The Rise Of Partner Relationship Management
December 28, 2021

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Introduction to Partner Relationship Management

Partner relationship management, better known as PRM, is slowly shaping B2B ecosystems. PRM as an essential business growth driver is rapidly evolving as organizations rely more on their extended channel partner networks to expand their market reach. More organizations recognize that they need fully systematized tools, frameworks, and solutions to run effective, scalable, and sustainable channel engagements.

PRM brings together the strategy, process, and solutions to achieve those B2B objectives. PRM is defined as

  • a set of methods, activities, and technologies
  • to develop and manage channel partner relationships
  • enable, engage, and motivate channel partners to accelerate go-to-market
  • to help achieve the strategic goals of the organization
  • helps reach to end-customers, expand market reach, and/or compete in the marketplace

It is essential to have the right technology and solutions to deliver effective PRM engagement that is measurable, insightful, and impactful.

Need for systematized PRM

Many organizations manage channel marketing and incentive programs using spreadsheets, email solutions, and manual and offline processes. These processes are time-consuming and resource heavy.

These ad-hoc tools may get some parts of channel management jobs done, but it does not help to scale or maintain quality and compliance standards. These processes lack what a formal PRM system can offer, e.g., easy access to information, rich analytics, timely insights, and attaining compliance requirements.

Another challenge faced is in the collection and validation of sales data. Without automation, this leads to delay in processing and administrating incentives to partners. All of these contribute to channel dissatisfaction and loss of business opportunities.

Understanding Channel Partner ecosystem

A typical channel partner ecosystem consists of distributors, dealers, resellers, retailers, agents, or contractors. The ecosystem may further extend to several types of independent influencers, sales agents, or freelancers. The exact nature of these segments varies across industries, markets, and organization structures.

For example, installers, mechanics, or plumbers could be functioning as an essential channel segment in a specific industry, e.g., home appliances. These entities may have a commercial interest and form a bridge between the brand and the end customers. Sample characteristics of these segments:

  • they are small and micro-organizations
  • they can be entirely individual entrepreneurs or freelancers of various nature
  • they may have employees or freelancers associated
  • they operate in local or remote markets
  • they do the last mile support, service, or connection

Channel partner ecosystems are in an early stage of evolution in the market. As the industry understands channel partners’ needs, personas, and aspirations, PRM programs can devise better approaches and create better solutions. This will make the relationships lasting and valuable.

PRM in B2B organizations

Most B2B companies have channel programs and PRM systems of some nature to support their channel networks. Usually, these organizations have formal strategies, plans, and budgets available. But they do lack downstream details to execute and implement those strategies. They may not have enough resources or expertise to plan and execute those strategies effectively or use those available funds efficiently.

These result in organizations taking ad-hoc steps to operate channel programs without the support of proper tools, tactics, and operational frameworks to make them successful and sustainable. But, from a strategic angle, these deficiencies or limitations bring opportunities for growth and differentiation.

Challenges and opportunities for PRM

There are several challenges PRM is facing today in delivering value to brands and channel partners. This is due to various evolutions taking place in the market, for example:

  • Changing channel partner behavior, lifestyle, and social evolutions
  • Emerging partner business models, operations, and governance standards
  • Expectations of partners, stakeholders, and entities in the value chain
  • Rapid industrialization, digitalization, and convergence of technologies
  • Managing exceptional events due to covid and climate change

An effective PRM program and associated technologies will help tackle multiple challenges channel marketers face today and function as key growth drivers for organizations. This is also an excellent opportunity for PRM to address the functional and operational issues to accelerate further development and innovation in the market. PRM programs can address several problems including the below:

  • inefficiencies due to manual processes, redundant or inaccurate data
  • lack of visibility due to disparate technologies
  • challenges in scalability and integration
  • manual tracking and management of program offers and activities
  • engage and measure channel partner motivation
  • difficulty in program measurement, insights, and learnings

PRM tools and processes

Today, PRM solutions cover a much broader scope: leveraging digital, mobile, social technologies and integrated with the core enterprise solutions to provide a single view of partner interactions, thus helping channel marketers decide and act faster to market demands.

Organizations can roll out PRM programs across markets with the new generation of unified technology and solutions. Tightly coupled with data analytics and business intelligence tools, PRM solutions combine program and performance management with content, marketing, communications, and incentives. This integrated approach enables channel marketers to engage partners and scale seamlessly across markets.

With the ability to manage infrastructure centrally in the cloud, tools to localize program rules and content per market as and when needed, channel marketers now have the power to drive channel engagements with sophisticated personalization, segmentation, and tier-based mechanisms.

PRM tools and processes

Channel programs must operate in an auditable, transparent, and secure environment to comply with local and global standards. It includes administering channel partner incentives, rebates, or rewards based on performance. Organizations require effective planning, execution, and management of channel marketing programs to ensure success for all stakeholders.

Thankfully, now channel marketers can access regional/global service providers, who can plan, design, and launch channel marketing and incentive programs end-to-end. These new PRM tools and services allow channel marketers to focus on their core business, creating and experimenting with offers and value propositions relevant to channel partners. PRM solutions play a great enabler to help develop B2B partner ecosystems and measure their effectiveness. In the process, PRM solutions empower channel marketers to make better business decisions for their organizations while creating better revenue and ROI for the brands and value for channel partners.

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