As a marketing professional, you know that the age of customer experience is here. Your company's success will be dictated by the experience, along with product quality and price, you deliver to your customers.
A partner portal is the front door of the business relationship. For the 75% of companies that sell through indirect channels, updating partner portals is at the top of the priority list. And more than 85% of partners say the portal is important to their buying decision.
The (Bad) Decision to DIY
However, the churn that surrounds that updating process usually results in delays for months or even years, all while budgeted funding slips away.
Often, sales, marketing, and IT teams are in the mix. Very few of them, however, understand the best-practices needed for a world-class partner portal or know how the various in-house technologies that currently serve partners can or should integrate.
Unfortunately, sometimes companies decide to wrap its technologies in use with duct tape and build a portal themselves. This is a misguided attempt to speed the process and avoid bringing yet another technology into the mix.
This process can take months longer and thousands—if not millions—of more dollars than it would take to look to a turnkey SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that is pre-engineered and purpose-built to "snap onto" companies' existing IT infrastructure and optimize partner relationships.
Time and time again, though, we see companies head down this path with very poor results. It's not uncommon to hear that an internal implementation was a dismal failure with IT.
Companies that face those problems are now turning to SaaS solutions. The companies have realized that "bespoke" solutions are decelerators to business.
If you've been tempted by the sirens' song to build your own portal, stop! Before you finalize your decision, read the top eight lessons learned from companies that have tried to build their own portals—and regretted that decision.
1. Time to Market
The average time for most companies to build a homegrown portal is six to 12 months. That's a lifetime for a business.
Portal providers have already mapped out best-practices with thousands of other companies and know what world-class, enterprise-grade partner portal solutions need to bring to the table to give your partners a great experience and your business a competitive edge.
Moreover, SaaS solutions can be up and running in just a few months (some in less than 30 days).
2. Loss of Focus for Your IT team
Your IT team is busy keeping your company secure and maintaining business-critical services. Why would you focus your IT resources on building bespoke software when you can be launching already existing turnkey technology? And can you keep that up to date in the future?
For 100 partners and five sales team members, one full-time employee to update and manage a PRM solution is required. What happens when you get to 1,000 partners? SaaS vendors carry this scalability burden.
3. Level of Effort
Out-of-the-box PRM systems plug into your existing CRM and light up with the data and information both you and your partners seek. All the workflows are already integrated for every field. What are you gaining by doing this work yourself?
Out-of-the-box solutions have already done the integration work. You don't have to worry about expensive configuration errors. You didn't custom build your CRM, so why would you custom build your PRM?
4. Lack of a Roadmap for the Future
PRM solutions are constantly evolving. If you create your own portal, whose technology roadmap are you on? Who will ensure that your portal doesn't become obsolete? Who will be responsive if security problems are found?
PRM vendors make solutions their business and work to ensure your PRM solution is constantly evolving, so you don't have to worry about it.
5. Ongoing Maintenance
PRM solutions are built to integrate with CRM solutions.
CRM solutions are constantly updating their data fields, APIs, features, and functions, so they require that your PRM is constantly digitally "rewired" to ensure the systems connect and share data properly. Who in your organization will have the bandwidth to ensure the integration stays current?
PRM providers do this as part of the lifeblood of their business.
6. Infrastructure Costs
Portals need infrastructure—servers, security, configuration, redundancy, and availability. Most companies have hundreds or even thousands of partners around the world. Do you have the in-house infrastructure to build, host, and support an enterprise-class portal?
Most partner portal solutions are SaaS, or cloud-hosted, and come with the infrastructure built in. Not only can you have your portal up and running more quickly, you'll also know the front end of your new portal is supported by a back end designed to meet your partners' needs.
7. Initial Creation Costs
When the costs start piling up, nine times out of 10 an organization will begin to "pare back" the feature set, leaving you with a rudimentary FTP site without the differentiating, revenue-building features you and your partners need.
Turnkey SaaS solutions have already done the development work up front, so you are not paying the tech burden of custom-making a solution.
8. Lack of Channel Expertise
CRM companies (or your IT department) may know a lot about Web development and SaaS architecture. They may be experts at setting up a website using an open source tool like WordPress or Drupal. But there's so much more to a partner portal than just its website.
You need to engage with a company that can offer proven strategies for structuring an effective channel program and then echo those in a partner portal. The value a true PRM company brings is less about the Web development and much more about implementing best-practices to accelerate your indirect sales.
* * *
Companies face common challenges companies in redoing their portals, and PRM solutions capitalize on that fact by creating turnkey solutions already pre-engineered and purpose built to optimize the partner experience.
Today's most nimble companies know that enduring the learning curve of building everything themselves from "scratch" is now not only no longer necessary but also a dangerous path that can leave your company months or years, and possibly millions of dollars behind.
Let your IT team focus on your core business and what makes your company special, and find those infrastructure pieces you need to solve your business problems and move on.