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Best Practices for Developing a Partner Advisory Board

Best Practices for Developing a Partner Advisory Board

Sharing Insights, Building Strategy

From the supply chain to direct sales, partners play a critical role in an organization’s success. They also have invaluable insights and opinions that can help grow the business, benefiting everyone. It begins by treating them as true partners—not just vendors. If you’re looking to get more from your partner program in 2023, consider setting up a Partner Advisory Board. Establishing a Partner Advisory Board (PAB), sometimes also known as Partner Advisory Council, demonstrates your commitment and provides a platform for your top players to share knowledge.

In this blog, we’ll share our best practices for developing a PAB. But first, a brief introduction to the concept.

What is a Partner Advisory Board, and why do you need one?

The simplest explanation is the name itself: an advisory board composed of your most strategic channel partners. The objective: create a forum for sharing and exploring strategies that can drive joint revenue growth and boost profitability.

This is not an executive board or governing body; a Partner Advisory Board is a conduit for conversation.

Building your PAB will require some time and budgetary commitments, but the potential return on investment is tremendous. This is your opportunity to shore up relationships with valued partners while ensuring your mutual goals and objectives are aligned. It gives internal leadership insights into partnerships outside of their immediate purview. Plus, it can increase an organization’s credibility in the marketplace and with investors.

Partner Advisory Board Benefits:

  • Gain insights into business blind spots
  • Get candid feedback from partners
  • Identify collaboration opportunities
  • Ensure alignment between organizations
  • Expose internal leadership to key partners
  • Share company strategy, product roadmap, and business models

Partner Advisory Board Development Best Practices

As with any program, building a PAB begins with asking: What’s our vision for this project? What do we hope to accomplish? Your organization’s goals will likely focus on building and expanding business. Don’t forget to incorporate the needs of your partners as well.

Here are our best practices for planning and developing a Partner Advisory Board:

  • Codify the purpose of your PAB. Develop a written mission statement clearly summarizing the goals of your program. Ask a few trusted partners to provide feedback.
  • Identify internal ownership. Clearly define which department will own the program, including fiscal responsibility. Channel leadership should have full or partial ownership. Marketing is often tapped to be a co-owner of PABs.
  • Define the partners you want to be involved with. Develop criteria to guide your selection process. Your top performers are natural invites but don’t ignore emerging partners that might have a lot to offer as well.
  • Rotate membership annually. Don’t limit yourself or your PAB to one set of members. Ask for a 1-year commitment, then roll off partners to make room for new voices.

Partner Advisory Board Guiding Principles:

  • Partner sessions will be a balance of sharing and listening
  • Sessions will reflect the interests and needs of all participants
  • The host company will commit to following up on action items

Planning a Successful Partner Advisory Board Event

Now that you have the foundation in place, it’s time to plan your PAB event. The primary goals of any PAB event should be to listen, learn, and share.

Quarterly PAB Check-Ins

Ideally, you will have four quarterly check-ins per group rotation. If your partners are close, consider hosting in-person meetings with an online option. Virtual meetings also work well. The most important thing is to provide an opportunity to interact with your PAB members.

TIP: Consider establishing a separate PAB track for your GSI (third-party) vendors. They may have different goals than other partners.

Annual PAB Event

At some point during the year, plan to host a multi-day, in-person event combining formal sessions, networking, and social events. Hire a consultant to develop your session tracks. This will remove your internal bias, ensuring the event is focused on topics of interest to your top partners.

Plan to send a “Save the Date” invites early. Additional details, including the agenda and speaker bios, can be sent closer to the date.

Here are our best practices for planning a successful in-person event:

  • Make it a multi-day event. Start with an evening reception the night before the event. Plan for sessions on day 2, followed by something social in the evening. Wrap-up with a half-day of sessions on day 3, freeing partners to travel home in the afternoon/evening.
  • Keep the crowd size low. The ideal number of people is 10-25 individuals. Restrict partners to one attendee per organization and limit internal attendees.
  • Be specific about who should attend. The target audience for this event is high-level, senior people. Be transparent with partners when discussing the invitation.
  • Don’t invite CAMs to daytime events. Ask your channel team to sit out the sessions. This will create a more open environment for discussion. Do invite them to social events and networking opportunities.
  • Outsource notetaking duties. Hire an outside party to take notes during the session. This will remove potential bias and free workers to focus on the sessions. You might consider video recording the sessions, too.

Consider the full experience as much as the content.

Find Ways to Elevate the Experience

Your partners are gifting you with their time and insights. Reward them with the VIP treatment they deserve.

  • Accommodate travel. Consider paying travel and/or hotel expenses (if possible) and either picking them up at the airport or hiring a car service to take them to the hotel.
  • Prepare far ahead of time. Treat attendees to a nice meal at a great restaurant and make your reservation several months in advance; large parties can be difficult to seat on short notice. Meals are not just sustenance to keep the energy up; these are also moments to engage on a more personal level and build long-lasting relationships.
  • Create moments that matter. Sharing memorable experiences not only makes it easier to bond, but it makes the experience fun! Show your appreciation by adding a fun activity or experience if time allows. This could be a group walk before work, visiting a popular attraction, or dinner with a view. Follow up the event with a handwritten thank you card.

Building Post-Event Success

The total time you spend meeting with your PAB members will be minimal. The potential return on your financial and time investments is tremendous, however. Don’t wait until the end of the PAB cycle to review comments and apply the lessons. Analyze feedback as it comes in each quarter and use it to inform business plans—finally, share updates with your PAB. Let them know how their feedback and suggestions are being used. This will show them that they truly are valued partners—an important goal for any PAB.

As you consider building your own PAB, Bridge Partners has the resources to help design and execute full-scale plans of action. In the meantime, here are some more articles to inspire how you can amplify your partner program in 2023:

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About Bridge Partners

Bridge Partners works with the world’s largest and most innovative tech and cloud companies to unlock billions in revenue. We know sales, marketing, and channel deeply, inside and out. Some organizations specialize in strategy, others in execution. We bridge the gaps between management consulting, marketing agencies, and point solution providers. Founded in Seattle in 2007, Bridge Partners has been recognized as a growth leader and as an employer of choice for top industry talent, subject matter expertise, and professionals at every stage of their careers.

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Pat Carroll

Pat Carroll

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