The Plight Of Partner Portals


Is there a partner portal out there that the channel
actually uses to the degree the manufacturers who
produced it would like? If there is, I haven’t seen or
heard about it yet.

We are well past a decade of investment in partner
portals, and the only thing we have to show for it is a neverending
expansion of information that is hard to find, largely
useless and, were it not for deal registration on the sites, would
be hardly ever visited.

Deal registration, which may have been originally launched
with good intentions, has become
nothing more than a forecasting tool
for vendors -- partners know it and the
suppliers know it. Sure it was originally
launched to help partners get special
pricing on competitive bids. This came
as a result of vendors finally figuring
out that when they gave special pricing
to partners in competitive bids, they
were often competing against other
partners that were bidding the same
manufacturer’s product. So in the end,
the supplier was bidding against itself,
and everyone’s margin was tanking.
The only winner was the end user.

I’m not arguing that partner portals
are useless; I’m arguing they are mostly
useless. Just because a manufacturer
spends a lot of money on something doesn’t mean it can accomplish
what it’s designed to do. So after spending millions
creating and managing these partner portals, and building support
staffs to feed the monster, it’s unlikely we will see them
go away for a simple reason: They answer a question of where
to find information.

One big problem with portals moving forward is we are
moving down a path where increasingly information finds us
rather than us it.

The ideal portal should be constructed by the user and return
useful information, not clutter. There certainly are some interesting
developments happening on the Web that are enabling
us to have what we need delivered to us. I’m not referring to
social media and other such sites that say things like “We are
the Facebook of the channel,” or “We use the power of social
media to aggregate information on the portal.” I’m referring to
offerings like Flipboard and Zyte that are largely being written
in the publishing world and build customized offerings based
on what an information gatherer wants to see.

Portals could become more relevant to the partners they
are intended to support if they were
reconstructed from the ground up with
the user in mind. They should only provide
what the partner needs, not what
the manufacturer believes they want
or has a desire to put in front of them.

They also should be built with mobility
in mind and optimized for devices
other than PCs, such as tablets and
smartphones. Today, we all want the
information we need when we want it
and on the device that is most convenient
to us at that moment. It’s a tall
order but an increasingly necessary one.

In the end, high-tech suppliers will
continue to build out partner portals
and cram more information into them
every year because that’s what they do.

Partners, on the other hand, will continue to access the portals
in very narrow ways only because they are forced to. And they
will do so as infrequently as possible because that’s what they do.

I, however, will continue to have discussions with suppliers
who ask, “How do I get more traffic on my partner portal?”
Who said the partner portal is dead?

BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra
is CEO of UBM Channel. You can contact him via email
at robert.faletra@ubm.com.