Building brand loyalty in the channel these days requires a much more robust and hands-on formula for success when compared to yesteryear’s practice of more emails, more telemarketing campaigns, more swag and sexier incentive programs. In other words, like most modern sales and marketing strategies, throwing money at the problem doesn’t necessarily solve it — especially in this case, where your partners’ sales reps are your “customer” in a day and age when the customer is 110% in charge of how they make decisions. For a channel rep, that decision is whether or not they’re going to SELL YOUR STUFF.
So, then. If it’s not about sending them email blasts, buying them lists and cold calling campaigns, giving them stress balls and polos, or sending them to Jamaica…what is it about?
Selling more, faster. Partner sales acceleration. Helping your partners and their sales reps do more with less, in less time, using friendly, effective tools, in an environment or ecosystem (aka community) where they feel like they belong and have a path to succeed.
Sound complex? It really isn’t…or at least it shouldn’t be. Especially when you focus on technology that can connect and encourage collaboration using tools and content helps build credibility and trust for solving customer business problems.
Take a look at your business from your partner’s point of view. Here are some benefits you can provide that they will definitely take notice of.
- Great Content: give your partners the training, content and resources they need to maximize each and every interaction they have with prospects and customers, at each stage of the sales cycle. And please, keep it organized and up-to-date.
- Streamlined, User Friendly Tools: enough with the old school portals, Dropbox folders, “cool at the time” apps and legacy PRM systems. And PLEASE do not force your partner to login to YOUR Salesforce instance to access or do anything, including register deals. Give them a single, user-friendly, centralized platform to engage with your business and they will. It’s proven.
- Non-Intrusive Communication: our director of marketing here at Allbound will (politely) give me the throat-slash gesture anytime I dare utter the phrase “email blast.” Email has become the catch-all for our business lives, making them noisier and more confounding than ever. Multiply that 10x in the channel, where the announcement of any new training, content, incentive, or tool seems to require a Channel Manager sending an email to an oversaturated, outdated list.
- Collaboration: when’s the last time you sat-in on a partner’s weekly sales meeting? Or a partner sat-in on yours? Chances are, it’s been a while because, in its very nature, a channel is geographically distributed, as it should be. And because your partners can’t simply turn around to chat with an engineer or fire off an email to a marketing coordinator, they tend to be (or at least feel) left out on an island. Encouraging collaboration, using tools and technology to coach them through processes and guide them to closed deals, and making them feel aligned to your culture and vision are all as critical to building a successful channel as they are to building a your internal team.
- Data: with so much activity in the channel, it’s a natural conduit for data. Or at least it would be if any of the legacy systems to manage your partners actually integrated with one another. The unfortunate fact is that most of them don’t (see my 2nd bullet above), and the terrifyingly outdated “channel stack” strategy of the past 30 years keeps your data segregated and out of the hands of those who can use it most. Today’s partner wants and should expect great data about, at a minimum, your business, the market, buyer personas, and how to be successful selling your solutions.
Every channel manager’s dream is to have partners who are also raging fans. But building a fanbase doesn’t come easy, and when it comes to the channel, it’s definitely no longer only about products with great features or bigger and fancier quarterly incentive programs. That being said, by using the right strategies and technologies, building a channel that is loyal to your brand and accelerates sales should be a mission-critical goal of any growing business.