Getting a Partner community to engage online

If you have got as far as reading this it is probable that you have invested in a Partner Portal or at least are considering doing so. The reasons for doing so usually are thought of in terms of cost reductions in Marketing and Transactional activities, savings that can be easily ascribed to the provider of the portal. But justifying the expense of a Partner Portal based upon it’s ‘potential savings’ to one party of the Business Ecosphere is, arguably, the very quickest way to reducing it’s potential value.

To illustrate this in simple terms its worth thinking through how many times a day the average person are asked to join an online service and compare it to how many times a day they are likely to take up that offer. Unless they have some immediate and pressing need, or envisage a truly regular need, they are unlikely to sign up for such services. It’s human nature. But of course it is worse than that. Think about how many times they ‘revisit’ some of the sites they actually have signed up to in the first place. It’s probable that there would be another big reduction in sites they repeatedly use. So the average person is both unlikely to sign up to or to revisit only a small percentage of those sites they are asked to join. As any website owner will tell you, if no one actually uses the site it doesn’t matter how good it is, or how much it might save ‘per interaction’.

Obviously this isn’t a new problem. Websites of all kinds have struggled with the same problem over years and successful ones have had to adopt strategies to overcoming it. Of those it would not be unreasonable to say that the real experts at this are the Social Media platforms which have achieved a terrific rate of ‘registrations’ and ‘revisits’ to their platform, using a combination of subtle techniques and effective approaches, many of which shoud be familiar to most by now.

Now, no doubt, those who have invested in a Partner Portal have also created a presence on Social Media platforms and may well have established smooth links between the two. But the problem for Vendors is that Social Media platforms, from a ‘working with partners perspective’, have a couple of serious flaws:

a) They introduce a huge amount of ‘white noise’ and are not designed with a Vendor working with Partners in mind. By which we mean that there is a huge chance that prospective partners or partners, entering the average Social Media platform, even explicitly to look at a Vendors solutions, are often quickly dragged off to look at anything from the latest job opportunity to a cat video or, even worse, the Vendors competition.

b) They are not exactly designed with the Vendor / Partner relationship in mind, making it hard to leverage them to the maximum possible extent.

c) There is, in fact, a tricky balance here. If a Partner Portal sends a visitor off to a Social Media platform, or puts valuable information onto that platform, they ‘lose’ both the visitor (which is a cardinal sin in terms of running effective Portals& Websites), and they lose control of the information. This can make using such platforms a weak and generally ineffective way to bring value to a Partner portal.

So even a Social Media presence, on the well known platforms, can truly cut both ways. To put the issue in a nutshell, what most Social Media platforms care about is bringing engagement to their platform, any engagement. This is often far from satisfactory for achieving the kind of focused engagement of users in a particular group, or indeed meeting the needs of a Vendor with a partner community to manage.

But consider for a moment that if a Social Media type environment was devoted only to the needs of Vendors with their own partner communities. What would be the benefits?

Those benefits fall into three categories:

a) Pull… Using the techniques of Social Media bringing new users onboard far faster, increasing engagement throughout the Partner community and increasing the usage made of the platform. Yet maintaining the focus required by the Vendor.

b) Flexibility… Allowing the Vendor to give his partner community a far wider range of service on their portal, including covering things which they might never have thought of on their own but which are identified by their community as being important.

c) Community… By providing a Social Media type environment for your Partner base you can create a community of contributors, each contributor driving further engagement and increasing mind share, which in itself increases both engagement and satisfaction.

A good analogy would be this.

Imagine you have two members of staff in your Partner Sales team.

  1. This individual sends out Sales literature on request and inputs orders into the system when they come in from Partners. They also answer some support questions.
  2. This individual reaches out, daily, to your Partners and across various Roles in your partner community. They, daily, give that community ideas about how to make use of your products, they daily offers workarounds for potential objections and they daily keep your product line at ‘top of mind’ across your Partner community. This individual is also seen by members of your business ecosphere as a trusted advisor for getting information and support. They also gather feedback from partners and they allow you to see that feedback immediately and clearly, removing or reducing the guess work from your business planning. And, oh yes, let’s not forget they also send out product literature on request and input orders into the the system as well as offering support.

The first member of staff is the one that most Partner portals represent.

The second is represented by a more ‘social media’ type portal, one devoted to Vendors.

Not many would question which member of staff is the most valuable.

If you would like to know more about how to raise the value of a partner portal, without wasting any of the valuable work you have already done on your Portal or in Social Media, please contact us at SeZing Ltd.