Vendor engagement with the IT channel has failed to evolve beyond the 1990s partner portal. So says Richard Rodriguez, founder and CEO of partner engagement platform KickPost.

Rodriguez believes vendors are failing to keep pace with modern communication methods like social media and messaging platforms. He describes traditional vendor portals as “ineffective, outdated and not efficient for your partners.”

KickPost's Richard Rodriguez

KickPost’s Richard Rodriguez

“The channel has a default mindset or checklist that says a portal is a standard for partner management,” he said.

“Channel teams point to the fact that their competitors have one, so ‘we must have one too.’ It’s a ‘follow the leader’ mentality. But they often don’t stop to check it if is being used. If so, how much is it being used, who is using it and what are they using it for?”

Rodriguez points to the vendor portal adoption rate industrywide being just 17%.

Reliance on the Partner Portal

Rodriguez also believes a reliance on partner portals affects both vendors and partners negatively.

For vendors, he says there is information never even seen by their partners. Additionally, information can be delayed getting to partners and often outdated when it does reach them. Indeed, Rodriguez maintains that vendors might spend more time trying to deliver information than engaging on sales-generating activities.

Conversely, he argues it’s not efficient for partners to get information from many vendors from many different sources and formats.

“Companies tend to forget that their channel partners are their customers and tend to think about them as employees. They forget these customers have hundreds of vendors to work with every day,” said Rodriguez.

“The No. 1 rule for partner engagement is to make it easy for your partners to do business with you. The easier it is to do business with your brand, the more sales you’ll generate throughout your channels.”

Additionally, Rodriguez says channel management is evolving, not only because of external forces like COVID-19, but because of structural changes. He cites “the explosion of marketplaces, and partners that now include influencers, affiliates and MSPs, in addition to traditional distributors and VARs.”

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The CEO argues in favor of doing away with the branded domain portals “that plague” channel partners.

“The best ideas for most business to business innovation often start with our personal lives,” he said. “Taking the benefits that aggregators, social media platforms and apps have created for our personal lives and applying them to our channels — this provides us a road map for making partner management more flexible, easy and scalable.”