7 Ways Manufacturers Can Inspire Distributors and Resellers.
Motivating others to do something is not easy. Just ask any high school teacher or gym trainer. People, for better or worse, will do what they want, when they want. It takes a certain type of message, presented in a certain type of manner, to entice the interest of someone enough that they change their behavior. If that’s true, then how can a vendor motivate their channel partners to increase productivity and ROI that ultimately result in a successful channel partnership?
In the channel, where B2B corporations depend on the actions of their channel partners to gauge sales, motivation is particularly important. Unfortunately, vendors struggle to motivate, let alone communicate, with their respective distributors/resellers via the indirect sales funnel.
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 managers have to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty; without a robust strategy that goes beyond incentives, you can expect partners to not only disengage but risk losing them to competitors.
Today’s marketplace is a busy and competitive environment. A capitalistic society built around one commonality: money.
The modern business executive is fixated on how to increase the value of their brand. Your product can help them achieve that. However, establishing a successful channel partnership that goes beyond purchasing is complicated. If you intend to motivate distributors/resellers, you’re going to have to rely on something other than emails, phone calls and Skype for a successful channel partnership.
So, how do you encourage channel partners to stay top-of-mind with your brand?
Following are 7 things channel marketing managers can do to inspire distributors and resellers to not only improve their performance but prioritize their business around yours:
7 Elements of a Successful Channel Partnership
1.) Eliminate Channel Conflict
After surveying the market ecosystem (for what feels like an entirety), you finally have a prospect in place. The deal is a vendor’s dream scenario: great margins, industry influence, and successful channel partnership potential.
But there’s a problem.
A channel partner has similar intentions with the same reseller. And if (or when) they find out about your current lead nurturing endeavor, you not only risk their motivation to sell your product, you also risk losing them as a channel partner altogether. Whether it’s adjusting your pricing structure, designating specific sales territories, implementing a deal registration system or avoid direct sales completely—you must make absolute certain channel conflict doesn’t get in the way of a healthy B2B partnership.
2.) Confront Price Decreasing Partners
In today’s ultra-competitive B2B marketplace, price penetration is common, and understandably so.
However, some partners will abuse price-cutting to their internal advantage. Such misuses lower the overall value of your brand and diminish 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.
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.
3.) Product Training 101
Live demos, responsiveness to emails/questions and presenting competitive data sheets are not enough. Channel partners must undergo the same training of your product as your in-house direct sales team.
In fact, most channel partners will need additional training (e.g., product functionality updates, lifespan, a target demographic, marketing content positioning, etc.). Training is crucial as your product is most likely not the only item they are selling.
4.) Content is King…For a Reason
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.
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.
5.) Competent Channel Manager
Assigning a low-level employee to manage a channel account is a drastic error in B2B relations. A channel manager represents the ‘medium of communication between vendor and distributor/reseller.
Not only should a vendor’s channel manager be experienced and well-versed in multiple marketplaces, they should also be patient, sociable, reliable and exhibit sound judgment before being assigned to manage an account.
6.) Invest Dollars into their Marketing
As a vendor, no one knows more about your product than you. Whether it’s sharing co-branded content with resellers or end-customers, providing promotional allowances to help current marketing efforts (i.e., market development funds), or awarding promotional allowances based on distributor/reseller sales performance (i.e., Co-op funds)—incentivize your channel with unique rewards other vendors might not.
7.) 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 the 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.
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.
What Not to Do in a Partner Relationship
Destructive partner relationship management strategies are more common than you may think.
The indirect sales funnel is a competitive and multifaceted industry. Investing in partner relationship management software and developing a solid B2B rapport are imperative in order to stay afloat in today’s market.
However, to address the ever-changing needs of a dynamic channel, you’re going to need more than an automated channel management system; you need to have a comprehensive understanding of what makes a channel partnership flourish and how to build a successful channel partnership, as well as the things that lead to destructive partner relationship management strategies that result in the break of your business’s bottom line.
Below is an Infographic that outlines 5 destructive behaviors in a channel partnership:
Leverage the Power of Automation to Help Motivate your Channel Partners
Computer Market Research (CMR) brings over 30 years of experience to the indirect channel sales industry.
Through our state-of-the-art automated software, businesses can:
- amplify their B2B marketing efforts
- optimize trade promotions
- customize unique program guidelines
- build effective distribution channels
- establish transparent and objective BB communication
- strengthen their bond with channel partners