If you’re operating within a channel model today, doing so can feel like survival of the fittest.
At times, it is survival of the fittest, as economic drivers like e-commerce and the digital revolution are changing the game for everyone in the channel, no matter the position or role within it.
Online retail giants like Amazon and Wayfair are powering transformation everywhere, and large corporations all the way down to the tiniest of mom-and-pop shops are changing the way they’re organized and the way they do business in order to adapt.
What’s more, organizational disruptions are widespread today, as last year was the biggest ever for mergers and acquisitions.
So, as a channel player, how do you keep up?
And furthermore, how do you position yourself among the “fittest” and set yourself up to not just survive, but to thrive?
Tap in to Your Culture to Drive Channel Engagement
Look inside your organization, because your company culture is one of the best—if not the best—places to start.
Your culture, in part, defines what you do and how you do it; it provides your greatest asset (your people) a directional compass; and it has the unique potential to take your internal values, principles and beliefs external through your channel relationships.
That’s huge for channel partner engagement, as an engaged channel partner is a uniquely valuable asset. And it isn’t difficult to spot an engaged channel partner, as they are involved with the brand—taking action, making recommendations and doing things that positively impact the relationship.
What channel manufacturer, distributor or customer doesn’t want that?
But First Things First—Make Sure You Understand Your Channel Partners’ Goals & Objectives
To ensure channel partner engagement, it’s critical to first understand your partners—to know what’s important to them and what goals and objectives they’re working toward.
And while that’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight, your PRM and channel incentive technology are both goldmines of information when it comes to gaining that understanding.
Then Use Your Culture as an Opportunity to Connect With Your Channel Partners Emotionally
Once you’ve got the data that will allow you to strategically understand your partners, start using it to engage them. And do it emotionally.
According to the Harvard Business Review, companies should pursue emotional connections as a science—and as a strategy—because it has the ability to pay dividends. What’s more, the foundation your organization is built upon—your own culture—can play a key role in helping you connect in your B2B channel environment. Here’s how.
- Service excellence. Have a commitment to service excellence in place? Identify specific strategies and tactics around it—strategies that may also tie to your commitment to employee engagement—that enhance your channel partners’ satisfaction on an emotional level.
For example, solving an in-bound caller’s service issue in x-number of minutes (dependent on your business) and doing it with a smile (even though they can’t see it) is one way to evoke a positive emotional reaction and fuel engagement among your valued channel partners.
- Training. Is training a focus or a differentiator for your organization? If so, rely on your culture to position it as a culture of learning.
That may involve a virtual community where participants are recognized (a leaderboard, perhaps) and/or rewarded (online badging, maybe) for training completion—a community that recognizes the power of motivation, and the different ways it can move your audience.
Giving your channel partners an opportunity to interact with both your product or service and your brand promise opens the door to enhanced engagement.
- The total package. Go one step further and create a premier partner designation of sorts—one that encompasses a focus on robust training, thought leadership and service excellence—for your channel partners.
It doesn’t have to be complex, and targeting a defined segment of ideal partners who show the potential to benefit is a great place to start. Furthermore, it can empower your chosen partners to feel select, elite and exclusive. And that’s emotion.
If Nothing Else, Know This: Your Culture Can Fuel Channel Engagement in Ways Others Can’t
In a world where virtually everything has undergone commoditization, you’re likely never going to beat the behemoths at their own game.
Instead, identify the things you’re doing that make you better, easier, and more attractive to work with—the things that your culture personifies—then use them to create a strategic channel partner engagement solution to engage your valued partners in a way no one else can.