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How to Measure Partnership Success
Landing on the right partner program KPIs can keep your partnerships aligned as the needs of the partner evolves
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A robust partner program is a significant investment of time and resources. You have to develop a keen understanding of identifying short and long-term success criteria and the actions that lead to those outcomes. Monitoring and measuring success requires a consistent interpretation that as the customer's needs become more advanced, so will the partners' requirements. The challenge for many partnership leaders is to identify the KPI metrics and understand which are critical, what actions led to the results, and how they can be improved.
Identify early-stage metrics
When you're launching a partner program, it's easy to look at other programs from established organizations to help shape your program's North Star metrics. North Star metrics capture the core value that your partner program will deliver to your partners. The North Star metric will heavily influence the partner program's trajectory, so while it is tempting to use a similar North Star from an established partner program, you run the risk of limiting your program's growth even before you've started. North Star metrics evolve as the partner program changes to meet partners and customers' demands, so following a metric of a program at a much later stage isn't a recommended strategy.
Established organizations with partner programs have the luxury to use resources to fund partnership development, which in the beginning, is not necessarily the best use of available funds for an early-stage program and organization. In the partner program's early stage, the metrics should lean heavily towards a revenue and pipeline objective.
Consider the following standard metrics in the beginning:
The number of partners in the program,
Revenue from the partnerships (partner influenced and generated),
The number of partner leads or referrals in the funnel, and
The number of partners trained or certified.
The key is to keep it simple and focused early on to obtain leadership buy-in by validating that the partner program can produce meaningful value. By aligning the North Star with your organization's current business goals, you're setting the stage to invest back into the partner program when it needs to rely more on deep technical integrations, longer sales cycles, and extensive go-to-marketing campaigns. I will cover launching an early-stage partner program more in-depth in a later article, so subscribe now to be notified when the item is published.
Optimize the partner experience
As your partner program matures and becomes more successful, you'll have access to resources to measure a new set of priorities focused heavily on the partner and customer experience. This is also an excellent time to reevaluate your North Star to ensure that it aligns with your organization's current stage and update the ideal partner profile to source partners with similar business goals and opportunities.
To uncover the partner experience, you’ll need to understand the partner's needs to drill down on metrics that give you insight into partnership success, value, and partner retention. While these metrics are harder to measure and traditional sales metrics, they are crucial to delivering a successful partner program's real value.
Sales cycle length
Having a robust process is essential to managing the sales life cycle. Do your partner sales cycles allow you to understand where and when engagement is needed and where it should occur. Starting from the time a lead comes and throughout each phase of the customer journey, are there opportunities to shorten the cycle by engaging sooner? Measuring metrics such as lead to close ratios, average sales cycle length, and percentage of accepted versus closed partner submitted deals could help give you an idea of what to look for.
Successful partnerships are a competitive advantage that relies on both parties to invest equal amounts of resources and time. Many underestimate what resources are needed to be successful in a partnership. If one partner isn’t as invested, then the unbalance will expose gaps that can lead to unsatisfied results such as delays in technical integrations, customer support responses, and wasted opportunities to uncover new subsets of customers or market opportunities. Do you or your partner have dedicated resources for ensuring the partnership is successful in sales, marketing, and support? Evaluate where the resources are needed most to address those essential to the partner’s customer's satisfaction. It is crucial to be transparent with your parents and provide as many resources as necessary to be successful.
Partner programs should focus on optimization, automation, and self-service as essential goals to help partners accomplish their goals. Think about what support and sales tools that you offer to partners once they’re onboarded. Do you provide leads or sales coaching upfront? As customers become more sophisticated, so too will the needs of the partner. Perform regular content audits to ensure that the content reflects the changing needs and speaks to the partner, partnership, and customer. Utilize feedback loops to understand what your partners need to succeed in a particular market, region, or subset of customers to help ensure that the partners continue to see value in the partnership with your organization.
Another metric to understand is how often the partners engage with your team. While this is often difficult to measure, metrics that measure who regularly interacts with your teams before, during, and after the sale, request additional training, or download resources will help you understand who is engaged and if your partner program has enough value for the partners to succeed. Are you ensuring a deeper level of engagement by creating more personalized experiences for your partners? NPS surveys are an excellent tool to understand how engaged the partner is and if they still see value in the partnership.
While building a partner program is a significant investment, it can pay big dividends if the efforts and resources are in place to support the partners in the ecosystem. Each partner that enters the partner program has someone unique to offer that makes no two partnerships alike. Be prepared to adapt your partnerships and keep your partners engaged continuously because, ultimately, your partners are the center of your partner program's universe.
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