.
Companies that implement partner programs often report significant successes, so it’s unsurprising to learn that more and more marketers are seeking to expand and improve their programs.
The market for PRM solutions has grown significantly, with the IoT (internet of things) and other tech advances anticipated to fuel demand further. The pandemic ,too, has seen many businesses seek out PRM solutions in the cloud to help them maintain authenticity and consistency across all partner channels.
Getting your PRM marketing strategy right is key to engaging your partners and keeping them invested in your program, so they’ll feel empowered to sell more of your products and services.
However, this is easier said than done, especially with the business and marketing environment continuing to change so rapidly.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at some strategic ways to help you shape your PRM (partner relationship management) programs and provide you with some helpful resources to enable you to build on and improve your current marketing efforts.
PRM or partner relationship management refers to a combination of strategies and software solutions that businesses use to communicate with channel partners. At first glance they look similar to CRMs or customer relationship management platforms, but they are not the same.
A CRM technology solution usually falls short of what channel managers (and partners) need in order to successfully get products or services to their end users. A CRM tool is primarily concerned with a company’s relationship with its customers, while a PRM platform is concerned with managing a company’s relationships with its indirect sales teams.
Managing partners is a complex, multi-faceted process, which is why PRM software usually offers a great deal of customization so that companies can configure and align their system to the structure of their own partner program.
A PRM solution is software that’s either downloadable or web-based. Some users refer to PRM software as a channel management or channel automation solution. It generally comprises a combination of best practices, templates, and workflows that work together to manage and automate business processes and relationships between businesses and their partners.
A PRM system is hosted centrally and often delivered in the form of SaaS or Software-as-a-Service, so users pay for the software on an ongoing subscription basis.
Many PRMs use the latest technologies including analytics and AI (artificial intelligence) to deliver business intelligence (BI) solutions that assist companies in making tactical and strategic decisions for the business.
PRM software may differ between vendors depending on the distribution channel they’re targeting, but they generally consist of the following:
For companies that leverage multiple channel partners as a route to market, managing these relationships is complex and difficult to say the least.
Especially when PRM marketers have to oversee channel partner rebates and figure out performance data criteria manually on spreadsheets. It’s very difficult to carry out these repetitive tasks without errors creeping in, and even more difficult considering how often channel targets and measurements change. Not to mention the disruption caused by the emergence of new channel types and partner programs.
In today’s competitive business environment, partnership relationship management solutions offer marketers a practical way to facilitate all aspects of managing partner relationships. It’s an essential marketing tool that helps companies keep ahead of the competition with the ability to react to new market segments, gain new customers, and boost revenues.
A PRM helps to make collaborating with numerous businesses easy, with a strategy that shares resources making it cost-effective for small businesses who may lack large numbers of staff.
The benefits of implementing a PRM platform to enable channel marketing are many fold and include the following:
Having a partner relationship management program in place helps all channel managers streamline partner sales processes and keeps everything in one place, avoiding duplication
They can also receive triggered reminders to help them manage and expedite approvals and escalations.
Once everyone is onboard with new ways of working, you’ll find it so much easier to find sales leads and share information. Partners will be able to self-serve and use their own partner portal to access training or anything else they might need to become more productive.
Managers need to make sure partners register for deals right away. If channel conflict emerges, it can create big problems for your channel program. Since partners are unlikely to stick around if rules are unclear or aren’t enforced properly.
This can occur when there’s a lack of sufficient personalization of content. It can be mitigated by using grouping to differentiate the content certain partners see, so reducing overall clutter.
Good PRM software can help eliminate the above disadvantages with numerous features aimed at boosting collaboration between key channel partners, with clearly defined expectations for frequent communication.
As with all components of your marketing, the first step as regards your PRM is to develop a strategy. This needs to be founded on business goals and priorities, and if you get it right it will help you shape your partner programs to ensure success.
Although there are many similarities between a PRM marketing strategy and a traditional marketing strategy, there are some key differences. One is that you need to look at two levels of the program at once: Your strategy for reaching partners and your partners’ strategy for reaching your end-user customers.
You will also need to apply different skill sets to run a successful partner program to those used when running a traditional marketing campaign. Here are some aspects you’ll need to look at when you’re creating your PRM marketing strategy:
The first aspect of your PRM marketing strategy should be to look at things from a high-level and this should involve you examining the following:
Target audiences: As part of your PRM strategy, you should discuss and identify your target audience or audiences. Carry out research to help you develop personas to better understand how to reach these audiences. Having a partner persona to hand is important as it will enable you to see what partners need to be successful and be motivated to sell on your behalf.
