The stars have aligned, you have found your ideal partners and fallen in love. Now it’s time to get to know each other inside out. You’re excited to get started. Introduce them to your program, your platform. Commit to each other. All leading to that dream proposal. Resulting in onboarding and training.
This is the third in our five-part series on Bridging the Partner Engagement Gap. In part 1 we discussed making yourself available, or pre-recruitment. Part 2 was all about first dates, or partner recruitment. In this post, we’ll be discussing everything leading up to your engagement, or onboarding and training.
Going steady: pre-onboarding considerations
Your first date was a huge success. There are many common interests, your future goals are aligned – as are your chakras. You know some of the same people and discovered you hang out in similar spaces. Even your systems are compatible! Sounds like you’re falling for each other.
It’s that phase in the relationship when you want to spend all of your time together and get to know each other. We call this the pre-onboarding phase. You are probably seeing everything through rose-colored glasses, but there are some things to keep in mind.
How will you invite partners to join your program?
How are you inviting them to participate in your partner program? A sign-up page, company email, personal invite? All three? At Channext, vendors can opt for co-branded sign-up pages explaining the program and partner benefits. We offer vendor-branded email invites and encourage key account managers to send personal invitations.
Consider your audience
Who is the one filling out that sign-up form? A marketing manager, sales exec, the owner? Large partners have specific roles for marketing and sales. Smaller partners have smaller teams, meaning one person may be responsible for sales and doing marketing on the side. In many cases, your partner contact won’t have much – if any – marketing experience at all. So make sure your process is simple and caters to all possible partner roles.
Define onboarding success
Define what successful onboarding looks like, and beyond. Because an onboarded yet inactive partner is like unrequited love – it will leave you stressed and heartbroken.
How you will measure success? We advise steering clear from vanity metrics such as portal logins and campaign downloads. Instead, focus on actionable data such as active participation in marketing campaigns and social selling. Does your portfolio require training? Make sure it is part of your success plan.
Once you have these things figured out, it’s time to get down on one knee and pop the question. “Will you be my partner?”
You’ve proposed! Now what?
Fireworks! Doves! Streamers! Classical music! You’ve sent your proposal to join and your partner has accepted. This is where onboarding into your brand, tools, and partner program starts. Consider the fact that you are one of many vendors for them. The quicker and easier it is to get started, the better.
How will you approach this from a practical perspective?
Personal onboarding, webinars, or automated onboarding?
It really depends on how many partners you have. In an ideal situation, you would invite partners to your office, meet the team and get everyone onboarded simultaneously. But there’s this thing called time, and neither of you has it. It’s simply not scalable.
Webinars are a great way to onboard partners. When presenting live, you can have the option to answer questions as they come up. But it can be tricky regarding time zones and availability. Pre-recorded webinars offer the chance to onboard 100 people from different companies within mere days, when it suits them. But you’ll need some form of support for additional questions.
Automated onboarding means your partners log in to your systems and onboard themselves with the help of wizards and videos. It’s a scalable way to operate, but it’s less personal. Meaning you will need to have a backup in the form of articles and live support.
Be sure not to overload your partners with information. If you simply throw them in the deep end, they’re not going to swim. In fact, they may never come back. Ease them through the process gradually. No need to do everything in one session. Focus on your most important feature. Is that how to download sales and marketing materials, how to register leads, training?
Find the fun
Last but not least, make it fun! Show progress bars as partners go through each step. Let them tick off lists as each step is completed. Have confetti burst onto the screen when they are done. Gamification is simple to add and can make a huge difference to your partners’ experience.
Cold feet: what if your partners don’t engage?
In each scenario we sketch, we’re not talking about a single partner. We’re talking about 20 partners, 50, 100, and upwards. It really doesn’t matter how diligent you’ve been and how much effort you put in, some of them will get cold feet.
You’ve been ghosted 👻.
You can choose to cry yourself to sleep, watch romcoms, and eat entire tubs of ice cream.
Or you could do this:
- Offer incentives to sign up: brand swag, exclusive campaigns, trips to Hawaii
- Offer your partnership program AS the incentive: make it exclusive and aspirational
- Gamify your portal: at Channext we have leaderboards showing the most active and engaged partners
- Use influencers: remember those Influencer partners from the previous blog? Ask them to reach out to partners that haven’t signed up
- Cut your losses: Because a non-joiner may turn into an inactive partner, and there’s nothing worse than that. Now you have the chance to find and date a new partner that will love you for you!
What a whirlwind romance that was! In this post, you went from first date to going steady, to being engaged. We looked at:
Defining success, how will you invite partners to join your partner program, and what will successful onboarding look like?
An accepted proposal what to do after your partners have accepted and want to become part of your program. Who will onboard them and what does that process look like?
What if they get cold feet? What are some ways to incentivize partners that have not accepted immediately?
In our next post, we will be discussing marriage and how to keep your partners happy in the long term.