Channel partners can play an important role for organisations looking to scale and develop their offerings to end users. ‘Managed effectively, channel partnerships either enhance benefits to end users and/or reduce the costs of running the channel. An effective channel strategy serves end consumers in terms of how and when they prefer to purchase — not just what they want to purchase — through an infrastructure that provides the necessary functions and benefits at the lowest cost to the company.’ (Forbes)
However, a 2017 CMO Survey found that the use of channel partners to reach end users had dropped from 71% in 2013 to 56%. Interestingly, the same survey results indicate that the companies still using channel partners are gaining more value from these relationships, with the volume, scope, and price paid by partners on the rise over the last four years.
In order to drive more value from the partner channel, communication and alignment with an organisation’s wider goals is key. 73% of sales teams say collaborating across departments is absolutely critical or very important to their overall sales process. To help improve the gap, most digital forward companies have implemented partner portals, where they keep partners updated with key information, marketing collateral, sales strategies and other resources or tools.
For Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), their “success has always centered around our strong commitment to mutually beneficial relationships with our partners …”- Antonio Neri, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
The challenge for HPE was to find a way to drive value from their partner portal and getting partners to actually engage with it efficiently, while being able to recognise real value through the process. Here’s how they managed it – if you are thinking about building or improving your own customer portal, these 3 tips from Anne Anderson, Vice President, Experience and Change Management at HPE, could come in useful:
1. Know your audience
Find out what behaviours drive your audience, take into consideration why your partners are connecting with you, and what kind of tasks they are expecting to complete in your platform. Understanding their needs and requirements will help you build a platform that is not just intuitive and effective, but also engaging and will encourage usage and adoption. And if you take the time to really get to know your audience, you can anticipate their needs even before they’ve realised it and add that functionality to make their portal experience truly transformational.
2. Listen to your partners and leverage their power
When launching a big project, there will always be roadblocks. Invariably with a project of this scope and size, there are various stakeholders – both internal and external, often with varying points of view and the path forward can seem contentious. Delays can impact the delivery of the project and derail progress. To try and avoid these pitfalls, always maintain the central focus around your target audience – your partners. Listen to them and leverage their suggestions and opinions to support decision making and resolve impasses. Ultimately, your job is to fulfil your partners’ needs and you would be surprised by how much power their voice can have.
3. Get your senior management on board
Building a strategic partner portal is no small feat. For your transformation to be a success, don’t approach building your partner portal merely as a portal upgrade but use the opportunity to rethink your channel strategy. Moreover, a project of this nature would require a significant financial commitment and continued collaboration and resource from various internal departments. Having the support of your senior leadership team is vital to ensuring that priorities are aligned and that you have the time and support needed to deliver the right experience for your partners.
Genuine Value Realisation
For Anne and HPE, this approach to building their partner portal has brought them tangible value realisation. They have witnessed behaviour changes, greater engagement from partners with an increase in self service and a drop in support tickets. The need for human engagement has decreased and there has been more partner led business opportunities with bigger deal values.
The platform that revolutionised partner experiences worldwide
Hewlett Packard Enterprise is a great example of transformation in channel enablement. They have over 250,000 partners worldwide and 650,000 users across 174 countries in 25 languages. After realising their partners’ interactions with HPE were disjointed across several disparate portal experiences, scores of online tools, all with different login steps, they decided to change.
Now, after undergoing a huge transformation the portal has had a huge increase in adoption and utilisation: 92% of users visit multiple times a week, 84% of users visit multiple times per day.