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What you need to manage subscription business partnerships_Header
Business Strategy8 min read

What you need to manage subscription business partnerships

Partner strategies for subscription-based businesses | Part three



artnerships in subscription businesses, much like customer relationships, are about building and nurturing long-term, valuable relationships that evolve through the use of data and ongoing communications.

Partnership strategies can be an important tool in subscription businesses for acquiring new customers quickly and efficiently, particularly in a market sector that you might not otherwise have easy access to.

Across the board, subscription businesses hinge on their efficiency at maintaining relationships with multiple stakeholders. Therefore, it's essential that partnerships are managed well in order to sustainably:

  • Maximize each partnership opportunity

  • Maintain and grow beneficial relationships

  • Continuously build your partner network to scale your business

  • Create multiple sales channels for primary products

  • Support and extend existing sales personnel with offers to all corners of the market

  • Increase the reach of the product and the company's overall revenue and growth

Having previously discussed the path to digitizing your partner channels and how you can optimize partner strategies in subscription businesses, in this article we wanted to look at what you need, in order to manage partnerships well in subscription businesses.

What you need for successful partner management

Strong partner management is about three things: listening, learning, streamlining and evolving, all with a view to sustainable growth, sustainable revenue streams and long-term business success. To achieve these things, it's a question of having the right strategy, systems and processes in place to gather the data, analyze it, turn it into meaningful actions, maintain communications, make things easy for partners and to provide them with a sense of autonomy as well.

Key elements in the process for partner management include the following:


A unified monetization ecosystem for all partners

Most subscription businesses that engage with a partner strategy will ultimately seek to have multiple partnerships that need to be managed equally well. Having a single, unified ecosystem that fulfills both commerce and finance requirements is a key ingredient in maintaining positive relationships.

Having lots of partners with different products and in different regions, with different types of partnership (reseller, referral, white label), can be challenging to handle. However, ensuring seamless experiences in the sales process and financial management are essential for the health of your business and the success of the partnership.

Handling different partnerships in different systems is a recipe for problems. However, bringing all partners into one monetization ecosystem means you can effectively manage all processes and drive efforts toward increasing the lifetime value of your partnerships using a single solution.


Meticulously defined incentive structures

Partner strategies run on incentives. The type of incentive and the way it's executed informs the level of business that your partners will bring to you.

It's important for subscription businesses to constantly empower their partners in order to keep them motivated. To do that well, means creating a unique and personalized incentive program for each partner, relative to their size and the particulars of their market, to help enhance sales and expand your market reach.

Having an infrastructure that will support such personalization and customization is a powerful tool to meet those objectives.


Transparent relationships enabled by a self-care portal for partners

As with any relationship, much of the success around a partnership strategy hinges on trust. For that, a sense of inclusion, feeling valued and transparency is important.

A self-care portal gives partners a sense of autonomy and enables transparency. Partners can feel a genuine connection with your organization and know that they are being paid and valued appropriately.

In doing this, you maintain contact and can uplift partner involvement as required. Meanwhile, partners have the support they need to execute their side of the relationship well, including access to the information and resources they require to close more sales and achieve greater profits.

From the business perspective, a partner portal enables continuous partner engagement. Through the digital touch points with partners, businesses have better insights to the partner sales process and the performance of incentives and discount campaigns. These help with further improving the end-customer experience and partner relationships.



Challenges to managing partner relationships

As with all things, there are challenges in managing partner relationships. If those are not addressed during the set-up process then they only become more onerous to the long-term success of the programme as your partnership strategy grows.

Through working with subscription businesses, we have identified some of most prominent challenges as follows:


Misaligned partnerships and loss of control of the business process
For partnerships to work well there needs to be synergy between the two businesses, how they work and what their objectives are. In short, it's about collaboration. While some of that is about working culture and product/service alignment, much is to do with systems and processes as well.

This is important for efficiency, but it's also important for consistency of experience both for partners and end customers. If systems are scattered, then things like launching new campaigns and aligning with partners on strategy, brand experience and customer journeys, all take longer and are likely to become clunky.

For example, you might want to give all your premium partners in North America the ability to offer a 10% discount if end customers purchase a specific add-on and commit to a two-year term. The process needs to include areas such as:

  • Segmenting partners

  • Differentiating product dependencies

  • Automating the discount rules for the customer journey

  • Reporting the results

While all of that includes strategic planning and execution, it shouldn't be complex for the partners themselves to use as that will disincentivize them. For them, it should be an easy and seamless user experience.


Digital strategies fall short
Just as the customer experience is important, so is the partner experience. Partners are integral to generating revenue and they therefore need a seamless and simplified experience when accessing what they need, from product information to billing. If it's overly complicated to manage payouts for example, they will engage less with your incentives and promote less of your product to their customers.

Billing systems are an important part of the partner management process and typically legacy billing systems were not created with a digital-first mindset that enables good user experiences (in this case for partners). Creating a billing structure that supports your partners and your relationships with them starts with asking the right questions:

  • What products do we want to sell?

  • What kind of experience do we want to offer partners and end customers?

  • Where could the challenges arise in that process for our partners?



Solutions for successful partner management

The solutions for successful partnership management lie in the planning. That isn't to say that existing partnership strategies cannot transition to new systems and processes in order to improve their business outcomes. It means that considering the end-to-end experience for you, your partner and your end customer is the best way to create the solutions you need to meet your commercial objectives in both the short- and long-term.

At keylight, we have created our partner portal with the partner experience front of mind, and have used that as the driver to meet your business goals. Key components within that include the following


Flexible architecture

Flexible architecture means that you can simultaneously customize incentives and offerings, adapt to different partnership types, automate partner processes and maintain a clear vision, understanding and control over how, what, and where your partner sells for you. keylight is the only monetization ecosystem on the market offering an out-of-the-box partner portal. This connectivity allows you to integrate all and any partners into the core business and manage the success of relationships seamlessly.


Integrated partner experiences

We have mentioned the importance of ease of use and integrating your partners into one unified system to maintain communications and provide support that keeps partners motivated. With keylight, experience is built into the platform, so you can:

  • Interact and onboard partners with new incentives and product updates

  • Guided-selling for complex quotes

  • Sales and financial processes can be easily automated with speed

  • Provide a designed framework so partners can start selling right away in line with your preferred customer journey

  • Keep partners motivated thanks to frictionless implementation of sales campaigns

  • Enable more sales as partners have more time to focus on end-customers


End-to-end automation

While billing might not be the starting point for designing your systems, it is an essential element for user experience, partner experience and your business. keylight allows you to streamline processes along the customer journey and simplifies subscription management and billing for partners.


Automated partner invoicing and payouts

Staying abreast of invoicing and payouts is essential for cash flow management as well as maintaining good relationships between your business, partners and end-customers. With keylight you can automate these processes, as well as manage end-customer contracts. The system removes all manual work, speeds up approvals, and removes billing complexity by using a unified data model for the entire monetization ecosystem.


Predictive analytics

Much like customer experiences, it allows you to gain deep insights that facilitate better relationships and encourage growth, both for you and partner-end customer relationships using the right metrics for reports. With keylight's partner portal you can optimize revenue potential for core business development and evaluate partnerships to ensure they work well.

To maintain a long-term digital partner relationship, all partners have to be integrated into the core of the subscription ecosystem with a seamless and unwavering digital experience. keylight creates the infrastructure for you to maximize the potential of your partner strategies, for better business outcomes as well as better customer experiences.




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