4 Solutions for Achieving Partner Engagement and Developing an Ongoing Relationships
In part 1 of this 3-part blog series, we explored why Co-op/MDF funds go unused so often, as well as some practical advice on how manufacturers can improve their incentive programs. In this part of this series, we will jump into partner engagement solutions businesses can use to improve mindshare, establish synergy and capitalize on Co-op/MDF.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Partner Engagement Solutions #1: Communication. Communication. Communication.
The more often you communicate around your program, the more successful it will be.
Good communication mandates a Co-op/MDF strategy that focuses on, how channel partners will engage with your opportunity.
This starts with onboarding.
If for example, you leverage kickoff events to get partners engaged with your product and program, it should not be your only means of communication.
Partners are likely overwhelmed with information and incentive opportunities as is. They are dealing with several different partner portals and reimbursement opportunities with other vendors, so don’t expect exclusive attention.
Within a few days, partners will likely forget everything you mentioned at the event; it’s nothing personal, just human nature.
Partner onboarding should not be a onetime occasion, but instead, a continual process that builds synergy over time.
Partner Engagement Solutions #2: Attrition is going to Happen with Partners
People leave, markets change, as do value propositions and business philosophies.
So, how do you make sure your channel network are educated and understand your product/program?
Here are various ideas on how to onboard partners on an ongoing basis:
- Monthly “how to participate” program webinars
- Email blasts
- Message board function on your site or partner portal
- Create reference videos/guides for program process
- Utilize your help desk/customer support
- (Semi)annual conference
How will you facilitate the process (e.g., target audience, timeline and task, key messages you want to deliver, and the right time to deliver those messages)?
Here is an example of what an effective communicative strategy looks like:
- Implement a series of automated emails
- Announcing the opportunity to channel
- Detail specific steps in order to avail to the opportunity (e.g., approvals, reviews)
- Alert emails (regarding particular actions partner must take)
- Reminder emails (regarding particular time frame)
Ultimately, when implementing your communicative strategy, it is essential your messaging is consistent and utilizes a variety of channels.
Think about what is going to work best for your network (e.g., email, website information, social media, information on the dashboard of partner portal, etc.).
Partner Engagement Solutions #3: Emphasis Opportunity as Essential to Partners’ Success
In order for your program to be successful, partners must be able to embrace and recognize why Co-op/MDF is a strategic part of achieving their goal.
The first step in harnessing this concept is to get partners to believe in your company.
How do you achieve this?
The more you attempt to understand partners’ objectives, and solicit their opinion, the more they will view your company as a strategic asset.
Get their feedback on the program process, and use it to your advantage when refining your opportunity.
Realize what worked and what didn’t.
Understand that arbitration and escalation are a part of improving channel relationships and program implementation.
As cliché as it sounds, find the silver lining in negative outcomes.
But always remember to recognize program success.
Leverage early adopters; nurture them to be successful and use them to validate your opportunity’s potential.
- Spread the word and celebrate success stories
- Share what works well and where obstacles were overcome
- Spotlight a great event that took place
This can be featured in monthly newsletters, partner conferences, or in ongoing communications.
Ultimately, partners are humans, and humans like to feel valued.
If you are going to get partners excited about your program, you need to recognize successful partnerships go beyond money.
Be flexible with partners that may make a mistake. A “get of jail free card” (for not following the program process correctly) demonstrates your empathy and dedication to partners’ success. After all, if you want partners to buy into what you are doing, they are going to have to participate first.
Partner Engagement Solutions #4: Leverage your Field Brand Ambassadors
It is essential for “ground troops” to play a pivotal role in your Co-op/MDF program process.
Brand ambassadors have a different viewpoint than you, as they deal directly with the partners. They act as the “middleman of collaboration,” acting on your behalf and echoing your message.
If you are not utilizing brand ambassadors to cultivate partners on how to use the programs, your network will likely feel disconnected.
When changes occur in the program process, brand ambassadors become imperative to communicating those modifications so that it feels seamless and non-obstructive.
Brand ambassadors should also be coaching channel partners.
However, in order for their advice to serve partners’ best interests, they need support from you. It’s important that you continually engage with your field. Treat brand ambassadors as you would partners; because by doing so, you there won’t be any gaps in communication and the overall program process.
In part 3 of this 3-part series, you can expect more practical solutions to creating successful Co-op/MDF opportunities for channel partners. Moving forward, it’s important to analyze your incentive program from a bird’s eye perspective. What is slowing you down? Which partners are struggling? Why aren’t these opportunities spearheading revenue? The better you can identify roadblocks, the more efficient you will be at eliminating them.