There’s Work to Be Done: Channel Engagement Strategy Is Just the Beginning

ITA Group
ITA Group

channel partners in a meeting about incentive strategy

If your business works with multiple channel partners, you certainly aren’t alone. But in order to take your organization to new heights, you need to have a strong strategy in place to enable your channel partners and support successful relationships across the board. That means not letting your channel engagement run on autopilot.

Now that you’ve built and rolled out your channel engagement strategy, it’s important for you to understand the advantages to look for within your partner relationships, and what you need to do next to support involvement with your program.

Benefits of Your Channel Engagement Program

Once your channel engagement strategy is all set up—including essentials like a partner portal to enable education and support for their marketing—you’ll begin to notice certain benefits like:

  • More informed partners: Your partner portal, and all the collateral provided there, will ensure that your partners are well-versed in your offerings and all the details that go along with those products or services.
  • Improved partner performance: Educated partners that understand the ins and outs of your vendor offerings are able to support better conversions and enable higher sales. Additionally, with access to the right data, you and your partners can work to identify and address any gaps in performance. 
  • Open discussions: Your channel engagement program will also make sure that operations don’t run on autopilot, and this includes conversations and dialogue between you and your partners. A lack of connection signals disengaged partners, but your engagement program is there to nip that in the bud. What’s more, you can use these open discussions to connect with partners and create advocates for your brand. 

And these benefits only scratch the surface. A well thought-out engagement program will also enable you and your partners to break into new channels with ease, all while supporting boosted profits that you can pour back into your advertising and engagement efforts. That’s certainly a win-win.

First Enable Channel Partners, Then Encourage Incentive Program Engagement

Your work isn't done once your channel engagement program is designed and you’ve made your partner portal and other assets accessible to your partners. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink—such is the case with an engagement program that isn’t paired with efforts to encourage involvement.

Thus, your next step after establishing and deploying the pieces of your partner strategy is to motivate your partners to make efforts on their side, and actually engage with the resources and assets you’re offering.

There are a few tried-and-true approaches you can consider to help encourage your partners to be actively involved with your program:

Continue Nurturing Your Partner Relationships

As we noted before, engagement programs are no place for a hit-and-run-style approach.

This type of one-and-done thinking is what got many organizations in trouble with their partner engagement strategies in the first place. It’s important that you continually nurture partner relationships strategies like creating a funnel for partner training and education, and segmenting out partner resources.

Related: One of the most important elements in channel engagement is continuous nurturing. Learn why this is so important for channel partner relationships and five key strategies to enable and support continuous nurturing.

Recognize & Reward Partner Engagement

Offering incentives certainly isn’t anything new. Tempting partners with irresistible incentives, and giving these rewards out as recognition for their engagement, can be just the thing to spark their involvement with your channel program. However, when it comes to your partner engagement, it’s important to understand that motivation is very personal. It’s beneficial to take the time to consider the rewards that will speak to your partners’ interests and will actually serve to encourage their involvement.

For instance, while cash-based rewards like gift cards are usually the go-to, data from the Incentive Research Foundation shows that there’s actually rising interest and demand for non-cash gifts. These include things like:

  • Incentive travel: IRF found that about 40% of businesses today offer travel rewards to recognize the efforts of channel partners, sales people and employees. Some are even taking the “bleisure approach,” sending partners on trips to areas relevant to the business (like the location of a key manufacturing plant, for instance), and providing a few extra days during the trip for entertainment, exploring and fun.
  • Merchandise and branded swag: Many businesses have discovered success in motivating their partners with merchandise, including items bearing their brand name or logo.
  • A transformational experience: Forming an emotional connection with channel partners is more imperative to the partner relationship than ever before. Many companies are taking part in events and other experiences with their partners to support this level of emotional engagement.

Drive the Importance of Engagement Home With a Memorable Experience

Building off the last bullet point above, hosting or attending an immersive, experiential event with your channel partners is one of the best ways to encourage their engagement. Events for the purposing of marketing are on the rise, and about 31% of marketers noted that events represent the most effective channel today, according to a Bizzabo survey. What’s more, the majority of executives (87%) believe in the impact of experiential events, and are planning to allocate more funding for these in the future.

As with reward incentives, though, it’s important to take into account the type of partner, their brand culture and other elements to ensure that an event will, in fact, be a memorable experience that ultimately supports partner engagement. For instance, partners that express an interest in more education could benefit from attending an industry conference with their vendor partner. In this way, the partner is motivated to engage with the vendor, and also benefits from the education and experience of the conference.

On the other hand, some partners may warrant a more unique type of event that includes gamification and more entertainment. Taking a page from T-Mobile’s playbook, the telecommunications provider hosted an event to introduce partners to its new Internet of Things offerings. The event taught partners about the new products, as well as enabled them to attend a laser acrobat show and play a virtual reality game.

As these examples show, it’s imperative not to get complacent with your channel engagement just because you have a strategy in place. It’s essential—and incredibly beneficial for your company and your partners—that you cater the events, rewards and experiences to the interests of your recipient partner. Doing so will help you form the deepest bonds with your channel partners, and ensure that they have the support they need.

Check out our ebook to read more about the success of T-Mobile’s event, and connect with us at ITA Group today to learn how to best support your channel engagement strategy. 

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