Blog Post

Navigating Partner Education: What Should It Look Like?

Shannon Howard
October 26, 2023
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Channel partners. Resellers. Network partners. There are a variety of forms partner programs take, but the goal is often the same: Scale the sales, implementation, support, and delivery of a product or service. 

A 2022 report from HubSpot found that 93% of enterprise organizations and 78% of all organizations have a partner program.

Yet our State of Education Initiative Ownership report found that only 33% of companies have a partner education function. 

"Partners are a weird group to train," shared Esper Chawah, Training & Education Consultant. "They get squished between customer and employee training, but they're kind of a hybrid of both." 

Which begs the question: What should partner education look like?

We recently hosted a Roundtable discussion on partner education and had a chance to learn how different companies are approaching partner education. Here's what people shared:

Take a Multi-Modal Approach to Training

There is no one-size-fits-all model for partner education. What you do and how you do it depends on your business goals, who your partners are, your team's capabilities, and training needs. 

Leverage eLearning and Certifications to Train at Scale 

One attendee has an ecosystem of 1,500 partners, including six partner types and 13 different roles. 

On a scale of that magnitude, it’s just not possible to deliver all the content through live training, regardless of whether it’s group or 1:1 sessions.

To create scalable partner training, this company leans heavily on eLearning and certifications in their academy (built on Intellum, yay!) to deliver the majority of their content. Live training is used to augment the on-demand offerings. 

Not for nothing, the data backs up this approach. Our 2022 survey of more than 500 education leaders found that companies that had formalized, curriculum-based education programs produced better results than those that took more ad hoc approaches to education.

Live Training

Just because you’re focused primarily on eLearning for scale doesn’t mean there’s no room for live training. The same company above found that partners preferred the live training over eLearning. This could be because of the social learning aspect; people love to learn together and bounce ideas off each other. It creates a feeling of “we’re in this together.” 

It could also be because of more nuanced questions or applications. Most eLearning or training content uses the 80% rule: What content applies to 80% of use cases? There will always be exceptions for customers or partners who do things a little differently—and live training can help those people. 

Instructor-led training (whether live or virtual) can also support more complex products and elements like virtual labs. 

Consider Cohort-Based Learning for Partner Onboarding 

Cohort-based learning can be a great tool for onboarding. Not only do partners get to learn together, but they get to build a community that supports their business at the same time.

Kevin Dunn, Senior Manager at HubSpot Academy, shared a bit about HubSpot’s agency partner training program (which serves more than 6,000 partners). “Live training is cohort-based,” Kevin shared. “Partners get to role play, apply, and learn together, which is super valuable.”

Partners go through HubSpot Academy bootcamps, which are 6-week-long, cohort-based learning experiences that combine on-demand learning from HubSpot Academy with live training and community components.

Co-Create with Partners

How do you help partners see what things look like in application? Case studies with other partners can be a great tactic.

Join forces with your partners to share their stories and experiences. Use scenarios and case studies to highlight what an implementation or sale might look like. This helps current partners build confidence and their personal brand, and helps new partners get an insider perspective on what they might encounter as a partner for your company.

Multipurpose Education Content

With partners being in that space between employee and customer education, it's very likely some of what you create for customers and employees will also apply to partners. 

Taking a modular approach to content development can help you create and "mix and match" content—allowing you to educate multiple audiences with the same content, albeit in different combinations.

If you’re taking that multimodal approach, you can leverage smaller eLearning components that are relevant across audiences with live training sessions or community conversations tailored more to your partner audience.

Verify Learning Leads to Outcomes

Your partner network is an extension of your business—meaning their performance reflects on your company brand. So, how do you ensure partners have the knowledge and skills needed to do a great job? 

Some programs represented in our discussion use certifications and assessments to ensure partners are well-trained. Others require proof of learning or skills, such as an assignment based on a case study or upload of a practice project. Still others use platforms like CloudShare and Strigo to offer virtual labs to prove hands-on technical competency. 

How you verify learning will depend on the learning outcomes you need to see from your partners—but making sure they’re well-trained should be a priority for your partner education team!

Need help educating multiple audiences?

It’s what Intellum was built for. Our platform supports the segmented and personalized delivery of content to learners across audiences—whether employees, customers, and/or partners. If you’re looking for a platform that can scale delivery and reporting to thousands of learners, let’s connect. 

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About the Author

Shannon Howard Speaker Headshot
Shannon Howard
Director of Content & Customer Marketing
Shannon Howard is an experienced Customer Marketer who’s had the unique experience of building an LMS, implementing and managing learning management platforms, creating curriculum and education strategy, and marketing customer education. She loves to share Customer Education best practices from this blended perspective.