Goals: Make sure you set concrete, achievable goals for your partner program. These should be aligned with top-level business objectives and they’ll also need to be measurable. For example, you could set a specific revenue target or a number of new leads within a specified timeframe.
Analyze the competition: Conduct a competitive market analysis around both your chief offerings and your partner program, so you can figure out your UVP (unique value proposition). This will enable you to position yourself correctly in the marketplace.
Messaging: Set up a core messaging program for your content development and sales enablement activities. Create a document that describes the pain points you need to solve and the business value of your goods or services. Make it clear how you differentiate your offerings from your competitors and state your UVP.
Now that you’ve established the key themes of your program, you can start to think about the structure and processes of that program. What are the steps you want partners to take when they join your program? How will you grow engagement?
Here are some points to take into consideration:
Content is the backbone of a successful partner program. You need to provide your partners with a host of useful resources to win mindshare, build trust, and empower them to sell more of your products or services.
There are quite a few factors involved in making or breaking how well your content performs. These include:
Make a point to discuss with your partners what they would ideally like to receive from you. Ask them if they have any questions for you and ask them if customers have any questions they need answers to. What kinds of content do your personas find relevant and can you access the right metrics to show you what’s being used?
To be successful, your content has to be relevant to both partners and customers. Think about the different roles within the partner company, such as sales reps, marketing managers, and IT engineers. They will all get value out of different types of content.
When it comes to the end-users, some audiences will need descriptive, background-type information and others will need more product-focussed content. It’s essential to create content that addresses the right audiences across the sales funnel, including sales, support, and end-users or customers.
The content type—eBook, webinar, and so on—depends on the audience and goal of the piece. When you’re deciding on the appropriate type of content for partners, make sure the topic, genre, and where it’s used in the sales funnel match the tactics used internally by marketing and sales teams.
Types of content you can use include:
Keep your content updated so it stays relevant and make sure to revisit it on a regular basis so it remains useful for partners.
When you’re distributing your PRM content, make sure it’s easily accessible for partners so they can share and download it quickly. Build out a content library to ensure partners can access what they want when they need it. Carry out an audit of your current materials to identify gaps and to ensure all sales stages are covered.
It’s imperative to keep partners updated when you’re creating your partner program. Training and onboarding have a direct impact on revenue. If your partners are unsure of something, do they know where to go for help? Programs often fall short when it comes to providing partners with sufficient educational resources.
To keep partners up to date on the latest company information you can create:
Be proactive about actively educating your partners on key topics, so you can build relationships with them. Provide them with newsletters, virtual or face-to-face learning sessions, and check-in meetings and reviews.
If you’re not sure what your partners need in terms of resources, ask them, by using surveys or inciting them to give you direct feedback on what they’re lacking. Focus on providing them with content they can’t find anywhere else and consider offering performance incentives in the form of:
Tracking is an integral aspect of all partner programs. It helps you to streamline and optimize your sales processes and measure performance. By tracking partner deal processes you can gain insights into channel performance and the status of every opportunity.
Implement recommended processes for partners to follow as they complete a deal. Whether it’s their first or hundredth customer, partners need to be directed to the appropriate content and to the relevant prospect pages (customizable pages consisting of content considered relevant for specific prospects).
By doing so, you can make sure you’re delivering an engaging personalized experience for your partners and tracking their progress along the way.
Key metrics to follow include:
When it comes to tracking PRM metrics, a platform like Affise can help you track deal flow and progress you through the steps to the final stages of the sale. This will ensure you aren’t silo-ing information by offering you a holistic view of performance.
A PRM solution should integrate with your CRM software so you can create notifications to alert partners and internal sales to see where content is—and at what stage in the deal you’re at. If necessary, you can then add in extra resources and efficiencies to add value and achieve a sale more quickly.
There are quite a few PRM solutions available, so how do you go about selecting the right one for you? To help you decide, here’s a quick rundown of the types of features a PRM system should have.
A PRM should provide you with a dynamic environment that optimizes dealer, distributor, and reseller performance in a unified platform capable of delivering real-time support and insights. Your PRM should engage digital experiences right across the entire partner lifecycle.
