As I heard from the various presenters at the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), solely embracing cloud technology is not enough to stay ahead of digital disruption. The cloud has provided us with a goldmine — customer engagement and behavioral data. Harnessing the power of that data to proactively drive the customer journey is how you create a competitive advantage and thrive in the digital age.
My first blog in this series, Growing Channel Partner Revenue discussed the best practices and policies that are required to help your channel partners embrace the cloud selling motion. Now, we can delve into how you can transform those best practice processes and policies into action through your channel. The secret to successfully reinventing the role of your channel in the cloud ecosystem lies within your ability to make sense of your customer usage or consumption data.
Data is abundant, but meaningless without context. When contextualized to your customer journey via outcome, predictive and prescriptive analytics, you have actionable knowledge. It’s how you use your channel partner cloud data that gives you a competitive advantage and helps your partners provide an extraordinary customer experience.
Ongoing customer engagement is critical to delivering measurable business outcomes and return on investment (ROI). And delivering outcomes is required to retain and grow revenue from your existing customers. By managing your customer and usage data you can influence the customer behavior that will deliver on expected outcomes. The ability to automate the next best action or the next best offer will keep your channel partners focused on the customer engagement activities that will have the biggest impact — ultimately drive recurring revenue growth for both you and your partners.
How to Harness your Channel Partner Cloud Data
Incomplete, error-prone data that resides in disparate systems is consistently the leading root cause of channel partner inefficiencies. Without aggregated, reliable data, you miss opportunities to retain customers and maximize revenue through renewal, upsell and cross-sell sales plays. Implementing a data-driven revenue lifecycle to create actionable information will assist you with:
- Accessibility: A 360 degree view of your customers that includes details on product onboarding, adoption, and customer health will help your channel partners engage with customers at the right time, with the right information at hand. This type of proactive engagement creates a valued customer experience, which will enhance customer relationships beyond the transactional dollar amount.
- Accuracy: Using channel partner cloud data from a variety of sources can result in inconsistencies in the customer experience and can impact your partner commitment. Best practice is 99 percent + data accuracy. Anything less and you will lose credibility and end-user adoption of your solutions. Your data will be accurate if you aggregate all information from disparate sources into a collaborative, single-source data hub, which is readily available via your partner portal.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Accessible and accurate data will allow you to measure channel partner success using the right recurring revenue KPIs. Systematically reviewing key performance indicators enables partners to invest in areas that need improvement by giving them reliable information that is easier to track, understand and take action on.
When the above best practices are aligned with vendors, distributors, and resellers, you have the ability to use predictive analytics to manage channel strategies and monitor partner performance.
Enable Channel Partners to Deliver Outcomes
Purpose-built technology drives the right actions for the people and processes. As I discussed in my previous blog, a key component of implementing effective technology is answering the question: How does my technology enable me to connect my channel partners and deliver consistent customer engagement?
A recent global phone survey conducted by ServiceSource showed that 83 percent of customers change business partners because of a perceived, controllable reason, including:
- Poor communication and response time
- Difficulty doing business with the partner
- Knowledge of product value and actions required to drive outcomes
In fact, only 17 percent of the hundreds of customers surveyed cited price as a primary reason for changing partners or discontinuing their subscription.
Implementing the right data management best practices and technology can help you begin to resolve these challenges. However, it takes a holistic approach to customer success to truly move the needle and keep customers for life. Enabling business partners with the right data, best practices and technology is required for success. The fact of the matter is that you cannot afford to take the focus off of your customers—and business partners cannot afford to invest in all of the people and technology that is required to proactively drive the entire customer lifecycle.
Investments need to be made by both you and your channel partners. A maturity assessment can help you determine which investments will deliver the fastest and most impactful results. I will delve into that topic in my next blog. For now, one of your most important assets is your channel partner center and portal.
83 percent of customers change business partners because of a perceived, controllable reason.
A portal is critical to collaborate and communicate with your channel partners, as well as to provide them with access to customer data. It’s important to enable your partners with the right customer engagement, expansion and extension marketing and training tools. Supplement your customer acquisition tools with content that will help your channel partners successfully onboard customers and drive product adoption. You also may need to provide customer journey maps and materials that facilitate the renewals process.
Your cloud-based portals and dashboards will provide a unified view of key metrics, performance, and opportunities to help your channel partners stay aligned and on track. A disjointed approach wastes company resources with inaccuracies and can cause further delays for your customers. A performance dashboard helps your company overcome these challenges by providing a picture of the key metrics that your partners will easily understand, measure and track. A dashboard presents a visual representation of all in-quarter opportunities by batch type and pipeline stage, as well as a list of top unresolved opportunities your channel partners can take advantage of to improve the bottom line.
Data management, technology, and analytics will definitely help you grow channel partner revenue; however, they are only pieces of the puzzle. In my next blog, I will delve into the six maturity lenses that are necessary in order to drive channel partner transformation to a cloud selling motion. Or if you are ready to benchmark your channel programs, get started today by identifying opportunities to retain and grow your channel customers through our Channel Management Maturity Model Assessment.