In previous blogs I have talked about our experiences running channel programmes on behalf of our clients, and focused on subjects such as competency-based recruitment and checking the satisfaction levels of your partners.

Yet an often-overlooked, but equally important area is the nurturing of existing partners.

A missed opportunity

There don’t seem to be many always-on nurture programmes designed to help partners grow within the vendor’s partner programme and graduate to “Managed Account” status. 

To me, this seems like a terrible oversight and a missed opportunity. After all, look at how much pressure the market puts on marketers to ensure their leads are nurtured: there must be a strong, consistent nurture path, otherwise you aren’t maximising the opportunity within that lead. 

Shouldn’t the same apply to partner programmes? A little love goes a long way, after all. 

The route to hundreds of potential customers

Effective channel / partner relationships are a route to hundreds of potential customers – yet often these relationships are left to stagnate. 

As per our previous blogs, this isn’t malicious – it is mainly down to channel marketers being swamped and under-resourced. 

Working out an effective nurture track to strengthen and grow existing relationships will pretty much be the last cab off the rank, especially when there is so much pressure to get some net new partners on-board.

But realising the potential that lies within your existing network could, and perhaps should, be the best source of organic growth – and it is something that can be easily achieved by working with your partners.

So How?

An effective and relatively straightforward way of doing this is to have a breadth partner motion in play. 

Design this motion to engage a subset of partners you don’t have capacity to manage in house on a monthly or quarterly basis, with a view to driving them to consume content, attend events, go through training courses and give a clear view as to their own client base and potential – amongst other things. 

This light-touch outreach enables you to build up relationships using a trusted third party, drives partners through the programme, increases engagement levels, identifies opportunities and threats. 

This isn’t an easy sell – either from us to a vendor or for a vendor to sell internally - but once the concept has landed, the benefits can be huge. Yes, huge.

If anything it lets the partners feel some love that is normally reserved for the managed accounts.

(Stevie is always worth a listen*)

One of our client's programmes

A client I have been working with for many years asked us four years ago to design a five-year plan to gain more engagement and insight from their breadth partners. 

Now, this vendor has thousands of breadth partners and the five-year plan needed to include driving partners to adopt technology, having partners produce technical roadmaps, having partners become an advocate for the vendor and engaging the partners on a quarterly basis.

We are in Year 4 of that plan now, and we are essentially managing 2,000 of their breadth-partner relationships and are tasked with driving them through the programme – getting them to move from one stage to the next and then produce testimonials as to the benefits of growing within the programme.

Is it working? The numbers say yes.

The opportunities and conversions they are seeing in Year 4 has far outweighed Year 1 and Year 2, when we were engaging over 10,000 partners each year – simply because it has taken some time to understand them, help them grow and show them the value of deepening their involvement in the vendor’s partner programme. 

The race is on to see which of these breadth partners achieves managed-partner status first.

The long and short of it

It is all well and good hunting for new partners and increasing numbers, but the right ones might already be with you. 

Find a way to spread the love. Show them you want to grow their business. Show them the benefits. Show them you care. Nurture them, watch them grow and the rewards will be yours.