A PRM solution is the perfect place to provide partners with the right marketing collateral and offers. It’s also a place where partners can find learning resources and keep knowledge bases, templates, playbooks, and online courses so that partners can access them easily from one place.
A unified PRM platform helps partners build better forecasts through better collaboration, providing channels with a place to co-create account plans and track KPIs.
A PRM solution should provide you with a range of communication opportunities, including a ticketing system which allows affiliates to seek support.
Affiliates should be able to ask questions in a support section and see a list of tickets and statuses. A PRM should encourage communication and discussions—something which will lead to increased loyalty and engagement, not to mention improved sales results.
Choose a PRM that allows users to communicate easily without effort and without technical issues. A PRM that enables you to implement social collaboration tools, such as tagging, can help to make communication easy and convenient.
Successful partnership marketing is only possible when partners are engaged with a program. A partner management portal can help companies build stronger relationships with partners and increase the odds of PRM success.
A partner portal provides a way for partners to self-serve their marketing efforts and access the necessary resources, tools, training, and collaboration features.
Partner portals offer a host of benefits, including:
Affise partner portals can be customized for each business’ needs depending on the industry and type of business, and include various features for PRM to enable companies to carry out affiliate marketing.
In Affise, network managers can create, configure, change, and delete offers, and affiliate partners can see offers they can obtain for promotion. Managers can search for affiliates by name, ID, and more, and filter by various criteria, such as whether they’re active, not active, banned, or in moderation—with portal access only to active affiliates.
To prevent bot registrations, in Affise you can set mandatory custom registration fields, and enable captcha for affiliate registration. You can also block registrations from certain locations.
Businesses need to make decisions based on data, so a PRM platform like Affise with its robust analytics features can help you track and monitor your channel partners’ performance. Metrics to focus on include:
As well as being able to track the performance of partners, you should also be able to evaluate if your software is bringing you the desired results.
For example, you could measure the number of user logins to your partner portal. Too few logins could indicate that users are having difficulty in accessing the portal. Too high a number of logins and a high bounce rate could indicate users are leaving without finding what they need.
You can also measure how many partners are participating in training in terms of the number of partners interacting with courses and how this is impacting their sales results.
When you’re selecting a PRM, look for one with a customizable dashboard so you can create your own layers of statistics and fine-tune your reports to your specific requirements. You may want to see monthly performance statistics, for example, or earnings by affiliate managers or advertisers. Whatever it is you want to measure, your PRM should allow you to do so.
It can also be helpful to be able to view multiple pieces of data on a single page, so you can group reports by things like account manager, affiliate, advertiser, offer, and so on. A PRM with custom statistics and time frames, along with numerous filter presets will help you save time.
There are various PRM systems to suit different distribution channels and different industries. However, there are some main elements to consider in order to guide your search for your new PRM solution and these are:
Once you’ve defined the foundation of your channel program, you can define which capabilities you’ll require to service each of these.
Look at the user journey. Define the individuals or types of users you envisage will be participating in the PRM solution. There may be several key roles, including:
Each role will have a different user experience when using the PRM solution. Once you’ve defined your user journeys, you can refine your requirements and evaluation criteria. For example will your solution require:
All your hard work identifying and implementing your PRM will be wasted unless you make it attractive for channel sales partners to use.
There are several steps you can take to ensure your channel partners are logging in and using your PRM effectively.
Whether you decide to invest in a PRM tool depends on the size of your program and number of partners. If you are working with more than five partners then it may make sense to work with a PRM tool. You may also want a PRM tool to help you recruit the best partners and help them grow their programs.
A PRM is also invaluable in helping you to communicate with all your partners, keeping them updated by email. When you decide to implement a PRM, make sure it meets all the needs of your business. By selecting the right tool you’ll be able to optimize your processes, create efficiencies, and improve your program.
Strong relationships with partners start with firm foundations and impactful partner onboarding training. You’ll need to supply solid partner training content to onboard your partners or resellers and give them the skills and knowledge they’ll need to become successful at selling your products or services.
Successful onboarding will not only help boost your profits, but will ultimately lead to happier customers. Smart organizations use partner onboarding as a marketing tool, too. For example, HubSpot, where partners earn a badge of honor that associates them with your brand.
To make sure you have the best onboarding experience available for partners, carry out an audit of your current training. Look at the success rates you’ve had.
