If 15 years of working on channel programs with clients has taught me one thing – it is that there is often a mismatch between what the vendors believe their partners want, need and think and what their partners actually want, need and think. 

Being a channel marketing manager is one of the toughest gigs out there. There is so much to cover, with never enough resources and one area that can often be overlooked, partly because of the lack of resource and perceived lack of tangible results, is trying to get an understanding of how satisfied your partner community is and what they might need from you.

A very effective, but uncommon way to improve your understanding of what your partners think is a Partner Satisfaction Survey. But what are they and what can you get expect to find out from them?

I can’t get no satisfaction 

I would be interested to know how many of you have run one, if it is a constant and what you use it for. In my experience a partner satisfaction survey is something I have only seen a few vendors do. 

It is often seen as a “Nice to have”, which is understandable given a strain on resource and budget, but I’d challenge a Channel Marketing Manager to think of this as a "Must have." It should be one of the first projects to run and I would run one on an annual basis at the very least.

I see satisfaction surveys in the partner community as something that not only lets you keep your finger on the pulse, but as a door opener and an insight into the competitor landscape. 

Develop insight into:

  • what partners think about the partner program
  • partner sentiment towards your brand's products and reward schemes
  • how the partner generates and follows up leads
  • what competitor programs they are members of
  • the rewards competitors offer
  • who could be the “next big partner”
  • partners key competencies (think back to the last post about intelligent recruitment)
  • how to increase deal registration from each partner and what the true potential is

All of this can be gathered from a short 10-15 question survey which when conducted over the phone develops relationships, and gathers verbatim which would give you insights that you didn’t even know you were looking for. 

Let’s elaborate on some of the above 

Identify your next big partner 

Vendors can only realistically expect to work closely with around 10% of their overall partner base. These tend to be the large partners that are running the largest number of transactions. Fair enough.

However, what is often missing is the right approach for increasing that percentage. Running a satisfaction survey can help identify partners who with a little bit of steering and attention have the ability to become a managed partner.

If they have the right competencies and training they could start transacting to a managed partner level and you could even drive more loyalty from them. 

Growth plans should be in place for partners – as much as it is for key clients.

Insight into partner sentiment 

This one is really interesting. 

We once designed a telephone based satisfaction survey for partners of a major security software company. 

Prior to campaign launch I asked the team what their expectations were: “How happy do you think your partners are?” I asked. The team were confident that their partners would come back as around 90% satisfied. The program launched and six weeks later I presented the results. The answer to that particular question wasn’t 90%. It wasn’t even half that. Overall, the partner satisfaction rating was at 22%!?!!!

The team were shocked and couldn’t understand why. Their deal registration percentage was competitive, their training programs popular and relevant, and they occasionally offered MDF to select partners. 

However, they never ran any programs to their wider partner audience – their breadth. So, they didn’t know that a message had been sent out to direct clients by their corporate HQ in the US which said that buying direct guaranteed better rates than they could get from any channel partner. This had spread through their partner network like wildfire and caused confusion and resentment. 

If they had mechanisms in place to keep their finger on the pulse, this could have been avoided.

The truth will set you free

The learning of this is – run those sat surveys. These surveys are easy to develop, easy to run and generate great insights. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be prepared for some uncomfortable answers. Finding out what you don’t want to know can actually set you on the right way to supporting your partners better, leading to more long-term and prosperous relationships for the both of you.