Whether you’re considering buying a PRM tool for the first time or replacing your current one, it is important to find a solution that takes into account both your channel marketing business objectives and the needs of your partners. It should also be scalable, easy to use and effective in the long run.
Picking a new software platform is like trying to pick out a single tree out of an entire forest. There are plenty of partner relationship management (PRM) tools in the market (95 at last count according to G2). You can’t do demos for all those options, so you need to use an efficient, scalable way to review potential tools while still making sure all of your boxes are checked off.
Fortunately, we at Macro have helped a lot of clients assess which PRM platform is right for their needs, and in so doing have developed a selection framework that we’re happy to share with you below.
The first step in this framework starts before you even view a single PRM tool—it begins by looking inward.
Step 1 - Conduct a Thorough Needs Assessment
To ensure that your PRM tool effectively supports your partner program goals and simplifies daily operations for both your internal teams and external partners, you must choose a solution that's more than just the most popular or affordable option on the market.
Before making a purchase, it's crucial to identify your business goals, determine your team's expectations, and understand your partner's needs.
Channel marketing goals:
- Set clear business goals and define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which can include:
- Enhancing partner relationships,
- Increasing partner satisfaction,
- Streamlining partner onboarding,
- Ability to run co-marketing campaigns,
- Increasing revenue from partners.
Can you effectively report on channel ROI today? Are there any gaps in performance management or reporting processes?
- Gather feedback from all departments that will interact with the PRM tool to get a comprehensive view of requirements, and most importantly to ensure that it will meet their expectationsAssess the challenges your teams face today and ask which improvements would address those challenges
- Consider what benefits the PRM tool will provide to partners.
- Try asking your partners what would they like to see
Once you have these requirements, rank them in order of priority. The PRM tools you review might not be able to accommodate all your asks (in fact, few do), so you should already know which needs are must-haves. But be sure to keep future state in mind, too.
Step 2 - Evaluate your Tech Stack
While exploring different PRM options, it's important to consider how well they integrate with your existing systems. This is also an opportunity to assess whether a new PRM can help you consolidate your tech stack by replacing existing tools with PRM features that offer more streamlined operations and cost savings.
Implementing a single PRM software across your organization can enhance processes and increase alignment. However, some organizations may choose to use two systems, such as a PRM tool for co-marketing activities and Salesforce for registering partner leads and deals. In such cases, it's crucial to ensure that your data synchronizes seamlessly between both systems.
Step 3 - Assess Available Resources
What do you have available to ensure you get the right PRM tool? Beyond your budget, what IT resources can you leverage? Do you have an internal procurement specialist that can help you gather requirements and review options?
Looking forward to post-purchase, do you have a team that can handle implementation and onboarding? If not, will the vendor be able to provide any support in that area? It’s best to think about that now so you can plan ahead.
Shortage of Resources
Agencies like Macro can function as an additional resource to your team by helping you gather requirements, provide feedback on the pros and cons of the various PRM tools, and help you evaluate vendor packages for best fit. Macro can even take on onboarding and training for both internal employees and your channel partners.
Step 4 - Triage Features and Functionality
Many PRM tools advertise themselves as “all-in-one” solutions with a comprehensive set of features, but don’t let that distract you. Developers sometimes include “box checker” features to fill out a feature list, even though the actual functionality is half-baked.
Instead, focus your attention on the features that most fit your needs. Confirm that these features exist (not “future roadmap items”), and that they function the way you expect. Many software buyers have experienced buyer’s remorse when they discover a feature doesn’t quite behave as advertised. Work closely with your software vendor to
As for the secondary features, you can opt to include those as nice-to-haves, but if you don’t have an immediate purpose for them in mind, don’t make one up just to “get the most for your money.” You will get the most for your money by ensuring the core functions behave the way you need.
The specific features you prioritize in a PRM solution will depend on your business goals. However, there are several critical functionalities you should consider as you search for the right solution.
Partner onboarding and management
PRMs should provide a streamlined process for onboarding new partners, as well as tools for managing partner information and performance.
A good PRM solution should enable you to provide marketing collateral, resources, and tools to help partners effectively go-to-market with you.
PRMs should enable partners to access and manage leads and opportunities, as well as track their progress and status.
The PRM provider should offer a comprehensive knowledge base to help your partners improve their skills . You should also evaluate the support hours and availability to ensure that technical issues or gaps in user training can be resolved.
Performance Tracking and Reporting
The PRM solution should provide metrics and analytics to track partner performance, identify areas of improvement, and measure impact of the program. Ideally, you should be able to create custom dashboards for specific needs.
Security and access control
A reliable PRM solution should have robust security measures to protect partner and customer data, and provide appropriate access controls to ensure that partners only see the information they need.
Pro Tip - Don’t Discount User Experience
Ultimately, a PRM tool is supposed to help make it easier for your channel marketing team and your partners to work together. But if your PRM tool is clunky, slow, and difficult to use, then people will work around the platform instead of within it.
When you test your PRM platform, take careful note of the UX. Does the layout of the buttons and navigation bar make sense? How easily can you find the information you need? How fast do the pages load?
Also remember to let your partners test it out, too (at least a few of them). After all, the platform is for their benefit, too. So it makes sense to give them an opportunity to take it for a spin.
Step 5 - Judge Cost Based on Value
It’s common for companies to lean towards the most affordable option when it comes to software (or anything else, really), but the lowest price doesn’t necessarily mean the best deal. When purchasing a PRM tool, look at the value you’re getting.
The best PRM tools pay for themselves (and then some) by making your teams and the partners that much more effective at selling your products. It’s a part of a well-oiled partner sales engine that generates more cash than it eats up.
Some software vendors will try to sweeten a deal by offering discounts on licenses or a free service of some sort, which is nice, but don’t let that determine your final decision. An ineffective PRM tool with a discount is still losing you money—just at a slower rate.
Step 6 - Plan your PRM Implementation
A PRM implementation plan involves several key components, including identifying the resources needed to support implementation, developing a timeline for implementation, and creating an adoption strategy to ensure successful implementation. Here are some things to consider:
Identify the resources required to support the PRM implementation, such as technology teams and implementation partners, to oversee the process.
Develop a timeline, which includes the phases of implementation and key milestones. The timeline should be realistic and aligned with business goals. Involve all stakeholders in the timeline development process.
Develop a communication plan that outlines the implementation process, timelines, goals, and objectives. The communication plan should involve all stakeholders and focus on the benefits of the PRM implementation.
Launch in stages. Firstly, launch internally to test the PRM and user experience, and take note of feedback from the team to improve efficiency. Secondly, introduce a select group of loyal partners as a pilot program to provide constructive feedback, guiding the final PRM implementation. Lastly, launch the platform to all partners after addressing critical issues.
Monitor adoption rates and adapt. Provide ongoing support and training to encourage adoption.
Don’t Be Shy—Ask For Help
Macro helps you make smart choices about which PRM tool is right for your organization. The Macro team is familiar with many of the partner relationship management platforms in the market today, and can make informed recommendations based on your most urgent needs.
Our team is experienced at every aspect of the software acquisition process, from evaluation to purchase to rollout, and will support you at every step of the way.
Book an appointment to hear about how we can help you make the best decision for your partner program!