The ‘keep it simple’ mantra works in many facets of business, but no channel ever has been or will ever be simple. There is a lot of uniqueness, diversity, and organized chaos that goes into developing a throng of resellers and solution providers who sell your wares.
So in the ‘what have you done for me lately’ world of sales, how can you as provider/manufacturer keep your channel’s attention? Many people offer channel programs that incentivize to keep the resellers rapt and have them leading with your product(s). But how does a channel program become successful?
Exact Market’s experience working with F500 clients has provided the opportunity to see a significant number of channel partner programs come and go. From our experience, a Channel Partner Program is a strategic initiative to motivate and engage resellers with the intended result to create more value for the customers.
Anyone who has spent a second (or a decade) in the channel can smell a good or bad program from its email announcement. Does the program outline make it sound like a heavy lift? Does it provide a streamlined way to engage? Does it have a sound, executable strategy to motivate channel partners? Does it provide the opportunity to create more value for customers?
Let’s take a moment to talk about what can help when developing and executing a channel program.
Take it outside of the idea room
Just because a bunch of y’all had a great brainstorming session with a lot of back patting, doesn’t mean the program will be a success. You’ll need a soft launch, some preliminary research, plus channel and customer feedback before you roll it out. Leverage the relationships you have with partners and customers to get some ‘real talk’ from them. Just because you think it will engage and motivate the partners or add value to the customers does not mean they think the same. Reality vs expectations, people.
‘Productize’ the program
Test and test again. Roll it out alpha. Roll it out beta. Solicit and take feedback from the sample size. Do they think your program stinks? Own it. Don’t be afraid to hit the reset button and start over. Something in the idea room when y’all first met clearly had potential. Revisit it and try again. Your perception of creating value to the customer may not be a reality with the initial rollout.
Don’t let perfect get in the way of good
Nothing is perfect, certainly not a channel program. But if it is good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, the partners aren’t complaining as much as they normally do, then consider it a success. Keep track of progress and be realistic.
Always remember the transaction
Speaking from personal experience, make certain to communicate to ALL parties that this program will touch. Overlooking the finance or order fulfillment team can cause a bottleneck that can ruin something special. Communicating across sales, marketing, logistics, order fulfillment and getting proper sign off/approvals are key!
Rinse, repeat, review, and summarize
‘Do or do not, there is no try.’ Solicit both internal and external feedback for comments, ideas, and suggestions that could make this program or the next one better. In the spirit of not letting perfect get in the way of good, there will always be room for improvement. Seek out the pieces that can improve future programs. And don’t forget to capture the successes of the program and lay out the metrics so they can be shared internally.
We hope that these ideas make sense and help you help your channel. Remember to keep track of progress and be realistic. It would be great for all of your channel programs to generate a 30:1 or 40:1 ROI. If each one was that ridiculously successful, you wouldn’t be launching channel programs; you would be in your private jet and ‘sip champagne when you’re thirs-tay’
So, in essence, have realistic goals, test, and…keep it simple.