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The Partner Channel Podcast | Season 2, Episode 31

Bolstering Partner ROI Through Digital Transformation

Show Synopsis

This week on the Partner Channel Podcast, host Tori Barlow is accompanied by Olli Fleischhut, Vice President of Marketing for Honeywell Building Technologies. Together they talk all about validating your partner program by strategically selecting KPIs and the best way to bolster your ROI.


  • Why partner programs should be a strategic focus for digital transformation efforts
  • How to safeguard the success of an investment for digital transformation within a partner program
  • How listeners should think about managing partner program ROI

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The Script

Tori Barlow: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, The Voice of the Channel. I’m Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Excited to be here with Ollie Fleischhut, Vice President of Marketing for Honeywell Building Technologies. Welcome, Ollie. We’re excited to have you.

Olli Fleischhut: Thanks, Tori, for having me. Excited to be here.

Tori Barlow: You have a really impressive background. You’ve been in marketing and comms roles for over 20 years. That’s inclusive of regional roles, global roles based in Germany, US and various states. You got started in e-marketing and then transitioned into just general overall marketing throughout your career, and you’ve specifically spent a lot of time in your career in the industrial space. Oil and gas, food and beverage, industrial automation and the list goes on. So we’re excited to pick your brain a bit today. But before we get into it, can you share a few words about Honeywell and what you guys do?

Olli Fleischhut: Absolutely, Tori. Happy to. And, you know, most most folks have heard of Honeywell, big, big industrial software company, technology company. And but what most people don’t know is all the different aspects of life that Honeywell actually touches. And it’s billions of lives every day. Maybe to just use a couple of relatable examples. Last time everybody jumped on a plane. Vast majority of planes fly because of Honeywell technology, right? It might be the radar, it might be the communication system. It might be the way we circulate the air  within the cabin. And, you know, again, most people will never know because all they care about is how they get from A to B And that’s good, right? And we want to make sure that we are part of that journey in the most safe, efficient and sustainable way. And maybe another good example is the last time you bought something online, from the second you click that button or now until it actually shows up at your doorstep, chances are that package was touched by Honeywell technology.  Distribution centers, warehouses. How do we get it from A to B and again in the most sustainable way and in the most efficient way? And maybe last but not least, I could go on and on with examples,

Olli Fleischhut: but, building technology is the business that I support and have the pleasure of leading the marketing activities, building technologies. And when you think about the the carbon footprint globally, 40% or close to 40% is based on commercial buildings. And by commercial buildings, I mean the data center schools, universities, hospitals, stadiums, office buildings, apartment buildings, the list goes on and on and on. At Honeywell building technologies, we focus on how can we make sure that any and every human being and is happy, healthy, safe, productive and secure in any confined space. It might be from the fire, advanced fire detection, frictionless access and security of the building, the temperature, humidity. How do you get most effective from the lobby to the elevator to your desk? And again, all aspects that people will never know that Honeywell touched their life. And and that’s fine. And it’s it’s an exciting space to be in because what you do impacts people’s life. And that really motivates us at Honeywell.

Tori Barlow: Well, now, every time I fly on an airplane, I’m going to think of you and Honeywell. So diving into what we’re talking about today, we’re talking about something that’s very important to anyone who manages a partner program. And that’s really bottom line. So bolstering your partner ROI and specifically through digital transformation, which we’ll get to in a second. A lot of partner and channel folks are thinking about how do you impact bottom line, how do you impact what you’re doing from a partner perspective and get budget approval for next year, whatever that may be. So our why is showing that is really important. So before we dive into the nitty gritty around ROI, I think we’ve heard about Honeywell, what you guys do, but let’s dissect it a little more on what you specifically do at Honeywell and then why you believe partnerships are so impactful for your business.

