Frequently Asked Questions
Chanimal Partner Portal – PRM FAQs
Chanimal Partner Portal – PRM FAQs
Who is the Chanimal PRM target customer?
The Chanimal Partner Portal was originally created for new partner programs (whether large multi-billion, or small start-up companies: anyone starting a new channel program)—and that is still the focus. However, the feature set grew over the last nine years to support established vendors with mature programs and thousands of existing partners… many requiring unique integration needs (or are trying to cut high PRM costs).
Most of the PRMs are like giant ERP systems (incredibly complex enterprise-level applications costing hundreds of thousands over time). The Chanimal PRM is like Quickbooks–it runs America’s small to medium-sized businesses.
I admit it was a reluctant project—created because I was building hundreds of partner programs (whether small or large) that all had to have a portal and systems, and NONE of the PRM vendors could help. I used one for a while, but they couldn’t make money with the smaller new program deals, so even they are now priced at over $40k per year for a comparable system—way too much to invest upfront for a start-up or any new program that hasn’t proven the company could even sell through partners.
It has also been used by clients who initially tried to create their own PRM (developers like to make stuff). But most of them turned out sloppy, there was little consistency (which partners need—think of a partner having to go into 20 separate partner portals with different interfaces… sounds like the DOS days!), and were seldom self-serve (so IT had to make the slightest change, and even add the content). Plus, the development team, or IT already had full-time jobs and this was usually a step-child product. So, it could take months for anything worthwhile (You could be well into recruiting and revenue by then).
Which is how the first Chanimal portal was created. The project started in HTML and an online database then it was converted to WordPress almost a decade ago and now it is a fully proven PRM (always included free with consulting (but now available stand-alone)—to remove delays from start to revenue).
Are there any additional costs?
Sometimes, but it usually minor. Because the portal runs on WordPress, with a licensed copy of the Chanimal Partner Portal on your server, you may or may not have additional server costs. Most companies can add a new instance of WordPress (free) on their existing web server (installed in a separate directory—takes minutes), or you may choose to host the portal with an ISP, in which case you would have an additional monthly hosting expense (recommend Cloudways/Digital Ocean – $14/month).
Most of the features of the portal are covered under a development license via Chanimal. However, you may also opt to add additional features (via add-ons), or upgrade the existing add-ons to add new capabilities, that are not part of your original portal. In this case, you would pay the associated cost. Fortunately, many are open source, while others have a small cost ($39 – $119)).
What if major features are added later—can I get them?
All included plugins are updated automatically—incrementally adding new capabilities, refinements, and bug/security fixes. However, because it is not a SaaS installation or off-the-shelf software with an installer, major new enhancements that never existed previously can’t be added automatically since the PRM sits on your server.
However, you can add a new snapshot to get any of the major new features (like when the affiliate application was added) for an annual maintenance fee. You can always see what the new features are and decide to add them or skip a year. They are then manually added by the Chanimal team and jointly custom configured.
Cost: $495 for an annual (365 day) maintenance agreement.
Can’t I create my own PRM using WordPress?
Absolutely—the platform itself is open source. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
First, you need to know proven industry best practices to scope the project—what do partners need and prefer? Or you may create a bad PRM that the partners and your channel manager hate.
Second, assuming you have your own team to build a portal, the folks you would divert to create it (even a webmaster) already have a full-time job, so this would either be a step-child project which could take 12 months or longer to complete (even with fewer features), vs a few hours to clone and set up. Or it will delay your own product roadmap and features (the opportunity cost is too high).
Even if you outsourced it, at appx $50-100 per hour, it’s going to take hundreds of hours for even a base system—and it always takes longer than expected (so you end up spending more than the cost for the Chanimal Partner Portal). Plus, the Chanimal PRM has had over 70 revisions over the last decade (so it’s already been massively refined).
