How do we motivate and equip our channel partners to build a strong partnership that benefits everyone?
If you have a great product or service, you will want allies who can help you take it to market. In business, these are your channel partners.
Channel partners could be technical partners, who help to add features to your platform, a local distributor or reseller, or system integrators—partners who integrate your product or service to relevant systems. They perform important functions for your business, add value to the supply chain, and above all, bring revenue. Hence, an important but often overlooked part of growing a business is identifying, motivating and equipping your channel partners.
Having a consolidated channel partner strategy that accelerates the sales flow and maximises the functions of your channel partners can help your business grow tremendously. As such, large MNCs, especially global companies, use channel partner programmes. But what exactly do the best channel partner programmes do?
The first thing a channel partner programme should do is to incentivise them. This brings your product to their top of mind, and they would be more likely to recommend it to their customers. Digital leaderboards can create excitement within the channel and generate buzz around your products, building on the FOMO-effect (fear of missing out).
Channel partner rewards can be in non-cash, hedonic forms. Your partners can also be motivated by intangible benefits like prestige, or simply the sense of belonging to a community. Some possible channel partner rewards you can offer include:
Since your channel partners, being sub-distributors or sub-resellers, own the logistics and are your direct contact to consumers, they play a very important role. Motivating them with the above rewards is as important as motivating your internal frontline sales team.
What are the comprehensive features of your product? What are your unique selling points? A partner programme should educate your channel partners so that they are sure of how your product or service works so that they can help you to resell effectively.
Additionally, if your product is of a technical nature, the last thing you want is for channel partners to run amok with the implementation of your product without qualified training. To that end, you can set up certification programmes for hardware or software products so that your channel partners can earn a badge of recognition.
This not only allows you to differentiate the well-equipped channel partners from those who aren’t; it also creates a sense of pride for the channel partners who manage to pass certification. This serves as a form of motivation for your channel partners, who have put in the effort to get certified.
The customers and partners can easily identify authorised and qualified resellers or technical providers. At the same time, partners can feel proud about their accomplishment, a win-win solution for both stakeholders.
Theory is good, but practical tools are essential too. Good channel partner programmes provide a hub of resources and tools for channel partners, be it presentations that resellers can use to pitch directly, or co-marketing materials. Or, they can be in the form of step-by-step guides, training videos and infographics, which channel partners can use directly.
Ensure that there are enough tools in your channel partner programme that can guide your partners through every process.
Often, channel partners are so-called because they have the same customers as you. For instance, the customers of corporate instant messaging platform Slack are — more often than not — the same as those who use Gsuite products. Your channel partner programme should echo a unified message that you are committed to their success since you are vested in it as well.
Your customers have a hotline or customer chatbot to help them with their enquiries. Don’t neglect your channel partners who may run into issues as well. If resources allow, having a helpline shows your channel partners that they are important, and their issues matter to you too.
Since your channel partners are likely from overlapping industries, helming a platform where they can form a community can confer legitimacy to your brand. Opportunities for networking and connections also constitute an excellent form of motivation for your channel partners.
It could be a forum where channel partners can talk to each other and troubleshoot problems, or a calendar through which your company organises events — be it physical or virtual.
Don’t forget that your product is not the only one that your channel partner has to learn about. In today’s world, there’s a whole suite of products that can work together. So your competitors may be fighting for the same pie of channel partners. To get a competitive edge, remove any obstacles. Do surveys to hear from your channel partners and learn what issues they are facing so that you can resolve them quickly.
A good rule of thumb is whether your field organisation can explain the highlights of the programme in less than one minute. Ultimately, this turns channel partners into loyal brand advocates. In doing so, a good channel partner programme does three things:
You will need technology to achieve the cross-channel ecosystems and know the behavioural economics behind what motivates your channel partners. Consult experts at BI WORLDWIDE in cross-channel ecosystems and behavioural economics to design customised loyalty platforms that speak directly to your channel partners.