Advice for Communicating During the 3 Stages of To-Partner Channel Marketing

By: Ashley Bohnenkamp
channel partner communications on ipad

Channel incentive programs are all about behavior modification. These programs are designed to achieve specific business goals by rewarding partners for pre-determined efforts or desired behaviors. Additionally, a well-constructed channel incentive program can achieve a variety of results, including highlighting new products, liquidating old inventory, identifying new market opportunities to drive leads and, of course, increasing sales.

However, there is a catch—isn’t there always?

The best designed channel programs in the world will always fall flat if there isn’t an engagement strategy in place to reinforce the benefits of the program and drive the behaviors that will impact the partner’s success. This often takes shape with to-partner marketing.

To ensure successful program engagement you must develop a strategy that attracts, activates and accelerates your program partners. (See how this plays out with onboarding!) The goal within each phase is to build upon the last by driving behavior, creating habits and developing advocates.

Attract Channel Program Partners With Clear Program Purpose & Benefits

In this stage, the most important message to convey is “what.” Partners need to be able to easily answer the questions racing through their minds: “What is this?” “What am I supposed to do with it?” And, most importantly, “What’s in it for me?”

Defining the “what” in a way that is relevant to the participant is important. Understanding the ideal participant and reaching them where they are with that message is essential. Marketers have long believed that it takes multiple interactions with a brand before an action takes place. Meanwhile, digital marketing experts believe the average American is exposed to anywhere between 4,000–10,000 marketing messages a day. So how do we cut through the clutter and have meaningful interactions that will drive action?

The key to capturing attention is understanding your audience—their work environment, how they engage with technology, how they’re individually motivated, etc.

Therefore, having a campaign that is tailored to the specific demographics of your target participant will drive results. And keep it simple. Don’t overlook the importance of having a program name that isn’t too clever or cute but actually informs people what it is and what you offer can be incredibly valuable. Don’t over think it.

Gone are the days of exclusive programs that are only available to a select few. Most programs are now trying to generate interest to expand their participation and enrollment efforts and encourage new partnerships through their channels.

While openly showcasing the benefits of your program outside the protection of a registration is key for expansion and can be intimidating, the risks of remaining a secret only available to a select few can be detrimental to growth and success.

We understand that the fear of competition can be paralyzing. You might worry about, “What if my competitor finds out what I’m doing?” “What if they take all of my ideas?” If you are confident in your product, confident in your partners and confident in your program, there is no need to fear your competition knowing the benefits you provide. Those not effectively promoting their channel program transparently are the ones who should be afraid.

Activate Channel Program Partners With Frequent & Consistent Communication

In this stage, consistent communication is critical. We need to deliver on the promises made during the attraction phase and remind participants who is providing the benefits they are enjoying. Participants need to understand what behaviors they’re exhibiting that are driving the rewards and results. It’s also important to help them know what they should do next. To do this, take time to train them how to be successful in your program and reinforce that behavior every step of the way.

Frequency just as important as consistency when communicating your channel program message. Your brand and program’s key messages should be threaded through every touchpoint of your program, and those touchpoints need to be relevant, succinct, cohesive and timely—especially early on.

Every touchpoint, no matter how simple or standard, should be thought out, tied to the tone of the brand and integrated with a comprehensive strategy.

Related: Depending on the data you rely on for segmentation, you may be missing valuable correlations between behavior and activity that you can apply to other partners to push them in that direction of greater success. Learn more.

Accelerate Channel Program Partner Engagement With Rewards & Recognition

This is where we build habits and establish the long-term effects of the program. During this stage, ongoing communications should not only define the benefits your channel partners receive, but also demonstrate the programs overarching value to the partner.

As the desired behaviors you’re driving become habits, it’s easy to let the communications elements become complacent. At this point, participants likely already understand the benefits and have experienced the value of your channel program. Now what? Assume they’re hooked and will never leave your program? Of course not! Find ways to surprise and delight with branded thank you kits and acknowledge continual growth through marketing tools and resources available allowing them to share their program success with their peers. You want the growth their experiencing in the program to become long-lasting and for the participant to become so entwined with it that the barrier to leave is far too great. By doing so you’ll take them from program participants to brand advocates.

It’s critically important that your partners know from the beginning what you want them to do and how they can most easily succeed with your products and services. It allows your brand to break through the noise to reach partners with the right message at the right time. Partner engagement drives performance, and our white paper can help you with ideas to implement that will help increase partner engagement and foster community.

Ashley Bohnenkamp
Ashley Bohnenkamp

Ashley brings over 15 years of experience in leadership, business development, marketing, advertising, publishing and events. In her role as Event Solutions Manager, Ashley is focused on working with our event team of over 250 members to align and implement our client-centric strategies for growth and vision for success. She has a passion for building relationships, solving problems and being an agent of change. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, live music, volunteering for arts organizations in the community and bringing Pinterest-inspired projects to life around the house.