What is PRM Software?
Partner Relationship Management (PRM) Software is a category of software tools that aid business leaders in managing partner ecosystems and tracking the value created by their partnerships.
If you’re using a software product to keep track of who your partners are, when you communicate with them, how they learn about your products and strategies, and when they influence your business, you are using PRM Software.
PRM Software Features
The PRM System should be your single source of truth about who your partners are and what you know about them. Partner profiles are a common feature of such software where you can drill down to a specific individual partner company and view a summary of all the information you know about them.
Partner profiles can be quite robust and include information of many types: Firmographic information tells you about revenue size, employee count, and industry; People data gives you a listing of who your contacts are on their partnerships team and which of their team members interacted with you in what ways; Activity history lets you know the qualitative and quantitative history of times when the partner has referred leads, registered opportunities, or data collaboration events.
Most PRMs don’t just give your team places to go -- they also provide a location where your partners themselves can log in, communicate with you, and download information that helps them be more effective in partnering with you.
This is also an area where the key behavior of “deal registration” or “lead registration” takes place. This is the process by which partners submit information on companies that they have referred to you or they are working with and recommending or implementing your products. Registration is critical to the measurement, attribution, and economics of an incentive-based partner program, so the ability to do this as smoothly as possible is absolutely critical.
In some cases, this same “partner portal” data can also power public websites or directories of who is in your partner ecosystem.
Roles and User Privileges
The data in your PRM system may be very sensitive, and it’s entirely possible that you will have many team members with access to the platform. Your partners may even have a limited scope of access themselves as a way to enable collaboration.
In order to facilitate this wide variety of use cases while still keeping data secure, your PRM software must offer a robust and flexible system for creating users, defining roles for those users, and assigning specific rights and privileges to those roles. While this may seem like table stakes for modern software, it is especially critical for the use cases in PRM.
Partner Marketing Automation
Many PRM systems offer tools that will actually automate how and when you communicate with your partners. Much like your regular marketing automation system can send personalized emails to large lists, attach content and track when it is opened, and even set up drip campaigns to reach back out on an automated basis, these same features can be incorporated into PRM systems to ensure that your communication with partners is high quality and consistent. Especially as your partner ecosystem size grows to a point that it can’t be managed in inboxes and spreadsheets, this functionality becomes more and more important.
The various registrations, activities, and attributions that happen in the context of your PRM software end up generating an extremely valuable thing: Data. Because the data lives natively in this PRM, it is only logical that it is also used to report on the performance and results generated by your various partners.
These performance management features can come in the form of raw lists of partner-influenced activity (leads, opportunities, deals, etc). It can also take the form of summary charts and dashboards that stack rank your partners against one another over time to show who is actually generating the most meaningful business activity for your company.
Evaluate this functionality wisely. In the modern era of APIs and data portability, it is critical that this information can also be exported to business intelligence systems and other third-party platforms where it might be used as part of a more holistic picture of how your business is performing. If your data is locked into a platform, your ability to tell your story is held back.
Data Integrations and APIs
What may have seemed like a “nice to have” ten years ago has become an absolute necessity in modern PRM. Your partner-influenced activity has an impact on countless other systems in your organization, and any good PRM will allow you to incorporate partner activity into these workflows.
Whether it’s pulling content from your document management system, tracking expenses for reimbursements or marketing funds, synchronizing calendars, or coordinating contract signatures, data should be able to flow in and out of your PRM in a way that makes all the gears turn in sync and your business run smoothly.
Types of PRM Software
To many people, PRM just sounds like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) with a different data set. While there is some nuance in the use cases, they’re not entirely wrong. Much of the interfaces, workflows, and data integrations end up being very similar.
As a result, many leading CRM systems also have PRM offerings that heavily borrow from the functionality of their CRM offerings. If you have a team that is already very familiar with the experience of using a certain CRM, this could be a viable path.
The downside is that these tools were not built for the Partnerships use case and are not the core focus of the companies that build them. This means that functionality often requires more customization to work well, and the off-the-shelf use case may not be as appealing or feature-rich.
You should check with your existing CRM provider to see if they offer a PRM solution and evaluate it against the features and functionality listed here.
Dedicated PRM Tools
There are a number of companies whose core focus is building software specifically for the PRM use case. These are easy to find in analyst reports or google searches, and the advantages of using them are that they are squarely focused on your partnership-centric use case.
The main risks with working with PRM systems is that the market is not extremely large, and as a result there has not been a large amount of investment in making these tools modern, competitive, and sleek in the way that many SaaS platforms have become. This may or may not matter to your team, but brace yourself for looking at some previous-generation user experiences if you plan to evaluate several vendors in the space.
There is a wave of new tools like Crossbeam that are offering interesting substitutes or complements to traditional PRM offerings. These providers are focused on data collaboration, and offer a data-first approach to working with partners and quantifying their value.
By acting as a data escrow service, Crossbeam allows partner companies to securely connect raw data like customer lists, sales pipelines, and high value targets to their system. Once connected, partner companies can set up rules that allow their data sets to be combined and analyzed without ever needing to expose raw data to the other party. This can allow for deep insights into customer overlap, sales pipeline relevancy, and market size without worrying about your sensitive data leaking into the wrong hands.
If you discover an area that might be worth a deeper collaboration, such as a large population of companies that you and a partner are both targeting at the same time or shared customers that might benefit from a technology integration, Crossbeam allows you to set up specific data sharing rules that expose details about who is in those overlapping populations while keeping the rest of the non-overlapping data private and secure.
The phrase “PRM Software” can generate mixed reactions depending on your company. Some people associate the category with antiquated tools that haven’t been updated to reflect modern best practices in cloud software. Others see it as critical infrastructure for driving revenue in partnerships, alliances, and channel sales.
Regardless of what tools and tactics you put into the bucket, the category of PRM Software isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the innovations in the area of partnership software are just starting to get exciting.