Having worked 30 years in the industry, the prevailing grievance we hear from channel managers relates to their strategic relationships with their indirect channel partners. Most want more out of their partners, to cultivate a mutually beneficial relationship between vendor and partner, but don’t know how to begin. Channel partners are critical business assets that drive sales and provide market penetration.
Most channel partnerships are one-sided. In other words, they are partners that distribute your products with little to no loyalty towards the vendor. They become a partner by means of an attractive benefit but flee once the attraction is gone. Channel managers seeking to strengthen this relationship often develop partner programs to maintain their attraction to their partners. While this may reinforce the partnership short-term, it does not address the underlying issue. A disproportionate amount of time is spent trying to add value to the relationship through ineffective means. Rather than focus on short-term programs, vendors should identify their long-standing goals among their partners and set the path to reach their goal.
Strategic partnerships offer long-term business objectives and benefits to both sides of the partnership. Because that’s what it is – a partnership. More often than not, when a vendor evaluates a potential partner, they will only address the vendor-sided benefits without providing any added value to the partner. For a partnership to work successfully and strategically, both parties must have a clear understanding of their added benefits and work together. This means being open about their goals, mission statement, values, culture, and expectations. If any of these areas are incompatible, the partnership will inevitably cause more harm down the road.
Listening is an invaluable trait in the channel that can sometimes fall beneath the cracks. Partners will often have comments, questions, and game-changing feedback on your products, programs, and business processes. Promoting open, goodwill communication will increase the lifecycle of your partnership and foster unified, strategic rapport that will keep your company top-of-mind. Concurrently, vendors must also be honest when communicating with their partners. Any form of mistrust can be detrimental to a channel partnership and push their partners to seek relationships elsewhere.
Some vendors have as many as 29,000 dealers, possibly even more. It will be next to impossible to devote enough time and resources to develop and nurture every one of these partners on a one-to-one basis. The key lies within an emerging channel strategy that has been coined synchronized marketing or through-partner marketing. The fact of the matter is, partners have a focused mind-set: they will sell to meet their quota and they will sell what’s easy to sell. Typically, this results in partners selling products that already have a lot of demand. Through-partner marketing enables partners to push new, pre-packaged marketing campaigns that match their company standards while still meeting channel requirements. In essence, a reseller will be able to select a marketing campaign from their repository, add their logo, add a few personal touches to add value to the end-user and send it out.
The majority of partners are unable to allocate time or resources to generate the amount of content that is necessary to increase visibility. There are already an enormous number of blogs, groups discussions, social media posts that are out there today than any effort to penetrate these marketing may not be worth the effort for your partner. Vendors have an amazing opportunity to provide content that their partners can repurpose. It will not only increase their brand awareness, it will also strengthen the relationship between vendor and partner. To their added benefit, partners can gain mind share, take on new market channels with the ability to focus their efforts on matters important to them.
By making your products easy to market with pre-made marketing materials, your partners are more likely to continue the channel partnership. This, in turn, will keep your company top-of-mind when your resellers are tasked with the responsibility of selling more products. With easily accessible marketing campaigns ready-to-go, your partners will continue to remain faithful to your company and your products.