More and more businesses are turning to channel partners to enter new markets and expand their reach. Solid onboarding and training of channel partners combined with a well thought out partner program can lead to improved sales and profitability. So why are some vendors more successful than others?
Standing out among the crowd
For example, in 2018 CRN published a partner program guide with 270 different vendor programs. Some vendors have made it a priority to keep a good pulse on channel partner needs while others have continued with the same program year after year.
According to a Channel Insider article, “Manufacturers and software developers all come to the channel with the same goal—to get their products sold to more customers. Most recognize that, to accomplish this, their channel partners will need their support in several ways. Some put what they think the channel needs into their program. Others ask the channel what they need, and provide it.”
So what are some best practices to stand out AND strengthen channel partner relationships?
1. Simplify the path to profit
Develop or revamp an existing partner program to provide a clear outline of benefits and a path to growth. This makes it easy for partners to understand areas such as volume incentive rebates, deal registration and certification requirements. The breakdown of benefits and requirements are evaluated carefully by channel partners to ensure they can be profitable supporting a vendor. The easier and more profitable a partner program is, the more likely a partner will be to make a commitment.
2. Effective marketing
Successful marketing campaigns start by understanding and segmenting the partner audience. Think product specializations, tiers as well as sales or technical audiences. Craft smart and actionable marketing messages that are crisp, concise and allow for more tailored options for partners. Think digital and think easy to use. Allow the partner to focus on their value add message and key differentiators while highlighting your solutions. Educate and enable partners by providing resources and tools to help them “tell the story” as well as support throughout.
It’s challenging to provide field marketing resources to every channel partner so build a strategy for tier two and three partners that provide opportunities to help support the growth of their business. For example, when requesting market development funds, take the partner’s point of view and reduce steps or red tape for approval. Think about co-investment versus funding an entire marketing program or event. Ensure there is actionable follow up and results provided by the partner that is tracked by your sales team.
3. Leverage Partner Events
Support channel strategies with face-to-face partner conferences, roadshows and workshops. In person meetings and trainings are a great way to increase the comfort level of products, strengthen relationships and develop brand advocates. Introduce new products, sales resources and provide access to product experts. Take advantage of opportunities to interact with your audience through pre, during and post event engagement elements.
4. Re-evaluate Your Channel Loyalty Program
Build a program that motivates and rewards partners for not just selling but steps that lead to the sale. For example, start off a campaign with training modules tied to rewards followed by an incentive to sell featured products. Use a platform to support multiple ways to reward partners such as growth based incentives or a pre qualifier to earn. Infuse technology such as gamification to make it fun and interactive.
5. Data Insights
With any channel rewards program you’ll want to measure usage and track results on-going. Use a platform that allows you to segment data in different ways and meets the needs of the different stakeholders in your organization. Think about using a reporting dashboard with access to real time data and provides the ability to drill down to the specific information. Analyze results monthly and quarterly to identify trends and opportunities to shift dollars to improve ROI. Lastly take advantage of data integration with a learning management system or partner portal to get a holistic view of partner activity and look for areas that are making the biggest impact.