Since its introduction of the world’s first lightweight communications headset in 1962, Plantronics (NYSE: PLT) remains today the world’s leading manufacturer of lightweight communications headset products. The company’s headsets for office, call center, home, computer and mobile applications are used by numerous global corporations, medium-small businesses and individual consumers.
Products designed by Plantronics have been part of many high-profile, mission-critical events, including NASA’s historic “one small step for man” lunar transmission from Tranquility Base in 1969. With offices in 20 countries, Plantronics sells and supports its products through an extensive network of channel partners, distributors, resellers and retailers.
“It wasn’t that long ago that we relied on fax machines and phone calls to collect sales and market data from our channels,” explained Chris Schultz, Senior Channel Marketing Manager at Plantronics. “We needed multiple, complicated faxes back and forth to collect POS data and process co-op claims with all of the related proof of performance documentation. It was a very painful, costly, labor intensive process.”
Plantronics teamed up with Computer Market Research (CMR) to develop the CONNECT – Plantronics Partner Program, to automate the collection and management of Channel POS data, Co-op / MDF funds and claims, and a volume incentive rebate program for Plantronics’ most active channel partners. CMR’s proven Partner Avenue platform is now used by all of Plantronics’ CONNECT channel partners to submit, track and manage critical documentation and data related to channel programs.
24×7 Channel Partner Self Service
Through Partner Avenue, distributors and resellers have easy, secure access through a series of Web-based screens to all of the features of Plantronics’ partner programs, including co-op claims, rebates and market development funds.
“The best part of the system is that our channel partners can log on at any hour of the day and enter their co-op requests and claims without any intervention by our staff.” Schultz said. “The savings of time and costly labor expense that results from that is very significant for us.”
Plantronics relies heavily on the combined efficiencies of co-op and MDF funds to more cost effectively deliver marketing messages to their potential end user customers. Partner Avenue gives them an intricate, customizable system of business rules and management capabilities to make sure that partners actively monitor and utilize all available marketing funds and receive timely, accurate reimbursements on those expenditures.
Email notifications are delivered automatically through the system both thirty days and five days before accrual funds expire, to remind partners to take full advantage of their market funds.
“We use Partner Avenue to send automatic email notifications to alert our partners when eligible funds may be expiring to ensure that they remain active in our co-op program and maximize their use of available program benefits,” Schultz added.
Partner Avenue displays quarterly coop accruals for both direct and indirect partners, and partners have a finite period of time to submit requests to use those funds, before their accruals expire. After a request is approved by Plantronics through the system, the partner has another specific period to submit a claim against the request, along with documented proof for the claim. Then, reimbursement checks are sent to indirect partners, while direct partners get a credit memo applied to on their direct account credit balance.
Automated Management Reports
Plantronics channel managers and finance people receive automatic quarterly and monthly overview reports of channel program activities and results. A sophisticated email approval hierarchy keeps everyone dynamically informed about significant transactions and pending program requests that need immediate attention.
“Everyone on our team can now use the CMR suite to stay on top of what is happening in our channels,” Schultz said. “Partner Avenue has vastly improved our channel visibility, allowing us to continuously monitor and proactively address any immediate needs that arise among our partners.”
Partner Avenue automatically imports POS data from the channel into a database format from which OLAP cubes and Crystal reports can be extracted or exported to Excel for further analysis by channel managers and finance personnel.
These streamlined, automated processes enable Plantronics managers to optimize their trade promotion funds and maximize the effectiveness of the investments made in their distribution channels. Auditable sales and inventory metrics also assist corporate managers in maintaining Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
“We operate in a very fast-moving global marketplace, and from time to time, as our business changes, we have to make changes to the ways we process claims and manage our channels,” Schultz explained. “When we need to make changes to Partner Avenue, the CMR support team always has a “can do” attitude and is very expeditious in responding to our requests. Other vendors make ambitious claims, but CMR always delivers on their promises in a timely manner.”
“Partner Avenue has vastly improved our channel visibility, allowing us to continuously monitor and proactively address any immediate needs that arise among our partners.”
Chris Schulz, Sr. Channel Marketing Manager