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By Jim Somers

The relationships between vendors and channel partners are like marriages, and sadly, it’s not uncommon to see one out of two fail to deliver long-term success for both parties.

The first 30 to 90 days are critical to the future success of a new relationship. The companies that most effectively work with channel partners invest in proper on-boarding techniques and partnering automation and not just continuously recruiting new partners.

Below is a list of 10 best practices that we see as the most effective vendors use to get their partners on-boarded quickly and generating revenue:

1. After a new partner registers, they immediately receive a triggered email with access rights to the portal welcome pack. The best companies don’t wait and do it through batch emails. Partners need an immediate response so they can get started right away.

2. Upon entering the partner portal, there is a “welcome” and “how to work with us” content prominently displayed. There is also a “how to use our online tools and resources” video tutorial.

3. Also at the beginning of this relationship, partners are invited to fill out a complete profile. This includes sharing their interests in the partnership to help the business relationship, which helps when you begin working on your account plan together.

4. Powerhouse vendors track openings and click-throughs to make sure their partners saw the welcome pack, and are able to follow up as necessary. If partners don’t engage immediately, vendors send additional follow-ups (two per week). If they don’t respond after 10 working days, follow up with phone calls to make contact.

5. After the first partner portal visit, vendors should be able to track their channel partners’ activity. This enables a vendor to segment their channel base into usage, engagement, activity-level groups to identify what’s working and what’s not and optimize accordingly to increase activity.

6. Vendors should introduce training in due time. For example, don’t use tests, certification or anything too onerous to begin with. Start with short, interesting video clips of no more than 5 minutes to whet their appetites.

7. At the beginning of the relationship with a new partner, reinforce the partnership value proposition regularly. When doing so, ensure that portal content is tailored—not just to the channel partner organization but to the individual so they are able to connect it to their day-to-day work with you.

8. Encourage partners to enroll in your communities and start interacting with them. This may be discussion groups that you have on your partner portal, groups you have on LinkedIn or connecting via Twitter and/or Facebook. The best partner portals have single sign-on, so partners only have to go to one place to get all the information they need and be part of your community.

9. It’s not all just automated messages and social media. The vendors who are the best at bringing partners up to speed in the on-boarding process communicate regularly with messaging and content relevant to the partner professional’s individual needs and role.

10. Strong vendors are able to adjust the flow of information in the event that they are moving too fast or too slowly for their partners. These vendors have information that comes to their partners automatically, but they also engage directly for feedback to understand how best to get them to the next level.

When vendors work with their channel partners in this agile and personal way, each side of the relationship sees greater benefits and the relationship begins with a strong foundation. Specifically, this closer, personalized engagement leads to increased revenue sooner and longer.

Remember that on-boarding is just the beginning, and vendors need to invest in all stages of the channel partner lifecycle—from initiation to ongoing training, engagement and enablement.  

Jim Somers is chief marketing officer of Relayware, which specializes in partner relationship management and partnering automation software. He has more than 15 years of experience in SaaS technology, marketing automation, mobile apps and cloud collaboration.