Olli Fleischhut: Yeah, Yeah. And when I think about Honeywell building technologies, global and global business and and we go to market through a network of partners and we are 33,000 strong and by partners, it’s a mix between OEM and distributors and type of system integrator roles. And then we also have the direct business, right. But for us at Honeywell to deliver on the outcomes and that promise that I mentioned earlier about how do we keep people in places safe, how do we help with reducing the carbon footprint? And it’s a partnership with us and our partners, right? We cannot deliver on that promise without the experience that our partners bring. So I always refer to we are a global company, but with local experience and ability to execute We went through quite a big transformation over the last year and we had several different partner programs. If I count up the individual shapes that we had in partner program, that was over 250. So we spent last year to really look at what is the tiering of our partner programs platinum, gold, silver and what is the criteria, what are the KPIs, what are the benefits a partner should get to really come up with a consistent structure that is easy to digest and easy to leverage by our partners.

Olli Fleischhut: Because if the partners are successful, then our customers are successful and we are successful. And so coming up with a channel partner program and was the key aspect last year and we started rolling it out this year and it also came with speaking about digitalization and how do we make it easier to do business with Honeywell for partners and the topic of digitalization, rolling out e-commerce, rolling out a channel partner portal where the partners can easily log in and place an order, track and order. And if you think about last year and some of the supply chain challenges that we faced across the world and but we are not just Honeywell, but everybody, you know, a direct line of sight into delivery availability was critical. So a self serving portal, placing orders, tracking orders and inventory. And how much have you already sold this year? What’s your tiering? So all the aspects that you expect from a good partner program is what we started rolling out this January. And you know what? We’ll continue to roll it out and optimize it as we go.

Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think that’s really important. You have so many partners and having it accessible to them at their fingertips I think is the utmost importance. What is that partner experience like? How do you optimize it? How do you get feedback from partners? I think that is something our audience would love to know. And then, you know, as we talk about digital transformation, I think that’s a phrase thrown around so much in the industry. What does it mean for you and Honeywell and partnerships?

Olli Fleischhut: Yeah, and the way we look at it is through the lens of technology, people, and processes. And because some of the digital transformation projects and you said it, you said it right, so many of them are used in very different conversations and it means something different to different people. But we look through those three lenses, technology people and processes, meaning when we roll out the channel partner program and we need to make sure that our technology is aligned, that means the CRM systems with the ERP systems, with the partner portal systems, right? If the technology, the underlying technology is not aligned, it will be very difficult to deliver on the real time data availability to our partners. But the second one was also processes in the past before we rolled out commerce and our partner portal, partners had to call in, use an actual phone to place an order. And you can imagine the sheer amount of call volume that triggered and then that amount of volume. How long do you have to wait? Right. So it was a very inefficient and sometimes very frustrating way for our partners to place the order. So aligning our processes across our internal organization, the customer experience team, making sure that the tiering that we discussed, from one side of the organization, that everybody within the organization needs to have line of sight of that, right? So if a partner still calls in for some technical support, the customer experience team needs to know that he or she might be silver, gold,  and direct them to the right individuals. And then last but not least: people. Running an e-commerce platform, rolling out an e-commerce platform. A lot of our marketing organizations, when we think about the skill set, we really develop certain teams with specific skill sets around change management, communication, digital transformation, project experience and digital marketing savviness. And between those dimensions, that was really the core team across several functions to roll out the new customer digital first digital transformation driven customer and then partner experience.

Tori Barlow: We’re a partner portal company here at Allbound, and we always joke that 20 years ago, in order to engage with the partner, you’d fly out and have a steak dinner and that would be so expensive and time consuming. Can you imagine doing that for your thousands of partners and folks there? It just doesn’t make any sense. So getting on the digital transformation bandwagon is more realistic. It saves money and is more efficient and a better experience for your partners too. And I don’t think it means that you never have to see your partners face to face again. But maybe to your point is the tiering. Who are those top 30 partners that warrant a nice steak dinner to keep that relationship going? So I think that’s an interesting perspective. And when you think about for the folks listening as they’re kind of getting budgets together or working on getting approvals, you know, as an executive, how do you go about getting that safeguard for an investment for digital transformation within a partner program?

