No one is truly self-sufficient in life or business — we all rely on others. And it’s the same in IT and the channel. Partners rely on numerous vendors to supply them with hardware and software, to provide various services, and to support them in innumerable ways.
A 2022 report by CompTIA emphasizes the importance of partnerships within IT. Just as the customer experience (CX) and the employee experience (EX) have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, now it’s the turn of the partner experience (PX).
Why Is the Partner Experience Important?
Creating a great partner experience for managed service providers (MSPs) means making it easy to do business; offering honest, flexible communications channels; and articulating clear rules of engagement. Table stakes in the PX game are now the provision of solid and prompt tech support. Any business that fails in this regard won’t be tolerated for long by many of the MSPs they count on.
“The notion of partner experience as business critical has captured more attention of late,” said Carolyn April, senior director of industry analysis at CompTIA. “As a result, most tech vendors are striving to create the best-case working relationships within their partner ecosystems.”
What Made the Partner Experience So Crucial?
The shift to cloud computing has a lot to do with renewed or amplified emphasis on PX. Cloud and as-a-service computing have given birth to thousands upon thousands of vendors, MSPs, software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, and more. This has resulted in far more choice in terms of who to do business with.
When it was just a handful of major players in hardware and software such as HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, partners were limited in who they aligned with. That often meant settling for what was given to them in terms of partner program attributes, compensation plans, and communications mechanisms. If they didn’t like something, there was typically little pushback. More choice has empowered partners to be more discerning.
Another factor is how the digital economy has shifted the way technology is sold. As a result, many system integrators and value-added resellers (VARs) have been forced to move from product reselling to managed services or becoming technology consultants. Such shifts tend to shake up long-held business unions.
CompTIA’s data shows that half of partners in the last year dropped a vendor they were making money with because of bad partner experience. They moved on to a second or third vendor choice that was easier to work with.
“Vendors are having to step up their game,” said April.
Primary Factors in the Partner Experience
Whether it’s channel marketing and recruitment, onboarding and training, tech support, or quarterly business reviews, how vendors support and communicate with partners is a critical measure of PX — good or bad. It’s also a key marker for ease of doing business.
“Today’s partners want open lines of communication that meet them where they are,” said April. “Some want email, some a phone call, and others are all about social media or video chats. It’s incumbent upon vendors to know their partner preferences.”
Example of effective vendor support and communication
Take the case of communication and collaboration firm GoTo. It has launched a Partner Concierge program specifically designed to address PX and solve the most pressing challenges of partners. It offers tailored digital marketing campaigns, co-branded and targeted based on a partner’s audience, which allows members to attain greater visibility with prospective customers and bring in new qualified leads. All members are also supported by a dedicated Partner Concierge manager to optimize planning, execution, and administration across the campaign.
“Partners who are properly equipped with the right training, support, and resources will find it much easier to grow and engage with their customers,” said Michael Day, vice president of global partner sales at GoTo.
He explained some of the strategic elements behind the development of his company’s partner program. The reality is that prospective partners have never had more options when it comes to potential partners and B2B tools. The market is crowded with generalists.
Specialization often presents the best opportunity to stand out. Vendors that cater aggressively to a certain audience will be most likely to parlay interest into a lasting relationship. Essentially, it all comes down to positioning. For GoTo, that’s meant targeting small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
“Our entire channel strategy has cascaded from that mandate,” said Day. “That includes product design, pricing, and the partner program. It’s important to view partner relationships not as transactional but as symbiotic. The success of both parties is directly correlated, and a poorly defined strategy risks undermining both.”
Bottom Line: Improve Your Partner Experience
To be competitive in the channel sales market, you must empower your prospective and current partners to be successful. This means providing a quality partner experience, especially through robust support and effective communication. When you invest in the MSPs that help you distribute your product, you’ll receive greater loyalty from them, and they’ll be able to pass on this support to more customers.