In addition, it takes hours and sometimes weeks just to research each plugin to use, and then to regression test each one to ensure cross-platform compatibility and cross-product integration. Many of the plugins used may also cost hundreds (totaling thousands) of recurring costs—and it usually doesn’t pay to buy the lifetime development license for a single site (versus a developer license that is amortized over hundreds of companies). And then there’s still the custom development cost to make the existing plug-ins do all the PRM magic.
If ethically challenged, you could find a copy of the site to clone—but the developer’s license for several of the plugins automatically self-registers, requiring authorization for an unknown URL, and can be disabled remotely. In addition, the original work and custom code, which is the secret sauce, is not open source, it “calls home” and detects unlicensed use, is covered by a legal EULA. Not that you would even consider it—unless you’re in China. 😉
So, thinking it through, a home-spun WordPress PRM takes a lot longer to create and delays your partner program and the time to revenue (recruiting just one partner during this delayed time can usually pay for itself ten times over), you end up with a better, proven PRM that is already usability tested and debugged with thousands of partners over almost a decade, and the Chanimal Partner Portal can cost significantly less and include more features. Plus, you’re missing all the industry’s best-in-class content (agreements, policies, samples, templates, and processes) that is worth more than the entire system.
But you also end up with an almost unlimited extendable stable PRM that you can personally customize further and build upon to provide anything you need in the future—the advantage of WordPress. Several vendors that use the Chanimal Partner Portal, many with thousands of partners, have since added additional features unique to their business (one has different content in different languages for partners ranging from affiliates to distributors—all in the same system), which was not even possible with other systems without tens of thousands in custom development expense.
And finally—support. Companies already pay for advanced support with other open-source systems (think RedHat Linux). It is the same with the Chanimal Partner Portal built on WordPress. The support is critical when your site goes down and all your partners are locked out (think of the lost revenue of one sale—it pays to have timely help).
What about integration?
Most of the integration effort is connecting the portal forms to your CRM or Marketing Automation. All data and online partner interaction flow through the forms. The portal includes many popular integrations, but some non-common programs require you to upgrade the forms app license to access (typically only $59).
Other times, your connecting application already supports and has an application plug-in for the forms database—often at no cost. Other applications can be purchased separately from CRMPerks and others (ranging from $39 – $119 for the options you would need)). Not all integrations can be included as part of the Chanimal PRM—there are too many, many don’t offer development licenses anyway, and many may never end up being used anyway. But it already includes more integration options than any other PRM system—and most additional add-on integrations cost next to nothing to add. An advantage of starting with such a popular open-source system.
Is everything included?
Usually. Chanimal includes the licenses and the integrations for most channel needs (the logins, the affiliate program, LMS, partner locator, etc.). However, some of the requested integrations can be rare (connecting to Capsul, CloseIO, Nutshell vs more popular CRMs like Salesforce, or Zoho) and some vendors don’t even offer a developer option so they can’t be included. Fortunately, the plugins to make everything work are so affordable (usually less than $100 for a single site license) it has never been an issue—and costs less than the $100-150/hour, or a $5k – $30k development bill with other PRMs for even a minor change or integration.
What is missing?
Chanimal is missing some of the built-in PRM analytics that is found in several PRMs. However, this is intentional since it is expensive replication.
Once the partner data transfers from the built-in forms to the CRM or Marketing Automation systems (and integration is a major strength (quick and super cheap)), then most of the relationship, trends, stats, cross-integration with accounting or newsletters, lead routing, and dissemination, etc. should be done with your existing CRM or Marketing Automation systems—they are designed for people management.
It seems that once PRM vendors ran out of PRM-specific features, they started adding CRM features. But then you ended up with two systems with similar capabilities. I could never figure out why you would duplicate the features to create two competing systems—especially when you have to pay for it.
I admit, I like some of the pre-configured analytics I’ve seen in some of the PRMs, but it is all coming from the same core data that should have been transferred and is sitting in your CRM anyway! It is easier to create a few screens in your CRM, along with some cool charts (most can do this), than pay THOUSANDS more (each year) for a duplicate system.
