If there’s one thing people love, it’s rewards. Whether it’s enticing friends to help you move with the offer of free lunch or buy-two-get-one-free deals on shoes, there’s something satisfying about getting something extra back for the effort or funds you’ve put in. Still, for some, lunch isn’t enough to justify moving heavy furniture, or buying those shoes isn’t worth the cost savings of another pair.
Similarly, one size does not fit all when it comes to channel incentive programs. What one likes, another will dismiss. Different rewards motivate different performers in different ways. Additionally, what kind of incentives are you offering? They should vary based on the products or services you’re promoting, the complexity and length of the sales cycle, product value and the state of the market.
Successful incentive programs usually have several traits in common, which we’ll break down for you. Let’s go over what qualities your incentives program should aspire to.
Let’s start this off with an example. If you had to pick between two different tech solutions to manage incentives, which would you go with: Something comprehensive but complicated? Or something that clearly presents all incentive options in a glance? Most would go with the latter. Partners are drawn to systems that are easy to dive into, document their progress toward meeting targets, and whose campaigns are most accessible. The point is, people like simplicity in technology whenever possible, even when it actually houses a lot under the hood.
Good incentive programs don’t revise the rules for qualifying for certain rewards every year. Frequent change won’t build loyalty. Keep your rules consistent so partners know where they stand, and so they can plan accordingly.
One Size Fits Some
Make sure you’re getting your proportions right. Incentives should match the amount of time and effort necessary. Smaller rewards for smaller efforts, like training and sales calls, and larger rewards for undertakings like certifications and major sales wins make sense and leave partners satisfied with the reward for their input.
Well-planned incentive programs drill down to the individual level, and to all (or, at least, most) of the touchpoints between partner and end-user. This level of detail allows vendors to encourage every step taken in the sales cycle. It also gives vendors more data points when assessing and modeling the best sales strategies per market, or which partners are most active.
Partners want to know where they stand in your program — often, they want to know how they stand in relation to other partners, too. Assigning points to activities like demos and sales calls not only gives partners a way to score themselves that encourages a little friendly competition, it can reward activities without substantially increasing cost of sales. Rewards, and channel-wide recognition, should also be given for passing tests or earning certifications that strengthen your partner’s expertise in your brand — and paying directly to individual sales reps or teams wins more loyalty than paying the channel organization at large.
Easy Access to Resources This one is a given, really, but it’s worth mentioning as a reminder for you to check. Are your sales sheets, scripts, proposal templates, competitive analyses, market trend datasheets and websites supporting your channel readily available for partner use? Partners need this to make their business case to prospects, and, even more importantly, you should make these assets customizable if possible.
Want to learn more ways to develop a healthy, thriving channel partner ecosystem? There’s way more than just incentives programs out there. We outline seven clear steps in our eBook, 7 Steps to Growing a Profitable Channel Partner Ecosystem with PRM. And be sure to tell us what successes or challenges you’ve had with your channel incentives programs! We’re all ears.
As Director of Marketing Communications, Lisa is responsible for development and implementation of Zift’s marketing strategies, marketing communications, analyst relations and PR activities. She has over 20 years of experience working with channel marketing and sales experts with special focus on technology, health sciences, government agencies and financial services.