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Incentive programs are critical to any successful channel sales model. By inspiring or rewarding certain behaviors in your partners, incentives can help steer the course for any successful business relationship. As part of your partner relationship management (PRM), your incentive strategies help attract partners to your offerings while unifying your network and directing it towards a clear goal.
That’s the idea, anyway. How, exactly, you motivate and direct your partners depends on a lot of different variables. This is a good time to get creative.
Some partners need access to market development funds (MDF) to help acquire leads, find customers, and meet the goals expected of them. Some partners may be driven by something as simple as a gift card. Others may just want to be recognized for their achievements. Your rewards should be commensurate with the work involved in achieving them.
You’ll also need to think about who you’re trying to incentivize. The success of the strategies you adopt depends on the partner in question—not to mention the resources that are available to you as the provider. For example, referral partners likely won’t be motivated by the same things as affiliate partners. Bronze partners may need stronger incentives than those offered to your gold partners. But you also want to make sure you’re rewarding your top performers. A winning incentive strategy will adapt to the unique needs and circumstances of each partner or relationship.
Here’s some more advice to building a successful channel incentive program:
1.) Make sure rewards are motivating.
More than anything, you need to make sure your rewards do what they’re meant to do: motivate partners to make sales. That may mean thinking about how your partners are compensated: A flat rate may prove steady for your expenses, but it’s not likely to produce any excitement. By offering a sales commission your partners may be more driven to land those really big sales.
And it’s not just your sales partners who require incentives. Referral partners can also be driven by the right incentives. Giving your biggest, more attractive rewards to your top referrer may help drive some healthy competition within your partner program.
2.) Reward partners for completing learning tracks and training programs.
It really can’t be overstated how important training is to a healthy partner program. Your partners are selling the service or product that your organization developed, so it goes without saying that they should know the offering inside and out. Certification and learning programs reveal how well your partners understand your product while doubling as an effective motivator.
The problem is most people aren’t going to spend the time and resources to learn something just because they were told to do so. There needs to be a quid pro quo. Use rewards to encourage your partners to take on each learning track, reading material, and training program.
3.) Switch up the reward.
Rewarding your partners with the same thing over and over again can yield diminishing returns after a while. People get bored when they know what to expect. A good incentive strategy will evolve and innovate to keep partners excited. That means getting creative.
One idea is to hold an event for your top referrers. One-time offers like a hotel stay, an Apple Watch, or a gift card can really help drive a surge in sales. And it keeps partners interested and excited to work with you.
4.) Turn it into a competition.
Competition drives performance. Everyone knows that. You can leverage this fundamental truth by turning work into a fun game. Allow companies to choose team names, create a leaderboard for the teams, make trophies and extra prizes for the top three winners in each event. Make the games seasonal to capitalize on yearly market trends. Again, it helps to be creative.
5.) Offer achievement awards.
Gamification is a fantastic way to increase partner engagement. People work better and more attentively when the work is presented in the form of a game. By accomplishing tasks in that game they feel good about themselves and crave more of it. It’s a basic feature of human psychology. Take advantage of it by offering achievements that your partners will want to earn.
Above all, you should make sure your incentive program is easy to follow. Your partners need to know what’s expected of them, how they can achieve success, and what’s in store for them should they perform well. Also make sure your incentives are balanced appropriately: Any rewards you offer should be proportional to the amount of effort partners spend earning them.
Of course, these are all just ideas. Your incentive program will only be as successful as you are creative. You need to think outside the box to develop new ideas that are fresh, engaging, and unique to your partners’ needs and interests. Every partner is different, so should be the strategies meant to motivate them.