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4 Things Manufacturers Can Do To Inspire Distributors And Resellers
From SPIFFs and back-end rebates to marketing funds and gamification, to building channel partnerships and motivating channel partners to sell more product can be achieved using many tactics.
However, it isn’t easy.
As a manufacturer’s channel marketing manager you know that a successful business depends largely on how your channel partners perform. Incentive programs certainly instigate motivation, and thus performance, when selling through the indirect sales funnel. However, partner enablement should stop at promotional opportunities.
That’s because channel sales and channel marketing programs represent only a piece of the channel partner “encouragement” process. In order to help channel partners truly be successful, channel marketing managers have to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty; without a robust channel marketing strategy that goes beyond incentives, you can expect partners to not only disengage but risk losing them to competitors.
So, how do you encourage channel partners to stay top-of-mind with your brand? Following are 4 things channel marketing managers can do to inspire distributors and resellers to not only improve their performance but prioritize their business around yours:
4 Methods for Building Channel Partnerships
1.) Confront Price Decreasing Partners
In today’s ultra-competitive B2B marketplace, price penetration is common, and understandably so.
However, some partners will self-serving abuse price cutting to their internal advantage, which lowers the overall value of your brand and diminishes other partner’s opportunities to sell. This sets off a chain reaction of lowered pricing throughout the channel as partners fight to stay competitive with competing businesses. It’s imperative that manufacturers identify the ‘bad apples’ in the channel, and promptly impede them from continuing their price penetrating warfare.
Action: Eliminate concerns among current channel partners that unregulated price penetration will be acutely monitored. If a channel partner argues that price penetration is essential towards increasing sales volume, offer to help in the deal closing process or other areas where you can help their business.
2.) Content is King…For a Reason
Each channel partnership is unique, and as such, building channel partnerships requires unique content.
Content can come in many forms. From industry best practices to marketplace news, information on product updates/releases and deal-closing training documents—you should be a source of education and inspiration to channel partners.
Action: Implement a marketing strategy that is focused on how you can strengthen channel partner’s performance; listen to their pain points, objections, needs, interests and goals and create/curate content that aligns in these areas. Is their social media strategy non-existent? Provide localized, co-branded content they can publish with their digital network. Do they have an inexperienced direct sales team? Send them white papers on cold-calling and how to create an inbound sales cycle for prospects.
3.) Visit Partners’ End Customers
There may be no better form of marketing than talking directly (in-person) with potential customers. Your expertise behind the market and knowledge of your product is probably substantially higher than that of direct partners. In addition, visiting end-customers may catch them off guard (in a good way) and spotlight how much your care for partners and how passionate you are about your product.
Action: Ask channel partners if they would be interested in your ‘direct’ help to visit end-customers; customize a PowerPoint demonstration that is tailored to end-customers; think about the after-purchase transformation of your product, and how that will affect end customer’s business and opportunity at success.
4.) Humanize your Partnership
Listening to channel partners and becoming empathic to their needs and objections is one of the most undervalued components of building channel partnerships.
Sure, implementing lucrative incentives and valuable content is great, but does it contribute to partner’s bottom-line? As a manufacturer, your partnership should be seen as more than a monetarily-based B2B rapport, but rather, a collaboration of innovation, strategy, and support.
Action: Communicate with channel partners on a regular basis; visit with them on and off-site for business and non-business appointments; realize what problems are contributing to their unproductively and tailor an incentive or strategy that uniquely supports this weakness; view channel partners less as customers, and more as a teammate.