Partner segmentation plays a fundamental role in marketing and sales strategy and if done effectively it can lead to an increase in sales.
Using Partner Segmentation in Your Partner Enablement Process
Partner segmentation is a crucial component of your partner enablement strategy. This component plays a fundamental role in the formation of your business, marketing, and sales strategy. By dividing partners in a given market into groups based on shared characteristics, vendors are able to more effectively and efficiently attend to each group of partners. However, as a partnership develops and expands, the challenges with partner segmentation do not dissipate; in fact, they become more complex. At this point in the partnership, a rather different approach to segmentation should be used to divide partners based on myriad criteria such as tech-savviness or knowledge of the vendor’s product. This form of segmentation will allow vendors to provide appropriate material for each partner based on the partner’s position in the enablement process.
Partner enablement does not diminish with time; rather, the length of a partnership dictates the category and resources necessary for a partner’s ongoing enablement process. Therefore, the partner enablement process can benefit significantly from applying a basic marketer’s approach to market segmentation.
The ultimate goal of customer or market segmentation is to better understand and serve the needs of the customer. The same concept applies to vendors and their channel partners.
As a vendor’s enablement process continues, segmenting helps to identify top-performing partners. It also helps the vendor optimize channel investment. Understanding the needs of channel partners and providing them with the necessary tools or training material will ultimately help a vendor reach their defined set of goals and objectives.
Many variables affect the way a vendor segments its existing channel partners. Here, we will focus on a vital partner attribute that many vendors seem to overlook: how tech-savvy are your partners? We’ll also provide methods to measure this attribute and reveal how to bring less savvy partners up to speed.
Partner Enablement Strategy
Channel Partner Onboarding
The first step of every enablement process starts with partner onboarding. This stage of a vendor-partner relationship sets the tone for all future collaborations and accords.
This is where vendors aim to enlighten new partners on the benefits and ease of partnership. However, the main objective of vendors in this stage should be to configure and design an automated system for seamless data exchange with partners. Vendors who are unable to provide partners with a standardized data integration system put themselves at risk of jeopardizing partnerships.
Tools, such as our Partner Signup, automate and shorten the application cycle as well as institute transparency and an open line of communication.
The benefits of automating the partner onboarding process are:
- Reduced costs
- Expedites time to market
- Increased security and compliance management
- Enhances new partners’ experience
Utilizing Segmentation for Channel Partner Onboarding
As demand for automation grows and new channel management technologies are introduced to the market, companies can flourish by providing an easy to understand partner portals. These portals act as a centralized hub for education and training. In this stage, a vendor can evaluate a new partner and implement the appropriate training materials for the partner’s segment. This way, less savvy partners can be grouped in a segment that requires more attention and additional introductory onboarding material.
It is important for vendors to clearly express well-defined goals and expectations with partners at the onset of the partnership. To do so, vendors need to outline and present partners with their company’s strategic goals and priorities. By periodically outlining goals for partners, vendors increase opportunities for partners to achieve these goals.
Utilizing Segmentation for Goal Alignment
The key is to architect a set of “levers” into your partner program:
- Segment: Allows clear identification and outreach for specific partner types. Optimizes all channel communications and engagement.
- Expertise: Documents and tracks partner enablement activities. Allows for tight alignment of company sales resources with competent and capable partners.
- Attainments: Provides performance measurement against specific goals. Creates and maintains essential executive alignment around channel objectives.
- Rewards: Establishes and delivers against partner expectations of the relationship. Provides an ROI framework for driving retention activities.
Just as with customers, your channel partners are not all the same. Without recognizing the differences between partners and customizing strategies to address the separate segments amongst your partners, you can’t expect continuous growth in different markets.
The resources, capabilities, and access to advanced technologies of a suburban partner are different than those of a partner in a large metropolitan business district. Therefore, a proper channel segmentation will allow you to group and educate partners on your products based on their resources.
Utilizing Segmentation for Product Education
Taking into consideration the different partner segments, you need to ensure that training and learning materials are tailored to the specific needs of the business partners and at the same time aligned with your company’s strategic goals.
Sales and Marketing Training
Vendors and partners share the ultimate goal of maximizing sales and increasing profitability. To achieve this, a solid sales and marketing strategy must be developed and communicated among partners. It’s important to equip channel partners with the vendor’s sales and marketing strategy to understand which methods are most impactful for reaching, engaging, and retaining customers. Once the sales and marketing strategy is outlined, partners can align their operations for maximum reach.
Utilizing Segmentation for Sales and Marketing Training
Sales and Marketing Tools
There are various tools on the market to streamline and manage your channel partner operations. The key is to bring ease of use and access to data and sales and marketing assets. Vendors should not only provide the best tools to optimize sales and marketing, they should also make sure that partners are properly trained on best practices.
Utilizing Segmentation for Sales and Marketing Tools
You can optimize channel partner engagement with streamlined and tailored solutions. The benefit of a web-based channel management system is the functionality to segment assets based on customized metrics. Vendors can segment based on geographical location, target audience, types of products and services, etc. Basically whatever metrics they decide.
It will also bring organization and cohesion to the various complexities of channel management. For example, vendors can house all assets to onboarding, trainings, customer data in one place for channel partners to access at any time.
Product News and Updates
Channel partners need timely information relating to a vendor’s products or services in the supply chain. In addition, any assets and information related to products and/or services should be readily accessible. As more products and or/services are updated and come online, it’s important to keep partners in the loop with annual or semi-annual training sessions.
Utilizing Segmentation for Product News and Updates
To ensure channel partners are getting timely and relevant information on new products and product updates, you can segment channel partners based on:
- Product groups
- Business units
- Target market
- Performance level
Because of the close collaboration between vendors and partners, it’s essential to establish open lines of communication to give and receive feedback. Vendors should regularly solicit feedback from partners and offer opportunities for improvement whenever possible.
Utilizing Segmentation for Partner Input
There are several methods for vendors to solicit and capture feedback from channel partners. Receiving feedback face-to-face is ideal, but may not always be possible. An online survey is useful to collect and store responses for future use and analytics.
After feedback is gathered, it’s imperative for vendors to collaborate with channel partners on establishing a solution. Such solutions would better meet their needs, and ultimately, improve your business. Allowing partners to collaborate on process will be indicative of the vendor’s commitment to the team’s overall success.
CMR to the Rescue
Partner segmentation is an important element of channel management for vendors to get the most out of their partnerships. Tools, such as the SiriusDecisions Channel Partner Segmentation Matrix, can help you evaluate partners and segment them based on common attributes. Then you can prioritize partners according to the level of profitability and need.
And once partners have been properly segmented, take advantage of platforms such as PartnerPortal. A portal helps to provide a hub of access for sales and marketing strategies, training materials, and additional tools.