I’ve seen some vendors spend tens of thousands of dollars to get crazy detailed reports and buy massive PRM systems when they’ve only got 20 or so partners, maybe 3-4 registered deals a month, and only send out a few leads each month.
I’m just too pragmatic—just use a simple spreadsheet which works easier until you have a LOT of partners and activity moving through the system. I’ve got several Excel templates I have used with new programs that work fantastically and are included with the Chanimal system.
Regardless, it is easy to connect the Chanimal PRM to your other systems, and then create detailed reporting there. And, you only have to pay once, but get the same results.
What kind of PRMs do you like?
I’ve seen detailed demos, helped configure, supported, and worked inside a LOT of PRMs (supporting my larger clients), conducted DETAILED reviews of popular PRMs and how channel managers and partners use them, and I even consulted with several PRM vendors. I have strong preferences.
In general, I like PRMs that first and foremost have an EASY interface for the PARTNERS. I prefer those that are Portal-centric. In contrast, some have elaborate systems, analytics, and reports (great for Microsoft with 400,000 partners—but massive overkill (increases the learning curve and expense) when you’ve only got 30 partners), but their partner portal is terrible—it’s like an afterthought.
I often wonder, “What were they thinking?” Actually, this is very similar to CRMs created by developers who have never sold for a living, or PRMs developed by non-channel folks. It was like the old days with Siebel. The “arm chair” senior management loved it for the reports—but they only touched it once a week, or monthly. But the salespeople who used it 100 times a day hated it—it slowed them down.
I have the same concern about analytic-centric PRMs, which are good for the director to VP, since it can show the channel ROI and analytics, but it is terrible for the partners to use, and often not much better for the channel managers (who can’t figure it out and only use a small portion of the features).
I also like AFFORDABLE. Many of my startup clients need to know if a partner program will generate revenue first—before they dump a lot of money into it. They do not have the budget up-front for a large, costly PRM. And they certainly would not need a massive system for a channel program that isn’t even set up, or proven to make a return from their expense and effort.
For new partner programs, I always recommend the Chanimal Partner Portal. It is super affordable (included FREE with micro consulting), quick, and will easily scale from 1-1,000 partners (although there are several Chanimal clients with a LOT more partners that that using it—especially since it is relatively easy to add more capabilities and integrations fairly quickly).
If the company wants to move into another PRM as their program gets much bigger and complex, then I recommend Channeltivity or Kiflo (they even have a free trial with great tutorials). If it is a larger enterprise account, with a big budget, I recommend Impartner or Allbound. Some of the other companies have VERY nice folks, and I hate to dis their product, but they have an analytics, instead of a portal-centric system—so I shy away from them (although I still support them and don’t see the need for them to switch if working with one of their clients). That’s where I stand.
What do you support—can I add my own plugins?
When you get the Chanimal Partner Portal, you get a “snapshot” (a complete “Partner Program-In-A-Box”) with all the content (policies, agreements, and processes) and applications to run your partner program and everything has been regression tested and works. However, if you wish to remove and replace, or add entirely different features on your own, you may—but Chanimal may or may not be able to support them. That’s the nature of WordPress.
For example, one vendor added a paid plug-in to feed all their social media streams into the portal. It was great that they could add the feature. But when they didn’t auto-pay for the renewal (many only have a one-time cost), it stopped working. Chanimal could identify the problem, but the vendor would have to renew their plugin for it to work again.
Another vendor swapped the theme (a major change), then turned off all the permissions, and added a complete support section—the VP of (direct) sales essentially hijacked the partner portal. It worked for him, but Chanimal wasn’t involved so it would be hard to support their revised system. Chanimal will try, but can’t always support all the changes that were not part of the original portal. In this example, the CEO was ticked, but we quickly re-cloned the portal so the channel team could have their own system again—and let the VP do what he wished with the other system.
The good thing is that most sites are backed up every 24 hours and the site can be reverted back if there is a problem. In addition, one of the included plug-ins allows you to take a backup snapshot at will, so you can revert back to the latest or an earlier version if needed.