If you’re getting started for the first time with onboarding, examine which resources and tools you want to give your new partners and make a list of possible guides, walkthroughs, blogs, and more. Look at any knowledge gaps by asking your team and current partners what information they would find valuable.
Features like assessments and quizzes can be used to measure understanding and track user completions, and certifications can be awarded once partners have achieved a certain level of understanding.
Offer constant support to help partners achieve their goals. If, for example, an affiliate is struggling to get clicks on brand related content, they may require more partner marketing support in the form of marketing assets or guides which have worked to help other affiliates in the past.
Ongoing training is an essential aspect for partnerships, and keeping partners fully updated as new features or new products are introduced is key. Partners will also need to be kept abreast of any new legal regulations or new technical skills.
Successful partner relationships don’t run themselves. A good strategic partnership manager will help partners develop their strategies and understand their goals. One key reason partnerships fail is because of a failure to agree on joint objectives.
Managers need to act as advocates for their partners, in order to maintain productive collaborative relationships for the long term. Tailoring your communication style to suit each partner—ecommerce partners would be used to different communication styles to affiliate bloggers, for instance—and changing in response to their feedback are key ways to strengthen your relationships.
Answering questions quickly and troubleshooting issues promptly is especially important when you’re first embarking on a relationship with a new partner. This sets the stage for smooth sailing from the start. Make sure you have solid protocols in place, so that even if you have hundreds of partners all vying for your attention, their management is still efficient.
Affise software allows you to give customers the personalized service they deserve with the ability to provide quick responses to support tasks. It’s easy to migrate to Affise, too, since each Affise customer gets a dedicated customer service manager to help them with operations and offer business advice.
Offering market development funds (MDFs) gives partners the ability to market and brand your product so they can build brand awareness and speed up channel sales. Paid social advertising to produce leads is a good way to use these funds, as are paid searches in verticals known to perform well.
In order to ensure your MDF strategy is a success, establish clear guidelines so you and partners are on the same page. However, understand that guidelines may have to change so that partners can express their creativity. It’s important to test out different tactics and analyze their success, as well as to allocate budget towards different initiatives and repeat those that work.
You won’t know how well you’ve done unless you measure your performance, so make sure you track the right metrics for your program. Some KPIs you should be tracking include:
Your PRM could help you track channel insights by:
Affise can help you automate and scale your partner relations with a host of powerful partner management capabilities, for example:
Affise offers you a way to get granular, whether you’re tracking marketing performance, identifying growth opportunities, or forecasting risks.
Affise Analytics and Business Intelligence tools offer a diverse number of ways to track partners activity and performance, with over 50 data breakdowns to monitor partner program performance. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data, you can use this to view comprehensive analytics to enable better decision making.
Affise automation enables marketers to automate manual repetitive tasks such as simple partner communications, invoice generation, and opening offers to publishers. AI features including traffic back, cross-postback URL, and deeplinks also help to boost revenues.
Affise customers also benefit from automation to simplify partner payouts, along with many other financial aspects of partnerships, with the option to select from different currencies and payment providers.
With Affise you can also transfer offers quickly due to the API integration between the sources of offers and the software. Affise CPAPI accesses raw data and imports it according to the rules of the recipient’s system requirements.
Multichannel analytics and smart dashboards are Affise features that allow for easy measurement of marketing performance.
With fully customizable dashboards you can create unique layers of statistics and make sure your reports accurately reflect your own requirements. You can monitor monthly performance statistics, showing earnings by affiliate managers or account managers or by country, for example.
Affise allows you to create customizable reports and view multiple pieces of data together on the same page. You can group reports via account manager, affiliate, advertiser, and more, and employ custom statistics so that users can view specific, detailed data over a certain time period. Users also have the ability to share reports quickly and easily with partners.
PRM software combines channel management best practices for sales enablement and partner performance management, and also automates many business processes. From onboarding and training to certification and planning, PRM tools have become the standard when it comes to running a successful channel management program.
With digital advancements, the type and amount of content required to train and enable partners is increasing exponentially. There’s also a need to communicate targeted information to partners to gain mindshare.
A PRM solution can help you transfer information in a relevant way so that it’s effective and easily accessible to your partners. A PRM can offer you valuable methodologies and data analytics to help you improve business performance and make strategic decisions.
A PRM can also change the way you engage with partners so they can self-serve information and offer feedback in real-time. This will enable you to work with more partners and potentially close bigger deals.
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