Is it time the channel created their own partner portals?

Partner Portals have always typically been driven (and paid for) by vendors. But the question was raised recently if that’s all about to change.

I suggested we might start to see channel partners and distributors creating their own portals.

“They will contract and create their own portals, aggregating/syndicating in vendors they want. Everything in one place. Imagine a single point of entry where partners get to manage all the vendors they want, without having to go to 10, 20, 30, 50 different vendor spaces? Increased partner engagement and improved PX? Extended marketplaces and ecosystems?” he proposed on LinkedIn.

The suggestion was greeted with mixed opinions. In fact, a poll that I posted as to how likely it was that this would happen, saw ‘Not Very likely’ came out on top with 49 percent. However, the combination of ‘Likely’ and ‘Very Likely’ make up the remainder of the votes, making it almost an even split.

Ashley Speight co-founder of channel software firm Channelyze agreed that partner-led portals were the way forward.

“It’s very quickly turning into a partner lead market as opposed to vendor lead. The partners choose who they work with because of the vast amount of vendors on the scene now. The market is flooded with ‘me too’ solutions to the partners have choice now rather than the vendors pushing solutions on the partners. Partners are the ones in control now and should thus take control of their portals,” he noted.

Rick van den Bosch, founder & CEO at channel SaaS vendor Channext agreed that if vendors want to put the Partner Experience [PX] first, “there is no other option than to provide everything in one place.”

However, he said he doubted whether partners and disties can take the lead as their resources for projects like these are little compared to the vendors.

The solution, according to Ashley is to “Give the partner very little work to do in their portal where it’s all laid out for them and it’s a no brainer for them.”

He argued that the onus is on the vendor to setup the content, collateral, campaigns and price lists – but the partner owns their own portal. They manage their users from their side and the vendor has no visibility of the partner side of the tool.

“The traditional portals just can’t do it because they are stuck in the past of the vendor owning everything and the partners having to go from website to website to website.”

Both Forrester’s Jay McBain and former IDC analyst Margaret Adam were sceptical of the viability of the idea. But Margaret believes there are “two things could shake things up”.

The first is partner-IP, “when partners really start to look to scale and transact their own software IP, the appeal of a marketplace becomes more attractive.

“The second is partner locators. Most, if not all, partner locators are awful. They are too localised, static, don’t explain to the customer why they should work with a partner and what that partner’s USP is. Customers don’t care about tiers and certs, they care about references, experience, talent, pricing. An awesome, vendor neutral, partner directory that allows for collaboration, community discussion, direct engagement and even some transactions would be a game-changer.”

It all comes down to timing. “Many outdated channel behaviours are only just coming to notice and seeing change. [The] pandemic has seen to that.”

So maybe the time is right for partners to take the bull by the horns and establish their own partner portal, tailored to how they want to work, and how they want to engage with vendors. In the era of partner experience, the smart vendor should see the way the wind is blowing and let – at least their most valued – partners do things their way.

What do you think? Check out the discussion, with more opinions on the topic, on LinkedIn.

Glenn Robertson

Glenn Robertson

CEO of The Channel Agency: Purechannels
Founder of Nuzoo and Viewpoint | Channel Chief | Agency Leader | CRN A-Lister