2024 trends the best channel partner programs are adopting

By: Ellen Linkenhoker

What you need to know

  • Current business conditions necessitate channel partner leaders do more with less.
  • Embracing enablement and other key trends will require refining programs and making changes.
  • Successful programs focus on elements that will yield the best return on investment for the short- and long-term.


hands analyzing data from a pie chart

To get a clear vision of what’s ahead for channel partner programs in 2024, I recommend leaders first look at the conditions currently influencing our markets. Many organizations are still reeling from years of headwinds:  

  • Market conditions are still fluctuating
  • Inflation is still present but improving
  • Global program consolidation efforts to improve efficiencies suffer from misalignment between regional and enterprise teams
  • Political discord continues
  • Partner expectations remain on the rise
  • Growth is stagnant or slow, and channel leaders are being pushed to do more with less 

That might paint a pessimistic picture to some. But it’s not all doom and gloom.  

These kinds of years offer us a chance to reflect. Take time to think about what we’ve put in place for our partners so far, consider where we want to go with our programs, and truly evaluate what’s at our fingertips to make it happen. 

I encourage channel leaders to embrace three “Rs” that will help reveal strategic opportunities.

  • Reassess channel program efforts
  • Refine the partner experience
  • Realize returns through measurement 

I’ll cover how the “Reassess, Refine and Realize” framework can help you evolve your program to meet future needs shortly. But first, there are a few trends you need to be aware of and consider during the evaluation process. 

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5 channel partner program trends for 2024

As channel partner solution experts, we hold many insights, but we don’t have a crystal ball. Our outlook for 2024 channel partner program trends is informed by current research, conversations with channel leaders and decades of designing research-based channel incentive programs. Here are five trending areas that will continue to gain traction in 2024. 

1. Enablement emerges as the channel’s hottest strategic initiative—regardless of industry.

Providing channel partners with the tools and resources they need to sell and support products and services isn’t anything new—but it’s hard to do well. Forward-looking partner programs are getting serious about their enablement strategy. Inclusive of training, program messaging, content, demand generation, to-partner marketing, and funding, it will take a much more strategic approach to get it right. 

Take action: Explore creating training built specifically for the channel and focused on responsibilities of each role, instead of repurposing internal content. Regularly assess the impact of enablement initiatives through partner feedback and performance metrics.

2. Behavior-based incentives will drive key performance indicators. 

Prioritizing behavior-based incentives gives you the power to proactively impact the key performance metrics that matter most. Sales, SPIFs and rebates are reactive tactics inspired by lagging indicators. They’re necessary, but sometimes lacking in big-picture actions you need partners to take. Leading channel programs have already started adding behavior-based incentives to their mix. 

Take action: Focus on where your partners need to improve, and track back into the behaviors that drive those outcomes. Consider adding points-based incentives that prompt actions tied to those KPIs. This approach, especially when coupled with increased touchpoints, has the potential to increase engagement and offer another opportunity to reinforce your relationship with your partners. 

3. Partner experience and engagement will become even more personalized. 

Imagine separate program elements for a contractor specializing in new-build residential projects versus one focused on commercial renovations. Or, a dealership focused on repair and maintenance versus a retailer selling new products. This level of granularity is no longer a futuristic vision. It’s becoming a top priority for global B2B marketing decision-makers. To keep pace with evolving industry demands, programs need to be meticulously managed, segmented and scalable. 

Take action: Homepages, goals, rewards, incentives, and enablement must be tailored to individual roles and routes to market—even specific competencies within those routes. By embracing personalization, businesses can unlock enhanced partner engagement, loyalty, and ultimately, sales growth. 

4. Demand for performance data and actionable insights becomes non-negotiable. 

Organizations are hungrier than ever for advanced analytics and useful insights—especially around performance. When properly refined, visualized and operationalized, a wealth of data becomes a value-producing resource. 

Take action: Channel leaders should pursue access to new data sources and consolidate current data into actionable dashboards that can empower your department, field teams and partners. 

5. Artificial intelligence (AI) will improve channel program customizations. 

Seventy-five percent of global business and technology professionals indicated they were adopting or planning to adopt AI infrastructure technology within the next 12 months, according to Forrester’s Priorities Survey.

Take action: Most AI adoption is happening inside product and service offerings, or to augment internal organizational knowledge and efficiency. However, we’re also seeing AI make improvements in channel programs through data analysis and marketing material customization. 

Adopting trends often requires convincing stakeholders to change up an existing approach. Go into those conversations after evaluating your program, so you’re ready to act on very real suggestions. 

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Channel partner program leaders must reassess, refine and realize returns 

We work with brands to continually evolve their channel programs. In my tenure at ITA Group, I’ve seen how the most successful brands can integrate new ideas because they’ve adopted a framework that encourages learning from past performance and welcoming a culture that tries new things based on market feedback.  

That’s where my “Three Rs” come in. This year, take time to:

  • Reassess many of the existing program elements. Evaluate each element for overlapping capabilities, performance effectiveness, consolidation opportunities and innovation. Conserve your limited resources while maximizing partner experience and channel growth impact.
  • Refine the experience partners have with your program, the messages used to attract and retain partners, as well as the benefits and awards used to reward them. These updates help capture mindshare and increase engagement within the channel.
  • Realize returns by measuring the impact of investments on key performance metrics, beyond sales. Collect and consolidate the data alongside a meaningful analysis that can make the case for continued support. Present success stories to executive leadership teams to maintain channel investments. 

Related: Maximizing your spend means investing in the elements of your channel partner programs that demonstrate the highest business value. 

If you need help making sense of what’s on the horizon, I’d love to chat about channel trends and how to integrate new ideas into your partner program. 

Get our take on how to make channel partner program budgets work harder in 2024, and reach out if you want to talk about how to implement the kind of changes that put brands ahead of the competition.

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.