How much WordPress do I need to know?
The site is designed to require some, but relatively minor WordPress knowledge—some channel managers know WordPress, others don’t. Fortunately, in the Admin section (only seen when you log in as the admin), there is a link to a WordPress introductory video, plus there are instructions and videos for most of the common tasks.
In addition, because WordPress is the world’s most popular CRM, hundreds of thousands of people know how to use and manage it already—so it’s not hard to find support. Plus, a lot of folks (often several members of your existing team) chose the Chanimal Partner Portal because they already know how to use WordPress, and take to it like a pro.
How easy is it to mess up my WordPress portal?
EASY. As the admin, you can mess up and fix the portal in minutes (just like you can mess up your own PC if you don’t know what you’re doing (ask my kid’s Grandma about her laptop—she is the “mess up” that just keeps giving! Hint: if in doubt, do NOT delete!))—so don’t just play around with it.
There should only be one admin (no, every member of the team is not an admin), and they will receive as much training and help as they need (one-on-one and self-help). Other user’s access can be limited, and most cannot make any changes or do any damage to the portal (including dubious hackers—when security is turned on).
How easy are the integrations?
Some of the integrations are built-in, included, and pre-set (often only requiring a checkbox and everything works). Others are part of the form plug-in. Some are included in the core portal system (includes the primary license). The less common integrations may require an upgrade to work (often as little as $59).
Some integrations are free and supplied by the integrating applications (CRM, email, Marketing Automation, etc.). Some are integrations using a 3rd party plug-in–such as CRMPerks (as little as $39 – $119). And some require a license via Zapier (although some companies already have a license).
If needed, some may require a custom developer. This is usually for a much more involved project. Chanimal has development capabilities, but these are extra (and surprisingly have only been needed one time). WordPress also has thousands of developers that can help with integration–many are on Fivrr and other discount development sites.
What role does Chanimal play in the integrations?
All form data sits in a MySQL database used by the Forms application. Most of the integrations are between the forms (the main input/output of partner interaction) and the external application (CRM, eCommerce, Marketing Automation, etc.)
The forms integrate with the plug-ins available for the apps and require that we map the fields from the form to the fields in the integrating application. This is simple enough that most companies have done this integration internally within 12-20 minutes (usually requires the administrator of the CRM who knows how it was set up, etc.).
Others were assisted by Chanimal–but it was still fairly easy mapping of fields. Chanimal includes up to 10 hours of help which is usually sufficient to help install, customize, help integrate and train.
Why was this developed in WordPress?
The original portal was coded in HTML. However, new features were hard to add. So, it was switched to WordPress for speed and the over 60,000 available plugins. It was open-source so it was also easy to build it out quicker.
Chanimal has consulted with dozens of clients that started their development with open-source software, then built onto it.
One stepped into a crowded and mature market, and started with a product base that was open source. This enabled them to inherit all the legacy capabilites in minutes. Then, they only had to work on the new, hottest capabilities within their industry using new proprietary code they could control. They went from 79th out of 97 competitors, to the #1 best-selling system in the world in 90 days.
Chanimal did NOT want to create a PRM (although the founder knew an adjacent CRM market very well–first VP Marketing for Goldmine Software (it was the Salesforce of its day that dominated the market)). It was only because the existing PRM vendors did not have anything affordable for the new channel programs (whether from a start-up or established company), that the project started.
Unfortunately, many developers have a “must make here” mentality (sort of like when I was a Sr. VP at Motorola), versus leveraging existing systems. Sort of like the early days of web development where most of the sites were hand-coded, but then eventually replaced with platforms and open-source applications like WordPress that were faster and more self-serve.
Chanimal went this direction quickly, and gained feature sets in weeks and months that took other vendors months to create. But then again, most vendors don’t want a PRM, they just want to increase sales, and the quickest approach that reaches that objective wins.
Hence, the Chanimal Partner Portal, a Partner Program In-A-Box.
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