PRM or Partner Relationship Management is any combination of strategies, methodologies, software, or web applications that businesses using a distribution channel can use to communicate with their channel partners. Although they look and sound similar, PRM and CRM are not interchangeable terms, and relying only on CRM strategies and technology solutions often fall short of what channel managers (and channel partners) need to successfully get their products and services to end users.
To get started, here are the PRM terms used throughout this post:
- PRM Strategy: Any combination of PRM solutions within a business used to manage partner relationships
- PRM Solution: The tool or system, not inherently software-based, to help manage partners and partner relationships
- Technology or Platform: software, either downloadable or web-based
Who should have a PRM strategy?
Businesses who do not sell directly to their end users will benefit the most from a PRM strategy. Industries like manufacturing, automotive, insurance, SaaS, and even hospitality and recreation that sell at least in part through a distribution channel should have an effective PRM strategy.
Businesses who primarily sell to their customers should consider a CRM solution.
What is a PRM solution/technology?
While PRM is not inherently a single platform, the market for technology-based PRM solutions has grown significantly in the last ten years. PRM technologies can be downloaded software (think the Adobe or Microsoft Suites) or web- or cloud-based solutions (think Google Drive or HubSpot). While PRM technologies may vary depending on the distribution channel they’re designed for, generally they offer services like:
- Partner portal
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Sales analytics
- Incentive/loyalty program management
- Marketing and brand management
- Product information management
- Multi-language capabilities
Remember when you had a landline telephone, a digital or film camera, an address book, a daily planner, an atlas, a dictionary, and an encyclopedia set? Now all that information lives (in its most up-to-date format) inside your smartphone—that’s the goal of PRM technologies. Everything a channel manager needs to work with their partners combined in one place, cutting down on time spent searching through hard drives, cloud storage spaces, and paper files.
Benefits of PRM Platforms
One theme of 21st century technology is consolidation, and that’s what PRM technologies are offering you. The amount of things you can do on your smartphone is staggering: from ordering lunch to checking stock prices to sharing photos with friends and family. PRM platforms are the smartphone for your distribution channel. They consolidate everything your distribution channel needs, from product information to marketing guidelines to training materials, into one login. As the channel manager, you can see and manage everything from one place, and your channel partners can access everything they need from you in one place.
Not only does a PRM platform work to consolidate and organize all the operations within your channel, a good platform will also provide easy, open communication between you and your partners. The ability for partners to communicate their feedback, questions, and concerns is important, too. A PRM solution that promotes collaboration can bring in new ideas from your channel partners and address issues in a timely manner.
Not every PRM platform will have all these resources, but here’s a rundown of some things you might want to be looking for:
- Partner Portal: This is what your partners will see when they login. A partner portal provides access to all the materials you give partners. This could be marketing and branding guidelines, access to apply for and track a loyalty program, training or certification materials, and product information, pricing, and inventory.
- Product information: Upload and alter new product information as necessary.
- Sales Analytics: Track each partner on their goals or view overall product sales.
- Incentive/loyalty program management: Set up an incentive program to encourage sales of your product or service, then track partner progress and implement rewards.
- Marketing and Brand Management: Set guidelines for how your partners use your logos and marketing materials.
- Training and Certification: Provide access to training videos or online certification to help partners better understand your product.
- Automation: A PRM platform could automate some functions to save time. Say you add a new product to your platform or upload a new training video—you could set up an email automation where all of your partners get a notification to their inbox of certain changes.
Selecting a PRM platform
If your current PRM strategy is bogging you and your partners down and you struggle managing things like tracking partner sales goals, marketing and branding consistency, and implementing a loyalty program, it’s time to consider a new PRM solution. But where should you start?
Not all distribution channels are the same, and different PRM technologies are built for different sizes and shapes of channels, and for different industries. And much like your cell phone provider, this is a decision you only want to have to make once. Three things to consider when you start your PRM technology search:
- Size of your channel (and how big you’d like it to grow)
- Your industry
Size of your channel
Everyone wants their business to grow, but how big your channel currently is will help determine what you need right now and in the near future to start your PRM solution. Some PRM solutions are built for small, start-up channels, while others have huge, international channels in mind with capabilities to work in multiple languages and across many boarders. If your channel is currently experiencing rapid growth, look for a PRM solution that grows with you or allows you to add on tools as you need them.
Larger channels might have some existing PRM systems, and completely overhauling the channel flow isn’t possible. Look for a PRM solution that can integrate with other software.
Not every channel has the same needs, so not every PRM technology offers the same functions. If you’re a hotel or resort booking rooms on your website as well as multiple third-party sites like Trivago and Hotels.com, you need technology to track bookings across all sites so no room ends up double-booked. Or, if you’re an auto parts manufacturer, you might be looking to implement an incentive program for your partners, but you have no means to track their progress or distribute rewards. Maybe you’re a manufacturer or SaaS company looking to get new training materials in the hands of your partners.
Keep in mind that what you do is just as important as what you need, as different industries can have the same needs with different means of getting to them.
Money is almost always an object. Consider what you need out of a PRM the most and the soonest, and if there are options to acquire additional modules later.
Also consider the price of licensing out to your partners. Does a solution charge per individual partner or do the prices go up incrementally (price per 50, price per 500)?
Then consider the internal and/or external resources that will be required to setup of your PRM out of the box and with any custom features.
PRM Platforms to consider
Some popular PRM technology solutions:
- Salesforce Cloud Partner Management
An online tool like Capterra can help you search PRM technologies and filter for the functions you’re looking for, and includes user reviews of these products.
Before you start comparing platforms on Capterra, identify the gaps in your current PRM strategy and prioritize what needs to be addressed first and what resources you can allot to adapting a new system.
PRM shouldn’t have to be stressful, and PRM platforms are made to consolidate and simplify the ways you work with your channel partners. If you’re spending less time tracking down information or making sure it gets to your partners, your entire channel can spend more time getting your product in the hands of your ideal end users.
A PRM platform organized your channel’s operations, especially when it comes to your channel marketing strategy. Here at ManoByte, we can help you create a more effective marketing strategy for your channel. Learn more about partner relationship management and building an indirect sales strategy in our eBook, Principles of Building an Indirect Sales Distribution Strategy.
Or, if you're ready to get started, let us know, and we can discuss your unique business goals and challenges.