Partner relationship management is a loyalty and engagement concept encompassing all aspects of developing and managing B2B channel partner relationships.
For most organizations, channel partner networks are the critical indirect sales channels that bring the products and services into the market and end customers. In this process, partners play a crucial role in acting as an extended sales arm to the organization.
In today’s market, businesses face several market challenges such as
- managing increasing customer expectations and needs.
- adjusting to shifting market conditions and economic swings.
- overcoming competitions in the local and global markets.
To support a company’s mission and evolving growth initiatives, organizations acquire, develop, and maintain the right channel partner segments to help drive its growth objectives.
Partner relationship management or PRM is a set of strategies, methods, and tools businesses use to promote and manage their ongoing relationships with partner networks. PRM helps partners facilitate sales and marketing of products and services to the end customers. These end customers typically can be consumers, businesses, government, or even non-governmental organizations.
What Is PRM?
PRM programs drive a range of sales and marketing activities, engaging channel partners to deliver the organization’s business objectives. For example, Businesses run PRM programs to engage and motivate channel partners to
- develop specific customer segments and markets
- participate in campaigns, promotions, or co-marketing activities
- drive go-to-market initiatives, including sales and marketing
- generate market data and provide feedback
A PRM solution helps establish and maintain ongoing partner interaction and engagement across various communication channels. PRM processes help to identify and streamline channel segments and help create more efficient channel operations. As a result of improved collaboration and engagement, PRM programs help brands enhance the mindshare of channel partners, resulting in better channel performance.
To effectively operate a long-term partner program of any scale or complexity, businesses need PRM-specific tools, processes, and strategies. In general, PRM programs help an organization achieve three key objectives:
- increase revenue: By enabling channel partners to sell more, cover more markets and, help grow market share
- reduce cost: By automating, streamlining, and ensuring compliance; increasing operational efficiency and, reducing administrative overheads
- enhance partner experience: By improving partner satisfaction, delivering better SLA, and strengthening loyalty and relationships
In short, organizations design PRM programs to meet its objectives, goals, and ambitions. PRM programs help businesses achieve long-term commitment and relationships with their channel partner network.
Trends In PRM
Partner Relationship Management or PRM has evolved to become more specific, precise, and extensive in business objectives, outcomes, and impact. PRM encompasses sales operations, partner interactions, and various channel marketing activities of the organization.
From spreadsheet and email-based manual operations, PRM has evolved to automated and personalized solutions incorporating complex operating methods and best practices. Industry experts continue to explore and innovate tools, technologies, and solutions to deliver better results to the stakeholders.
PRM solutions have emerged in the Hi-tec sectors in the past two decades. It has further expanded to Telecom, Security, Electrical, and Electronics industries too. Today, many organizations invest in PRM programs as they scale globally to reach a diverse customer base.
According to reports published by Forrester, the PRM market continues to grow, evolve, and adapt to the market conditions and channel partner needs. Today, many businesses deploy and experiment with PRM programs with their partner networks and innovate channel partner relationships that best suit their business model.
Simultaneously, a new generation of PRM service and solution providers have emerged in the market who solely focus on developing methodologies, tools, and best practices to serve these global organizations to benefit from the PRM evolutions. These specialist PRM providers are creating partner programs for organizations that bring strategic competitive advantage to the market.
Many traditional industries such as industrial automation, agriculture, automotive parts, chemicals, heavy equipment, mining, and building materials embrace PRM programs with their extended partner networks. In many cases, the industries and organizations are helping the channel networks enable and educate, and enhance their relationships by digitalizing their day-to-day operations,
Partner relationship management facilitates managing and developing ongoing relationships with channel partners efficiently and effectively. Organizations need Partner Relationship Management solutions to operate channel programs to build and establish long-term relationships with their channel partners.
Channel Partners sell, market, and support products and services on behalf of the organization. With the help of channel partner networks, organizations accelerate their geographical expansion, and market penetration, and enhance go-to-market initiatives.
