What problems are hitting your channel program hard? Do you feel up against the ropes due to misalignment between Channel Sales and Marketing? Maybe lack of partner engagement has got you down. No need to worry any longer — my recent podcast appearance on Channel Journeys covered some of the common problems channel programs face, so you’re in the right place. Read on to get pumped up and ready to knock out those problems for a win for your program.
Channel Journeys is a consulting firm that aims to accelerate growth for IT vendors in the channel space. Their podcast series features thought leadership from leading experts in the field, from Jay McBain to Rod Baptie. It’s well worth your listen! I chatted with Channel Journeys founder and podcast host Rob Spee myself recently, and we got to talking about what prevents some channel programs from ending up on top.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing with your program? The way I see it, there are the massive challenges that you tackle piece by piece, and then there are the day-to-day challenges everyone feels. Day-to-day challenges are often callbacks to misalignments in the way your program is organized. Let’s discuss two of the most common day-to-day challenges that may be tripping up your footwork.
Misalignment Got You On the Mat?
The benefits of channel technology really become visible when the program is fully aligned. Here at Zift, we see these programs because we help both sides of the equation. Channel marketers view us as the engine creating demand with partners, and sales view us as a tool for measuring and reporting. Combine these two, and you’ll find some great results. A siloed channel program can never be fully effective, but this has been a problem for quite a while. Ten years ago, channel marketing was part program, part sales effort and part marketing effort. It was very segmented and, at the same time, not a well-defined function for most suppliers.
But what helps break down these silos? Data. Data runs through the system from partners into marketing activities and helps fuel further successes, if you apply it forward. Keep data flowing between channel sales, marketing and operations, and toward establishing future goals. For example, sales inputs lead data that helps establish future marketing campaigns targeted at that particular segment.
Meet Your Match with Partner Engagement
Another big challenge a lot of programs face: Getting engagement up and keeping it up. At Zift, we see all kinds of channel programs, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a partner engagement plan. However, there are some golden rules to keep in mind that can help you out.
Another way alignment can help you out: Look at marketing and sales activities cohesively versus taking a one-and-done approach. Every activity adds up. They aren’t individual activities, but part of a whole, and it’s a suppliers’ job to make this clear to partners. On average, partners are busy enough balancing activities among six or seven suppliers, so suppliers need to ensure that every marketing activity is tied into one overall experience.
Don’t leave it to partners to initiate activities, either. Send to-partner communications whenever new marketing activities are available for them. Reach out with automated, helpful onboarding at the start, and run incentives programs to keep partners active. Market to partners, in short, as if they are customers.
In fact, you can market to prospective and existing partners as well as customers with awareness campaigns. Let’s say you’ve got a new solution to offer. Treat partners like leads — get them engaged and excited about your new offering so they’ll turn around and share that enthusiasm with customers. Use campaigns to target partners and build awareness just as you’re using those same campaigns to generate leads. You can also drive recruitment with those same campaigns by running them in watering holes where prospects go to get information, such as eBooks or webinars.
Once you’ve energized existing and new partners, though, you’ve got to sustain that level of energy. Make next steps obvious and include the magic phrase: “Partners, here’s what’s in it for you.” That’s the K.O. punch to defeat lackluster partner engagement.
Got any ideas of your own on how to pick up a win in your match against channel challenges? Drop a comment below — I’d love to hear your thoughts.