What does a best-in-class PRM system offer?
More than two-thirds of the global economy flows through the channel, and that includes just about every vertical, from finance, insurance and retail to real estate, life sciences, manufacturing and technology. In order to support the rapid evolution of distribution channels and partner networks, most companies are expanding their partner management infrastructure from a basic partner portal to a more comprehensive partner relationship management – PRM system with a set of complementary applications.
PRM systems have evolved quite a bit over the past few years. Today’s PRM system is much, much more than a cheap and a cheerful portal. While the core function of communicating with partners is well-served by a partner portal, there are a number of additional functions that a PRM system must provide in today’s channel marketing environment. These functions include the provision of mobile content access, sales enablement tools, incentives management tools, training modules, demand generation tools and many other core channel management applications.
A typical PRM system certainly starts with core partner portal capabilities, where the focus is primarily on sharing content with partners and keeping partners informed about programs, product updates, partner-focused events and so on. However, in addition to fulfilling these basic functions, the platform should also offer content sharing capabilities in the form of asset libraries, documents libraries and other kinds of content so that partners have everything they need at their fingertips to plan and execute campaigns and follow up with prospects. These are what we at ZINF call a JumpStart package.
As a vendor’s channel program grows, the PRM system needs to evolve with it. Once you get beyond the JumpStart phase and are ready to optimize your channel activities in an even more systematic way, you will want to be able to add additional capabilities related to market development funds (MDF) management, rebates management, learning management, business planning and contracts management. When you begin to evaluate PRM systems for your own organization, make sure that you take a long-term view of your channel programs and select a solution that allows you to easily add modules as you need them and scale as your requirements expand.
For example, many organizations find themselves trying to grow their channel and are focused on partner recruitment. These organizations should consider PRM systems that offer core partner onboarding capabilities, including contracts and business planning management. These modules allow vendors to automate the entire partner sign-up, training and onboarding process to ensure partners enjoy a friction-free experience when they join a vendor’s partner network. A partner’s initial experience with a channel organization is crucial, and may well determine whether the partner remains engaged or loses interest. It’s essential that partners have an opportunity to learn how the vendor’s partner program works in a user-friendly, stepwise fashion. This is a where having a best-in-class PRM system can make a huge difference.
There are about a dozen PRM systems providers in the global marketplace today. Most of them can offer a bare-bones portal using open source content management software, but very few can provide the rock-solid web application infrastructure that ZINFI offers. We can tailor a system to meet any organization’s current and long-term needs, ranging from our JumpStart experience that provides a partner portal and core content-sharing capabilities to a comprehensive Unified Channel Management (UCM) system that encompasses partner relationship management (PRM), partner marketing management (PMM) and partner sales management (PSM). Most importantly, the ZINFI system you begin with will be able to seamlessly evolve right alongside your channel program. All you have to do is turn on additional modules or applications over a period of time as your requirements change.