How data fuels a channel incentive program (and how to collect it)

By: Ellen Linkenhoker

What you need to know

  • Identify what channel partner data to track, then determine where and how to collect it.
  • Quality data collection relies on collaboration and cooperation from internal stakeholders and external channel partners.
  • Whether it’s an internal champion or outside analyst, having someone focused on your data is crucial to long-term channel program success. 

channel partner viewing data charts and infographics on iPad

Data powers everything. And channel incentive programs are no different. 

Relationships are the core of a solid channel program. Using data as a marketing tool helps you communicate your value, products, services and commitment to your partners.  

Knowing what to say—and who to say it to—gets much easier when you have good data. While it’s possible for a channel incentive program to exist without a wealth of data, your efforts will be exponentially better when you do have it.

Unfortunately, collecting data in the channel can be hard. 

Teams face challenges because of factors like limited resources, outdated systems and a lack of standardized processes. You’re also often relying on other teams, peers and counterparts to get a full picture of what’s going on in the channel.  

If you feel overwhelmed, you’re not alone. In fact, 76% of companies report wanting to improve the data they capture, according to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF).

The best thing you can do is have a strategy for gathering channel data and using it. 

download our ebook: how to get & use channel partner data

The basics of channel partner data collection

To get started collecting channel partner data, consider where you’ll gather data, what type of information you want to know and what tools you’ll use.

Where to find data sources

Data is all around us but knowing where to find the right data can be challenging. Collect information from your current systems and partners by looping in team members 

This might include: 

  • Channel account managers
  • Data infrastructure leads (IT)
  • CRM administrators
  • Sales operations teams
  • Data and sales analysts
  • Partner tech stack administrators
  • Program architects
  • Market research 
  • Historic partner surveys from the last 3 years

If you find some data points are out of reach because of your current systems, prioritize what changes to make to collect that information. There are many ways to start collecting more data than you have today. The sooner you get started, the better! 

If you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about data and aren’t sure where to focus, work backward and consider a few key questions like:

What outcome do you want?

  • What question are you trying to answer?
  • What data points are key to answering this question?
  • Based on the data you need, where are there gaps?
  • Whose help do you need to access that data?

The most important consideration is to determine your unique identifier across all data sets. How can you connect these pieces together? 

Types of data to gather

Before you focus in on how to access data, decide what you want to collect. Depending on your goals, you might prioritize some areas over others.

Partner demographics and firmographics 
  • Location
  • Size 
  • Type 
  • Customer type
  • Selling style
  • Competencies
  • Training
  • Certifications
  • Vertical or industry expertise
  • Employees
  • Digital/web presence
  • Program tenure 
 Engagement metrics
  • Participation in program elements
  • MDF/CO-OP use 
  • Portal usage
  • Materials
  • Training
  • Certifications
  • Reps onboarding
  • Sales Engineers onboarding communication engagement
  • Lifecycle stage as partner 
 Sales metrics
  • Historical sales
  • Cross-sell
  • Up-sell
  • Renewals
  • Pricing concessions 
  • Products or services sold
  • Sales by rep
  • Sales cycle and process
  • Pipeline generation 
  • Satisfaction scores
  • Retention
  • Renewal
  • Churn rates
  • Service rating
  • Efficiency
  • Call completion
  • Outcome KPIs 
 End-customer data
  • Geographically preferred services
  • Buyer types
  • Path to purchase
  • Buying and product or service preferences 

Whatever data you decide to collect, keeping your end goal in mind will help determine next steps. Even answering a small question about a single part of your program could result in outcomes well worth the time and money you spent on data collection.

Data collection tools 

There are plenty of data collection tools available to access the information you need and bridge any gaps.  

Partner demographics and firmographics 
  • Surveys and quizzes
  • Focus groups and interviews
  • Data append
  • Search 
 Engagement metrics
  • Internal data sources
  • Program technology vendors 
 Sales metrics
  • Claims programs
  • Rebate programs
  • Program indicators like deal registration, uploaded proposals, downloaded on-site materials and more 
  • Internal data sources
  • Partner feedback surveys 
 End-customer data
  • Claims programs
  • Rebate programs
  • Customer surveys
  • Market research 

Related: Learn the best practices for claims program management.

How to collect channel partner data

To collect quality data, rely on internal stakeholders as well as your channel technology and professional service vendors. 

When working with internal partners, get on their radar early and often. Try to evaluate resources and implement tools to help you get the data you need—ideally in a way that’s repeatable or immediate, like through a direct API connection. At a minimum, try to establish scheduled reports so you don’t have to regularly go back to the source. 

You’ll also want to think through data storage. 

  • Do you need to feed it into vendor technology? 
    • Where should someone send it? 
    • How often? And in what format? 
  • Are you opting to use a dashboard? 
    • If so, how will you enter the data into that system?
    • How often will it refresh?
    • Who needs to see it? 

Collecting data is a never-ending process. Remember, whether you’re working with a vendor, consultant or internal champion to collect and use partner data, you don’t have to go down this important path alone. Be a leader: Advocate for the data and how it will improve the program.

If you have the resources, have someone else take on this part of the process. Seeking out vendors who have access to critical data points (or can generate them for you) can greatly inform your channel program strategy.

Create a plan for a data-driven channel incentive program

Now that you’ve gathered your information, I’d be remiss not to touch on the most important part of data collection: putting that data to use. 

By having a strategy at the start of your data collection journey, you can use data to do things like: 

  • Enabling program administrators 
  • Adding accessibility to data for field teams 
  • Offering KPIs to partners 
  • Enriching profile elements inside your tech stack 
  • Offering better incentives and benefits 

The best way to do this is by investing in a dashboard. These tools help turn your data into a true smorgasbord of potential insights, bringing your data to life in a way that’s useful, filterable and sliceable. We designed new dashboards to help one of our clients who was struggling to meet KPIs, and as a result they saw a 34% increase in program portal visits and 10% increase in sales from the previous year’s goal. Having easily accessible data made a huge difference.

No matter the tool you choose, set aside time to review your data and draw the insights you’ve invested in collecting. If you don’t have time to dive in yourself, make sure someone is looking at it.

I know that not everyone is dreaming of dashboards like I am. But the success of your channel program depends on finding someone committed to your data—whether it’s an internal champion or outside analysts like our team at ITA Group. 

Let’s talk! Contact us to learn more about how data can transform your channel program.

download our white paper: how to get & use channel partner data
Ellen Linkenhoker
Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen Linkenhoker is the Channel Partner Solutions Lead for ITA Group. She drives the insights, strategy and evolution of the organization’s channel solution while offering advisement for client engagement and incentive programs. She’s worked as a practitioner in technology, software and service companies as part of the channel and as a vendor. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, marketing, incentives and engagement, including pioneering thought leadership on channel partner ecosystems and the partner experience.