Jay McBain

With the influx of new channel partner types across the ecosystem, moving them quickly and efficiently from recruitment to productivity relies on automated and scalable onboarding technology. Channel leaders can overwhelm new channel partners with too much information that is not relevant to their role or focus.

The unfortunate, and too frequent, result is a channel that doesn’t get properly trained and doesn’t engage fully in a program.

Channel onboarding, or extended enterprise learning, is the business investment that focuses on educating, training, and certifying partners to be proficient in the products, sales, marketing, and programs from a vendor.

Channel onboarding is an extension of learning management system functionality and aims to personalize education and training by partner type, user role, region, tier, or domain. Because of the growth of channel ecosystems, it must support automated workflows, self-guided user experience, scalable notifications, and high degrees of customization and flexibility.

Modern onboarding platforms are experimenting with AI, machine learning, predictive and prescriptive learning paths, and gamification. Users must be able to utilize searchable content that is both assigned and discovered.

Firms with the right mix, personalization, and automated level of onboarding will:

  • Improve revenue and profit from channels. Channels amplify business at lower operating costs. Measuring channel growth and attributing cause and effect are difficult. Better-educated partners will outperform less engaged ones.
  • Expand the breadth and depth of partner relationships. Investing in onboarding and extended learning initiatives aligns company values with the partner journey. This long approach means investing in partners’ skills as if they are internal employees. A study found that short approaches drove lower partner lifetime value than onboarding.
  • Increase mindshare and loyalty of partners. Managing today’s channel requires effective handoffs between recruitment, onboarding, short- and long-term incentives, co-selling, and co-marketing. Building expertise and loyalty among current partners while targeting and recruiting next-generation partners takes careful budgeting and finesse.

When looking at the technology that drives onboarding, channel leaders must align individual vendor solutions to their organization’s needs.

Channel leaders should evaluate vendors based on their organization’s specific goals and needs — such as the level of personalization, customization, and automation required. They can then determine what kind of learning paths would be the most effective (e.g., mandatory/voluntary training, assessments, surveys, testing, certifications, and online/offline training coordination).

Another consideration is whether the platform supports billing/eCommerce for global currency and tax systems, volume pricing, subscriptions, discounts, promotions, and external payment gateways. Does your onboarding strategy involve support for assigned content versus discovered content (e.g., navigational functions, searchable catalogs, filters, tags, categories, authors, ratings, reviews, and social recommendations)?

Forrester takes a deeper dive into channel onboarding, including the top 30 vendors, in the research report, “Now Tech: Channel Onboarding, Q4 2019.”