The experience a partner has with a vendor can be multifaceted: informative and beneficial or confusing and unsatisfying. Everything a partner experiences makes up the partner journey. Think about it: When your partners set out to do anything with your program, what is their experience? What is the process? Do they walk away with an understanding of what the benefit is to them? Are they able to accomplish their goals?

I recently interviewed several partners about resources their vendors provide for them. When I asked why they launched more business with a specific vendor over another, their answer inevitably was either, “My channel account manager navigates the process for me,” or, “Their portal is much easier to navigate and find what I need.”  Those are telling statements: Your company could have a superior product, more market share and a more robust channel team, but if your portal is difficult to navigate you’re getting less partner engagement than your competition.

Defining the Partner Journey

Whatever channel partners set out to do—whether it’s join your partner program, find something on the portal, customize content or send an email from your marketing automation tool—each and every experience they have can be defined as a journey. As you think of your partners’ journey, there are several questions to consider: If you weren’t the architect behind many of their programs, would you know how to navigate? As you make your way through your resources, do they make sense? Are they what partners want? Are they going to help partners build their business? Whether their journey is a good experience or a challenge is entirely up to you and your process for their journey.

Is a Challenging Partner Journey a Bad Thing?

Some of you may be thinking, “So what? If my partners want my resources or want to work with us, they’ll jump through our hoops.” While partners may not stomp their feet or stop doing business with you, a difficult partner journey can make an impact.

Think of your own experience: When registering for something or eating at a nice restaurant, if the process is more difficult than it should be, are you running back to do business with them again? I’m certainly not. I’ve gone so far as to not lease the same brand of car to avoid working with a difficult service department.

Creating a Successful Partner Journey

As with everything in life, one size does not fit all when it comes to the partner jourey. However, you should start by asking your partners what they need. There’s nothing worse than creating a program in a bubble and then proudly showing your partners the shiny new program you made, only to be shot down with dirty looks because it doesn’t support their business at all. Show you understand their business by asking them before you create something.

The next step—which probably is going to be the most challenging—is to take an objective look at the process.  Envision yourself standing at the base of a trail. Does the journey look like it’s going to be straightforward and teach you things along the way, or are you looking at the start of the Labyrinth movie and David Bowie is laughing at you try to navigate your way? (Did I just date myself?)

Ask your peers! Regardless of whether they’ve been through the process, they can act as a partner would and try to navigate their way. Do they get lost? Do they see the value?

Finally, and most importantly, ask your partners! Not just your advisory board—ask an everyday, mom-and-pop, working-out-of-the garage partner to navigate your process. Is the partner getting what it needs? If not, you need to reassess.

How do you think your partner journey looks today? Anything you’d like to share on the process?

Contributing blogger Heather K. Margolis, the Channel Maven, has led channel programs for major IT companies.