Learn How to Implement High-Impact Programs that lead to Mutual Vendor/Partner Success.
Selling products via partner ecosystems is no easy feat.
That’s why channel incentive programs are so important to channel-driven vendors; it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your unique value as a business partner.
However, given the challenges associated with utilizing channel partners—inefficient access to data/analytics tracking program ROI, partners’ ineptness in marketing, complex program processes, etc.—it’s no surprise why selling “direct” has so much appeal to vendors due to its straightforwardness and familiarity.
Additionally, helping partners adjust to new business models (i.e., the transition of traditional processes to cloud-based technologies) has caused relationships to experience friction and incompetence.
According to a recent Gartner study, Channel partners usually fall into one of these three categories:
1.) Traditional – No infrastructure to collaborate in a centralized cloud-based environment
2.) Cloud-based – Partner has adopted a cloud-based infrastructure for exchanging data and collaborating with vendor
3.) Hybrid – Partner utilizes both “traditional” and “Cloud-based” processes
Given these differences, vendors frequently struggle to recruit, manage, train and sell to partners.
So, how do vendors transform these challenges and into moneymaking opportunities? What areas in the channel require the biggest investment that will enable partners to grow, sell and be successful? How do you better align your promotional strategies against your objectives? How do you influence the behavior of channel partners so that they are mutually beneficial?v
Proper implementation of channel incentive programs mandates a strategic approach.In order to improve the effectiveness of your indirect sales channels, regardless of the industry, your channel incentive programs and reimbursement opportunities require thorough management and mindful execution.
Here are 5 challenges vendors frequently struggle to solve:
1.) Fighting For Partner MindShare
Vendors spew out incentive programs faster by the day.
The constant and never-ending struggle to win and maintain partner mindshare continues to be a top challenge/goal for channel managers
2.) Realizing the right mix of incentives
Finding the incentive that will enable channel partners to perform at their best continues to be an ambiguous challenge
3.) Program ROI and Gaining Actionable Intelligence
“How do I know my programs are working?” is a question many channel managers struggle to answer.
4.) Program Spending
“How much should I be spending overall?” – In order to maximize partner effectiveness.
5.) Disengagement with Partner Portal
Partners are intimidated due to plethora of options, logging in only for “as needed” basis
Building programs that achieve maximum effectiveness
In order to avoid the previous challenges so often found in channel marketing, your channel incentive programs must be relevant to the strengths/weaknesses of each partner.
Too often, vendors implement post-sales incentives (e.g., SPIFFs and rebates) in the hope that commission-like benefits will lead to more closed deals.
Although SPIFFs and rebates do gauge revenue, they should not be your only means of partner motivation.
Tiered pre-sales incentives—although time-consuming, more complex and difficult to execute—offer partners with constructive, tactical opportunities for achieving success. These incentives focus on improving partners’ go-to-market strategies that lead to long-term results, not short-terms perks.
Here are some of the many examples associated in pre-sales incentives that:
- Providing partners with warm leads
- Social media training
- Co-branded digital marketing campaigns
- Deal registration
- Event hosting for customers
- Deal registration
- Joint business planning
- Demos/proof of concept
The survey-graph below illustrates how vendors view pre-sales incentive “investments” with overall “impact on sales performance.”The question becomes, ‘How many channel incentive programs and promotions do I really need in order to get good coverage across these activities?’
The answer: Three.
Three programs is all it takes to “package” these activities into revenue-driving vehicles (see graph below for pre/post-sale activities).In other words, you don’t need countless programs in order to achieve maximum effectiveness with channel partners; what you need is three robust, comprehensive programs strategically tailored with a definitive objective that combines multiple activities.
That’s how you differentiate your business from the competition; by investing into targeted, higher-impact incentive strategies, you have a greater opportunity to accelerate revenue at reduced costs.
How do you strategize pre-sales enablement incentives and post-sales promotions for each channel segment? This illustration gives you a good idea of which “baskets” you should put your “eggs.”
How do you make your program even more appealing
In order to sustain that “competitive edge” over other businesses, you can implement several other strategies into your program.
Here are six examples:
- Offer Coop/MDF for wider range of activities
- Reward partners for adopting behaviors which lead to sales aligned in your business plan
- Enable partners to combine or “stack” incentives and maximize their profits
- Reward partners for penetration of new market(s) or sales of specific products
- Acquisition of market share
- Adopting your business model
You can begin to engage better with channel partners by being more creative with the types of programs (and the activities within those programs) you offer; accelerating revenue starts with your ability to demonstrates value—and incentive programs are your best ticket to sustain long-term, joint-partner success.