If you’ve read our recent blog, Why building a partner ecosystem has become so important, you’ll know that partner ecosystems and channel programs are becoming increasingly essential to the future of business. That’s in part because modern B2B customers want the kind of holistic, integrated, end-to-end solutions that only collaborative partnerships can offer.

The average organization’s channel program will see massive growth over the next five years.

Jay McBain

We know that 75% of world trade already flows through indirect channels. According to Jay Mc Bain, “In the decade of the ecosystem, we predict the average channel size of an organization will need to grow by 10X in the next 5 years to support the end customer’s early, mid, and now recurring, late journey moments.”

McBain goes on to explain that companies who fail to focus on driving partner-assisted value throughout the entire customer journey will find themselves getting woefully left behind over the next decade.

Despite the growing importance of channel partnerships, many partner relationships are still managed manually.

Despite assigning goals and KPIs around channel program growth and acceleration, many partnership teams and channel managers today still manage partnerships using tedious and error-prone manual processes (does manually updating shared spreadsheets sound familiar?).

While marketing and sales teams enjoy the data-driven insights provided by sophisticated automation technology like Salesforce and HubSpot, partnerships are stuck in the dark ages by comparison. “We estimate that over 80% of companies (in all industries) run their indirect sales in a silo — completely separate from sales, marketing, and other lines of business,” says McBain.

This approach simply isn’t going to cut it going forward. Ecosystem growth and decisions around partnership engagement models need to be based on concrete channel data gathered at scale.

Vendors need to invest in digital tools designed to streamline and improve the partner experience.

Crucially, vendors need to find ways to differentiate themselves by improving the partner experience. With many partners managing over 20 vendor relationships manually, providing partners with slick, easy-to-use technology that simplifies the vendor-partner-customer relationship could ultimately win the day.

Says McBain: “Investing in new digital tools to take advantage of expansive channel data and support the partner journey is becoming table stakes in the race toward channel automation.”

The industry is undeniably moving towards the goal of channel automation, with automation becoming the number one growth opportunity and robotic process automation (RPA) firms growing by 81% year-on-year (McBain). There are a wide variety of partnership relationship management platforms already on the market. The trick is tracking the right KPIs to gauge the partner-assisted value and revenue impact.

Improve both the customer and partner experience by enhancing and automating what you already have.

You probably already have a static partner directory page on your website. One way to embrace channel automation is to transform this static directory into an eCommerce-enabled private marketplace that does the partner-customer matchmaking work for you while tracking useful partner engagement and sales data.

Instead of only selling your product as a stand-alone entity, make your customers’ lives easier by providing holistic, end-to-end solutions that include additional software and services that work hand-in-hand with your product.

One of the simplest and most impactful ways this can be done is by bundling your product with complementary partner services, creating a complete, pre-packaged solution that meets a specific customer need. Put this pre-bundled solution in front of your ready-to-buy customers through a dedicated marketplace and voilà: you have both a super-smooth customer experience and a frictionless partner experience.

Ready to banish manual matchmaking and showcase your partners’ services and products alongside your own?

channel automation

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