Three Keys to Building a Partner Portal to Reduce Churn

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In my last blog post, I discussed how SaaS companies can leverage their channel partners to reduce customer acquisition costs. While CAC is certainly a great indicator of business growth, there’s another important SaaS metric that should be top-of-mind for virtually every senior executive, board member and investor. Churn. 

If you work in sales or marketing, there’s nothing more frustrating than spending a ton of time and money on acquiring a new customer only to see another one leave.

Can SaaS companies leverage channel partners to minimize churn, too? Absolutely.

According to one report, private SaaS companies experience a median churn rate of 8%. Not surprisingly, companies that sell their products predominantly online experience 3 times the churn of those that sell in the field. Moreover, the average churn rate for companies that rely on an inside sales model is slightly higher than those that rely on an outside sales model. Logical, right? It makes sense that companies that interact less with their customers would experience higher churn — precisely why more and more SaaS companies have come to rely heavily on channel partners, who are often seen as trusted advisors by the end consumer, to pedal their software.

In a recent Relayware survey of 150 channel partner organizations (resellers, value-added resellers, MSPs and system integrators), we asked, “What are the most important factors that contribute to your loyalty to a vendor?”

Somewhat surprisingly, “Short Response Times” and “Good Technical Support” were valued the most highly, while “Sales Training” and “MDF/Co-op” were less of a priority. The results of our survey suggest that partners are really looking for their vendors to provide better and faster support when and where they need it — ie. at the point of customer interaction.

Figure 1: What Drives Partner Loyalty? What are the most important factors that contribute to your company’s loyalty to a vendor?

Figure 1: What Drives Partner Loyalty?

What are the most important factors that contribute to your company’s loyalty to a vendor?

From our findings, it’s clear that channel partners are looking for more from their vendors. And since we know that selling through the channel will pay off in terms of reducing churn, it makes sense to invest more to make your channel partners happier and more successful.

But, where do you start? Providing partners with an online portal can give them the information they need up front to win more deals and automating renewals and setting alerts will ensure opportunities don’t fall through the cracks later on. Here are a few tips to get started:

Make it Mobile

Provide your partners with the tools they need to quickly access product and pricing information when they’re in front of customers. With more resellers transitioning from pure resellers to value-added partners, they’re representing a wider portfolio of solutions. As such, there’s more for each reseller to remember from a feature/function perspective, pricing, competitive positioning, etc.

Make sure your partners have mobile access to the information they need to sell your product. Doing so will minimize unnecessary follow up. Customers expect immediate answers, so make it happen before your competitors do. It doesn’t have to be an overly sophisticated native mobile app. Sometimes just ensuring your portal is responsive and mobile optimized delivers 80% of the value for 20% of the effort.

Make it Collaborative

As noted above, short response times and good technical support are the first and second drivers of partner loyalty. So providing a system for partners to troubleshoot and address customer issues on-site is a must for vendors. But, such interaction doesn’t have to just be between a partner and a vendor. A growing number of vendors are enabling partner-partner collaboration as well. Partners want to communicate with each other – not just the supplier – especially when it can help win a deal or address a customer issue quickly.

Make it Automated

The reality is that a customer’s decision to leave often times has little to do with the vendor. Sometimes it’s a lack of organizational readiness, or it could be that the original sponsors are shuffled into new roles or leave the company. Whatever the reason, the onus falls on the vendor to alert the partner that a renewal is coming and that communications need to be stepped up. Time-driven alerts should be built into any partner system in order to automate the renewal process and ensure opportunities don’t fall through the cracks.

For vendors that incorporate these strategies, they not only stand to benefit from reduced churn, but they also reduce much of the hands-on interaction often required of vendor-partner relationships, ultimately freeing up time for vendors to focus on higher value partner touch points down the road.

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