Companies sell their products either via direct channels, indirect channels, or both.
Partner Relationship Management primarily focuses on indirect channels. Indirect channels include:
- distributors and sub-distributors
- dealers, sub-dealers, or traders
- resellers, value-added resellers
- managed service providers, value-added service providers
- system integrators
- independent sales staff, consultants, and freelancers
Channel structures also vary by market and industry. A business defines its own channel structure that best fits its business model and business objectives. It is important to note that the channel combinations evolve over time and are based on market size and opportunities. A PRM program adopts a full or partial channel structure in the program.
Benefits Of PRM
The benefits of a PRM program are multi-dimensional. The first dimension is by type of audience: the organization and the channel partners. The second dimension is the type of benefits associated with each: market, customers and, financials. Let us look at each category to see how PRM brings benefits.
Benefits to Organization
- Market Development: Using a PRM program as a vehicle, organizations engage channel partners to develop the local markets, drive sales and marketing activities, and support lead generation. Through education and enablement, channel partners continue to explore markets and defend products and brands they carry against competition.
- Customer Engagement: Partners help acquire and retain customers for the organization. They provide support and service and help in the renewal as well as cross-sell and up-sell activities. In many industries and businesses, partners render various additional services on behalf of the organization and function as extended support and service team.
- Revenue Generation: commercial commitment is the most critical objective of a partner relationship. PRM programs help drive and facilitate channel partners to meet revenue goals set by the organizations. PRM program helps translate the contractual commitment to a realized outcome. To help achieve this, organizations run various promotions and campaigns to motivate and incentivize channel partners to make the last mile sales conversions.
Benefits to Channel partners
- Market Access: PRM programs help partners grow and enhance market knowledge, interactions, and capability. They represent the brand to strengthen their customer relationship and nurture and nourish customer loyalty. Partners defend their market share against competition and gather market intelligence. Also, partners develop their product expertise by acquiring training and certifications. Partners leverage the brand assets, tools, and knowledge to build their capabilities and market influence.
- Customer Management: Partners manage various aspects of customer interactions as defined by the brands. PRM programs help partners access, enable, and track all such activities and interactions. For example, Partners handle MDF initiatives, lead generation, deal management, promotions, and campaign execution, among many other activities. PRM program brings together the entire partner journeys to enable a frictionless experience.
- Business Growth: Participation in PRM programs helps partners bring consistency, growth, and predictability to their channel business. PRM program brings partners real-time visibility of their sales performance and access to detailed market information. Now, Partners can plan and focus on activities that help bring revenue growth and higher profitability. Partners maximize their margins by following the brand’s objectives and direction.
PRM Benefits All Stakeholders
PRM programs are helping channel partners with easy access to product knowledge, market information, and advanced tools and technologies. PRM programs help organizations bring consistency, uniformity, and compliance to channel partners at a global scale. With the help of technologies, processes, and best practices, PRM programs improve the flow of goods and services to end customers efficiently and cost-effectively. In short, PRM programs enhance the efficiency of distribution channels, facilitate global trade flow, and benefit all the stakeholders, including Organizations, Channel Partners, and Customers.
Growing Opportunities With PRM
PRM programs continue to evolve with the convergence of modern technologies, O2O communications channels, and partner expectations. PRM is benefiting from the growth and maturity of CRM. This has brought significant advantages to the PRM market to rapidly adopt the best practices and adapt to market needs. PRM unifies recruitment, onboarding, enablement, and incentives. Organizations having indirect sales and dependant on partner networks to reach customers must leverage the power of PRM programs.
PRM programs are based on strategies, technology, and operating standards, allowing organizations to scale their businesses efficiently. When organizations empower and enable channel partners effectively, channel partners can go to market faster and efficiently. This results in better Partner and Customer Experience, propelling the organization to gain a significant competitive advantage.
Today, B2B organizations investing and innovating on PRM frontiers to empower channel partners to grow and stay ahead in the competition.