One of the most common reasons partner programs fail to engage and retain partners is a lack of partner education.
Effective partner education helps your partners better understand your product, your customers and your brand. Without any kind of education or training, new partners will be slow to produce revenue — if they produce any at all — because they’re unlikely to get all the knowledge they need from your public-facing assets alone.
This was a lesson that one company, Looka, learned firsthand. A SaaS platform for building logos and brands aimed at entrepreneurs, Looka’s product is perfect for marketing through affiliate channels. But they discovered that even with over 5,000 registered partners, their affiliate program struggled to pull in real revenue.
It was only when they revamped their partner program to focus on educating partners and enabling them with resources that they saw real growth in the program, leading to Looka’s affiliate program driving one third of the company’s annual revenue.
Newer programs should focus on enabling their partners with simple, self-directed resources built upon your existing marketing and sales assets. In a recent survey of over 1,000 partners that use PartnerStack, 60% of partners said most wanted resources from a program are ready-to-go marketing materials and a partner program FAQ.
PartnerStack CEO Bryn Jones explained in a recent Ask Me Anything session that for newer programs, “training and enablement should be a very simple program that partners can run through in 30-60 minutes. When you start seeing partners achieve success, you can ask the successful ones what they need to do even better, and the unsuccessful ones what support they were missing.”
It’s better to think of this as partner onboarding rather than a fully-fledged training program. The goal of partner onboarding is to give partners the essential knowledge they need to start marketing and selling your product.
Only once you've had the opportunity to learn from partners joining your program does it make sense to invest time into building larger training courses.
Effective training is especially important if you want to work with partners that drive larger deals. In our partner survey, we discovered that partners who’ve completed a training or certification course earn an average of 6x more from partner programs than partners who didn’t.
While individual docs and PDFs will work fine for your earliest partner education resources, they’re not an ideal way to learn about bigger topics. Scattering partner education across too many resources makes it likely that partners will miss (or just choose to ignore) large portions of critical information. Training courses allow partners to learn everything they need to in one place and make it easy to pick up where they left off.
The best way to build courses and certifications for partners is with a learning management system (LMS), which houses all of your educational content and uses automation to motivate partners forward.
Using an LMS makes it easy to:
- Build interactive courses. Unlike static slides and PDFs, using an LMS allows you to build interactive courses that include text, video, embedded web content, and interactive components like surveys and quizzes.
- Track partner progress. See where each of your partners are in your training program, including who’s excelling and who might need some extra nudging. Building assessments into your courses allows you to test partner knowledge before letting them move forward.
- Award certification badges. Certifications — and visible proof like badges — help partners prove to their own audiences that they deeply understand your product, lending them more credibility when they market and sell it.
- Give access to additional rewards. You can incentivize partners to complete training by giving them access to new partner tiers with increased commission rates or additional benefits like co-marketing opportunities.
We’ve recently added access to the leading cloud-based LMS, SAP Litmos, for PartnerStack customers, to make it even easier for partnerships managers to educate and empower their partners.
From inside PartnerStack, you can select which groups have access to which courses, and automate actions — like sending an email or upgrading them to a different partner group — upon course completion.
When thinking about the types of courses you should create, consider:
- How can you help partners generate more value? Consider how education can help partners reach prospects that are expected to produce higher value, e.g. customers in larger organizations, and help them sell larger plans or add-ons.
- Are there new audiences you want to reach? If so, create training modules that help partners better understand this new customer audience and how to position your product to them.
- What formats will work best for educating your partners? Your courses don’t have to be limited to just text. You can (and should) include images, slides, and video content in your courses.
- Has the nature of your product or brand recently changed? If you’ve launched new features or revamped your product positioning, partners need to know — and you need to know they get it.
- Do partners resell or integrate your software? If so, certification can provide more than just an incentive for your partners — it can help potential customers understand the level of service they can expect from each type of partner you work with.
Want support in thinking through the level of partner education that makes sense for your program? Let’s work through it together.