Stretch Your Channel Partner Program Budget by Optimizing Spend

By: ITA Group
woman working on channel partner incentive budget plans

In a challenging economic climate, leaders must prove channel partner program worth. In fact, many brands envision major changes to partner programs in the near future. Those brands increasing budgets for channel ecosystems have high expectations for return on investment. If you’re experiencing a do-more-with-less mandate from your organization, slashing an incentive program is a short-sighted solution that will ultimately set your brand back.

Related: Navigate budget cuts, ROI and executive buy-in

Instead, leaders should get strategic and optimize their channel partner program spend. By investing in areas that have the strongest return, you can get the most out of your incentive program budget. 

The trick is figuring out: 

  1. Where to focus any new funds 
  2. How to maximize your existing spend

Where to Focus New Channel Program Investments

Understanding your partner experience and business goals is key to making informed channel program investments. Consider your business goals through the following lenses. 

Partner Journey 

Start by mapping the partner journey. When do specific interactions and milestones happen? From there, identify which parts and pieces create pain points. Think about your business goals, where gaps exist or where existing partner support is weak. That will guide what program improvements you need to tackle.

Discoveries could include:  

  • Enablement: Partners need to sell different products or services types to meet goals
  • Onboard: New partner onboarding is too slow 
  • Support & Grow: Sold accounts are stagnating   

Related: How to Create Relevance & Personalization in Chanel Partner Programs

Mapping pain points to the customer journey could look like:

channel partner journey map

Partner Feedback 

Asking your partners for program feedback is another strategy to target your investment. Tools such as pulse surveys, focus groups and other research methods let you know which elements are succeeding and how your program might be falling short. 

Diagnose common frustrations:  

  • Implement & Support: Partners are struggling to implement and then service your products and solutions
  • Enablement: Resources needed to make sales are inaccessible 
  • Transaction: Existing incentives and rewards aren’t valuable to them 

Mapping partner feedback to the customer journey could look like:

partner feedback

Putting It Together

After mapping the partner journey through the lens of your business goals and soliciting partner feedback, was there overlap in what you learned? If so, investments in those areas can have the strongest returns for your partners and your program.  

Related: How to Get Consistent Partner Feedback Using Voice of Partner Surveys 

combined partner journey with partner feedback graphic

How to Maximize Existing Channel Program Investments 

To optimize your current spend, focus on short-term impact by improving your incentive bucket. Re-allocations in these areas can demonstrate results quickly:  

  • Market Development Funds (MDF): Often earned through revenue levels and help partners leverage vendor content, messaging, branding and demand generation activities in their local markets 
  • Co-Op Funds: Reward channel partners as they sell more products (from the sales and marketing budget) 
  • Rebates: Encourage purchases across a specified group of products or services and are often paid out after a purchase or set period
  • Launch Funds: An incremental fund to launch new partnerships to accelerate awareness and generate demand; separate from MDF and Co-Op funds
  • Sales Performance Incentive Fund (SPIFF or SPIF): Pays a bounty to increase sales and meet growth goals; often used in short time frames to stimulate activity
  • Points-Based Rewards: Collects and redeems points for behaviors, sales and other KPIs (e.g., loyalty programs) 

But to be effective, reallocations must be built on business goals and communicated with a partner-centric approach to gain adoption and mindshare.  

Evaluate what portion of your budget is going to key audiences through the different types of incentives listed above. Return to the partner journey mapping and feedback loop strategies to understand what will be most compelling to reach your goals and also appeal to your partner base. 

No matter what type of partner roles you’re working with:

  • Owners 
  • Sales 
  • Support

Implementation and program participation are directly tied. Unfortunately, many channel incentives are underutilized because a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t align with the goals of the partner type they are designed to support, and they’re rarely communicated well. 

Watch the recorded webinar to learn more about how you can get more for your invested dollar with partner owner incentives.

Investing in program awareness through communications is a critical but often overlooked component of program design. Successful incentive programs hinge on more than a one time email blast. They must attract attention and generate excitement. 

Prioritize Investments Based on Your Business Goals & Partner Needs 

Whether upping an investment or optimizing existing spend, getting the most from your channel partner program budget requires understanding your audience, aligning incentives with your organization’s goals and getting the word out efficiently and effectively. Investments in these areas will serve you well, regardless of which specific enhancements you make. 

how to optimize your channel partner program spend watch now
ITA Group logo
ITA Group

ITA Group custom-crafts engagement solutions that motivate and inspire your people. ITA Group infuses strategies that fuel advocacy and drive business results for some of the world’s biggest brands.