With more access to data, customers are able to research products and services online like never before. As a result, digital advertising budgets have increased because of the surge in customers using social media and the ability to leverage more targeted marketing efforts.
During the early months of the pandemic, consumers flocked online for information, entertainment and connection, and that trend will continue. Digital channels account for almost 80% of budgets in 2020.
Next year, 74% expect to spend more on digital advertising and 66% on paid search. B2C marketers are more optimistic about budget hikes than their B2B counterparts; for example, 78% of the former group say they will spend more on digital advertising in 2021, compared to 69% of the latter.
This new digital customer buying journey has also transformed the way channel partners interact and sell to customers. So how can manufacturers work with channel partners to maintain a pulse on how customers are being served?
Turn Channel Partners Into Problem-Solving Heroes
When done right, selling through channel partners allows organizations to reach new markets, launch new products and service customers effectively. It starts with establishing clear objectives around channel engagement, value-based programs and consistent communication to partners. Identify what value your organization brings to elevate a channel partner’s business and develop the right tools and resources.
More importantly, position your channel partner as the hero in solving business challenges for customers by inspiring loyalty and developing trust with them. Consider offering a blend of sales training, demos, marketing tools and lead generation programs, for example. In addition, provide coaching to channel partners on identifying and positioning solutions with assessment guides, scripts and case studies. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and reward channel partners for meeting goals.
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.
Transparency Is a Win-Win
Access to your channel partner’s pipeline, activity and sales data can be a game changer. The more data your partners are willing to share with you, the better. Establish a win-win relationship in supporting your channel partners’ business, provide the right resources and set expectations on what data you’d like them to share.
In Accenture’s report, “Make Music, Not Noise,” they found that, “companies that help their channel partners share customer data and generate leads are 63% more likely to exceed their revenue goals through channel partner networks.”
Marketing Support Is a Must
When it comes to marketing support, channel partners typically do not have in-house resources. They rely heavily on manufacturer partners for support. Why is this important? Without the proper marketing support, there can be inconsistent messaging from the channel if not managed properly.
Supplying marketing tools not only provides great value to channel partners but ensures messaging is cohesive and matches what customers receive from the manufacturer. Provide marketing templates as well as support with microsites and co-branded materials.
Utilize Behavior-Based Incentives & Reward Tactics
Take a new approach with channel rewards by focusing on segmenting your channel partners and personas. Develop a blend of behavior-based and sales-based elements to increase engagement and grow your pipeline. Keep in mind that motivation is a personal thing, not a one-size fits all solution, so allow for choices when it comes to rewards.
Communication is critical. Create an on-going plan to keep your program top of mind with channel partners. Track the program holistically and identify the data points that you need to capture in order to easily see what’s working and where you need to make improvements.
Finally, gather on-going feedback from stakeholders including sales teams and partners to maintain a pulse on how to keep the program fresh and interesting.
Events Create Emotional Connections
The best and easiest ways to build community is to bring people together—to talk, to network and to share stories and best practices. Here lies the power of emotional connection.
Whether you’re trying to train and educate on your products and services, build community for partners to help each other or to simply create awareness, there are many different ways to pull it off—in person, virtual or hybrid. Deciding what type of event(s) fits best will come down to the outcomes you want to achieve, the budget you have available and the audience you’re trying to reach.
Engagement is critical to your channel strategy. But if your channel program is on autopilot, you could be experiencing stagnant revenue and disinterested channel partners. Discover how motivating the channel will help you increase revenue and improve customer relationships in our ebook, Is Your Channel Partner Strategy On Autopilot?