A partner portal is a partner engagement and productivity tool. It can offer 24×7 digital support to not just one, but many partners globally. It can address their many questions about training, marketing campaigns, sales tools, lead management and marketing development funds. You may think of it as ‘just a portal’ – and have the belief that a portal is just a ‘content repository’, but it can be much more than that – if it isn’t already.
Once your portal is in place, you need to think about how to drive partner interaction and engagement. As no one partner is the same, it’s never an easy task to work out what exactly you need from a portal. Scoping out the requirements at the beginning can go a long way to planning a well adopted and useful tool for partners to keep coming back to.
Keep them engaged
You need regular updates and valuable content if you want to keep partners engaged. Make sure that you are using the portal as the ‘go to’ place to provide information on a consistent basis. Make your portal individualised to create an engaging ‘one-stop’ environment to meet all their needs.
Keep it simple
You need to respect your channel partners’ time. They need to be able to log-on and get the information they need quickly. Partners who struggle to locate what they want, won’t try again. It may sound obvious, but minimise the clicks required for them to get the content they need.
Keep it consistent
Once you have established your portal design, maintain the look, feel, layout and menu structure. Avoid changes which make it hard for partners to navigate. Encourage adoption by driving familiarity and enabling partners to find the things they need. Where possible, highlight file sizes, so they know if to download now or later. Knowing the file size is helpful if they are in an area with limited internet connectivity. Also, to avoid surprises, add thumbnails to let them see a quick snapshot of what they are planning to download.
Keep it accessible
Partners need one place to access tools and information, at any time, from anywhere. Never assume that your portal will only be accessed from a PC in an office. Your portal must work 24/7 on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Whatever they can do in the office, partners need to be able to do on the move, in a meeting or in a coffee shop.
Keep them enabled
Channel partners are diverse in size, how they are structured and how they are resourced. What’s more, some partners don’t always have a dedicated marketing resource and may rely on sales to do the marketing. If this is the case, your portal should help them to become self-sufficient in planning and executing their demand generation activities. If you know what partners commonly need access to, you should make it a priority to get this content on the portal. Once you know what they want, make it easy to enable them to download these resources – how-to guides, datasheets, branding assets or campaigns. Do a quick audit and make sure you have captured the basics.
Keep it obvious
If it’s new, tell them! Provide clear links to new and popular content. If you have content updates – make it easy for partners to see what you have posted and when. They won’t want to spend time searching. It may be useful to add a link from the Home Page to the latest items and give a date when they were posted.
Keep it up-to-date
How many times have you been to a portal, to find out-of-date content or multiple copies of the same datasheet? You should start as you mean to go on. Create a content matrix of all the marketing content and types that you plan to share, and structure it into categories. This will help you to organise and tag the content so that you can build structured pages. You should start off managing the portal systematically and have one or two people to handle the updates. If you do this you will avoid duplications, you can remove anything old, and ensure that the content gets posted in the correct location.
Keep campaigns fresh
It is important to provide quarterly campaigns around products that sell. Partners want to be able to execute easy, ready-to-go campaigns and events. Think what will drive demand and what you can package up for partners on a regular basis.
Keep it relevant
Partner communities are likely to be global, so wherever possible, offer your partner portal and its content in local languages. If this is not always possible, ensure that you provide source files so partners can easily translate copy and adapt imagery. Always think about the markets in which your partners operate, provide localised content and ensure you make it as easy as possible for them to work with you.
Keep them coming back
Finally, partners like to see what other partners are doing and understand what is working for them. Think about how you can use your portal to share the success of partners by showcasing their marketing efforts. Lastly, success breeds success. You could share usage reports to tell partners what others are accessing – it is likely to drive the usage.