Olli Fleischhut: Yeah, Yeah. And the one when looking at how we roll out the program or how we go with the annual planning, and it’s a mix between why we leverage digital transformation and the partner portals to really cover a lot of the operational efficiency for our partners, how to interact, how to do business, how to place an order. But we, we still also have an element of in-person. Those might be our quarterly partner business reviews and it might be our annual partner conference. A lot of those in-person activities really focus on when we roll out new products, training, hands on experience, right? So while we are digital first, the majority of what we do is digital, we always have that element of hands on training and education with our partner network. But from a planning perspective, like most companies, we look at our performance this year, year over year versus prior year versus the plan that we had, the opportunity that it presents itself and then we have a conversation with each and every single one of our partners to see what next year will look like. And those conversations gravitate around what is the year over year growth, what is the inventory a partner should hold or could hold, and it might be point of sale data to be provided and it might be MDF co marketing. If you’re a certain tier and we start projecting based on the growth projections that we get from our partners, kind of estimating how much do we need to accrue for in order to deliver on the co marketing that we do with the partners. But I would say the annual planning and we look at partners, they’re part of the Honeywell family, right? So the same way we work with other functions with sales and our partners and it’s a very similar conversation. What is the growth target for next year? How can we jointly get there and what can we do to help you get then co op funding and some of the co op model, the co marketing activities is at the at the center of the program.

Tori Barlow: Yeah. When you put a budget together, I think something else top of mind is proving bottom line, proving ROI. I know there’s been, you know, everyone has a different method of what is ROI from a partner program. I hear partner influence. I hear oh actually bottom line what is the revenue driven from partners? So I guess how do you think about managing your partner program ROI and what’s worked for you?

Olli Fleischhut:  We look at three dimensions and if the the marketing budget that we spend, if it had an impact. The three dimensions are reputation work, demand generation work ,and then sales channel enablement. And reputation, the way we measure it is around the share of voice. And so when we think about the key themes, the key messages that we want to amplify each year and we try to keep them between three and five so that it’s manageable because if you try to be known for 20, 30, 50 messages, you won’t do any of them justice or correct? Right? So we always limit it to the kind of three, five key messages, and then we amplify them with speaking engagements with our PR media work, social work, and then we track the share of voice against our key competitors across those five dimensions of 3 to 5 messaging dimensions. That’s the reputation KPI that we follow and we track it back to marketing activities. And the second one demand generation is really under the umbrella of lead generation. And if somebody runs an event or a webinar or page search retargeting, whatever the the marketing mix around the campaign is, we put a lot of effort into tagging the individual marketing activities and any marketing activity that then results in an inquiry where marketing was the first touchpoint, that is when we call it marketing generated, and then we track it to our marketing automation tools, the CRM tool, and then all the way up to sales. So we go from inquiry to MQL, SAL, SQL, and then it goes all the way to Pipeline end and we track that across our operation.

Olli Fleischhut: Now the Channel Partner program and the PRM, our partner relationship portal will now enable us to also have a two way street conversation with some of our smaller partners in certain countries, which may not use our CRM system to exchange leads back and forth. So there’s another Win-Win where we get a line of sight into maybe the point of sale data, but the partners also get benefits from the air cover campaigns that we run at Honeywell. And so we track that from what is our return on marketing investment, which is basically orders minus spend, divided by spend. What is our marketing generated pipeline and marketing generated revenue. Those are the three demand generation KPIs that we look at. And then sales and channel enablement. That is mainly driven by surveys where we ask for honest and direct feedback from our friends over at sales and channel, and we run them usually on a quarterly, sometimes every six months basis. And that’s very specifically what works, what doesn’t work good, bad and ugly. And then we’ll look at again at the feedback and then we’ll pick activities that we say we need to address and can optimize. So those, I would say, are the three dimensions that we look at measuring the return and the impact marketing has in helping our partners and the company grow and grow in a profitable way.

Tori Barlow: These are so timely for end of year planning and what our listeners that manage partner programs are trying to prove. And and it’s hard, you know, it’s not an easy feat to prove partner ROI but these are great takeaways that you’ve explained. Thank you to our guest, Ollie, vice president of marketing for Honeywell Building Technologies. And thank you to you listeners for joining us here at the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you like to listen to podcasts.