The term “portal” does not cause hearts to skip a beat. Almost two decades of boring, barely-functional portals have done immeasurable harm to the term; their intended audiences ignore them, and the people who manage them see them as busy work.

But if you sell through indirect channels, the portal is the key to growing and boosting the productivity of your channel program. If it’s being developed and nurtured the right way, it can be a one-stop self-service site that answers partners questions about marketing, training, technical support and more.

That’s not just a nice convenience for partners. It can reduce your channel support costs dramatically -- and it can give you a serious leg up over your competitors, allowing you to grab greater wallet-share by making you easier to work with than those with plodding portals.

How do you re-energize your thinking about your portal? Break it into stages. First, ensure that you have the basics covered. Next, personalize what your partners see. Finally, make it a go-to site for your partners.

That sounds daunting -- but it really isn’t.

Cover the Basics

Covering the basics is really table stakes for running a partner program. The basics include on-boarding, enablement and training, marketing, deal registration, delivery and support. Many companies are lacking in some of these areas; handling them while re-thinking the portal allows you to kill two birds with one stone.

There are some other basic aspects to consider, too.

Is your portal hard to look at? Fix it. Just because it’s a portal doesn’t mean it has a license to look ugly. You’re competing for your partners’ limited attention; if you make their experience unpleasant or come across as amateurish, they’ll spend their attention elsewhere.

Do you hand out new passwords for different functionality, so partners have to manage several passwords? Figure out a way to provide a single sign-on. If partners can’t manage passwords, the best you can hope for is a ton of calls to your IT department asking for password help, which is expensive for your company. The worst is that IT’s phone is silent -- that means your partners are using a competitor’s portal instead.