Increasingly, tech companies are prioritizing investing in their channel partners. And it’s easy to understand why: Indirect sales play a disproportionately big role in companies’ revenue streams. A whopping 91 percent of B2B leaders say that they count on their partner ecosystem to drive their company’s revenue growth, with one-third of these respondents reporting that partners are responsible for more than 20 percent of their company’s growth, according to 2021 research by Demand Gen and Channel Marketer Report.
One of the most critical investments that tech companies can make to support their channel partners’ success is implementing partner relationship management (PRM). A PRM portal like the industry-leading Salesforce Experience Cloud enables tech companies to comprehensively manage and strengthen relationships with all their channel partners. When Experience Cloud is optimized for channel partners and the company alike, it can dramatically change the trajectory of how channel partners prioritize and engage with the company. Through PRM, tech companies can share tools, knowledge, and up-to-date information—all fully aligned to the company’s strategic values. To get the most out of implementing PRM, it’s crucial for IT teams at tech companies to understand what PRM is capable of and how to configure and maintain it optimally. Let’s explore five things every company’s IT team needs to know to maximize PRM’s value:
Build out PRM’s most popular, must-have features
Tech companies use PRM to improve relationships with their channel partners in several different ways, but some features of PRM are so valuable that no tech company should pass them up. First, tech companies should set up a searchable knowledge base that enables partners to easily get answers they’re looking for on their own, from one centralized place. Second, tech companies should invest in embedding a chat option into Experience Cloud so channel partners have a direct, user-friendly way to get in touch with the company as issues arise (this could be a chatbot, traditional chat with an agent, web-to-case, or email-to-case). Third, tech companies should ensure that global notifications have been enabled so channel partners get notified about important updates and information from the company via whatever device they’re on—mobile, tablet, or desktop.
Make sure partners’ access is properly configured
When a company first invites its channel partners to sign up for its PRM portal, it’s critical that partners have a seamless onboarding experience. They need to be able to create an account, gain access successfully, and be granted the permissions/roles they need to access all of the areas they’ll be utilizing. Experience Cloud should be configured with profiles and permission sets to control access within your Salesforce instance. Partner access will be managed by a Site Manager. Users should be categorized as either a customer or partner user (depending on the business relationship) and assigned a Partner or Community (or Community Plus) license. Then, different types of users should be assigned to different profiles, enabling permissions to be granted to a specific profile (or a subset of the profile). Long term, it’s essential for tech companies to be cognizant of the effects of revising and removing profiles: If a profile is removed from a site, users instantly lose access unless they’ve been assigned permission sets or other profiles that are still part of the site.
Focus on optimizing the user experience
A company’s channel partners have little patience for poorly designed interfaces and non-intuitive features. In fact, their willingness to use a PRM portal in the first place is likely to be directly shaped by how much effort a company invests in the portal’s UX. At a minimum, tech companies should be test-driving everything they build with a small group of end users who can provide real-time feedback while the site is still in a preview mode. Tech companies should also prioritize intuitive functionality and design. For example, when a user logs out, the partner portal can auto-redirect them to any other site, such as the login page or a company website page. Tech companies should be thinking about the most logical and strategic redirect destination. Similarly, tech companies should consider enabling an authentication provider like Facebook so that users can auto-log into the partner portal without being forced to sign in (or even create an account). Other best practices include making sure you have a marketing resource available to use the portal for marketing purposes and exposing some Salesforce libraries/files to partners, so they have wider access to required marketing materials.
Focus on branding the partner portal
A partner portal is an important extension of a company’s overall brand, and tech companies should take advantage of every branding option available. First, it’s important to customize the main login page by adding a personalized welcome message, a high-res company logo, background colors that complement the company’s visual identity, and a custom footer. The company logo and other elements can even be configured to be different depending on whether the user is an employee vs. a partner or based on what country the user is in. Similarly, other commonly accessed pages should also be visually branded, including the “Forgot password” and “Change password” pages.
Stick with standardized, vetted components only
Experience Cloud is designed to be customizable, but it’s important for tech companies not to abuse this flexibility. If a partner portal contains any sensitive or confidential information, the company mustn’t jeopardize the security and privacy of this data by over-customizing the portal. Specifically, tech companies should implement only standardized, ready-built components and code libraries. If a company absolutely needs to build a component from scratch, the company should use native app builder tools whenever possible and rigorously and extensively stress-test the end result for security vulnerabilities. Salesforce continues to update the Experience Cloud components so staying with native components is beneficial for future-proofing your build.
PRM is a strategic investment in strengthening relationships with a tech company’s channel partners. To maximize the value that a company gets from its PRM investment, it’s vital for IT teams to build out PRM’s most popular and must-have features, make sure partners have the unfettered and seamless access they should have, optimize every aspect of the user experience, fully brand the PRM portal to match the company’s own identity, and avoid building non-standardized customizations into the portal.
Simplus specializes in helping tech companies get the most out of their investment in Salesforce PRM. To learn more about how we optimally configure and customize PRM to strengthen relationships with channel partners, please reach out to Simplus today. We look forward to helping you change how your channel partners engage and interact with your company.