I have longed to visit the UK for years, particularly Oxford and London. These cities are the heart of English language and literature, dream destinations for any English major or book nerd. (That would be me). So when I learned I would be headed to the UK for the 2019 SiriusDecisions Summit Europe, I was thrilled. But it was my first time traveling overseas — and I was a bit nervous.
I knew London and Oxford held tremendous value for me. These are cities steeped in history, full of educational opportunities and knowledge I could use in my current professional role (as well as for personal nerd-bird enjoyment). What I didn’t know was how to navigate them. I felt much like a new channel partner, reseller or distributor stepping into an exciting but unfamiliar program for the first time. I wanted to get started but didn’t know my way around — and I feared I would miss something vitally important just winging it on my own.
My first stop was Oxford. Not only is Oxford home to the famous Bodleian Library, Christ Church, and Ashmolean Museum, it is also host to one of Zift’s primary offices. Located in Oxford Science Park, one of the most influential science and technology environments in the UK, the Oxford-based office is a hive of innovation, collaboration, and activity. While there, I met incredible fellow-Zifters focused on developing and providing the most sophisticated yet straightforward software coupled with truly superior services to the channel leaders and partners who rely on Zift for their channel sales, marketing, and/or operations activities.
This is the home base of Zift Expert Services, with on-the-spot professionals overseeing product configuration, campaign management, content management, integration management, reporting, and analytics. In proper British fashion, team meetings are just as likely to take place around an emerald green-felted Billards table residing in a breezeway as they are tucked in a cozy conference room with a cup of Earle Grey. The team works together to get these done quickly and efficiently — always with an eye toward keeping our customers’ businesses moving forward and getting the most from their channel-focused data and investments. Moreover, they have decades of channel experience and know-how to share. And share they did.
My Oxford onboarding experience had all of the hallmarks of a first-class partner experience. I was welcomed with open arms and immediately shown everything the office had to offer. I could collaborate easily with my fellow partners — and, as I learned and leveraged what was available to me, I found myself quickly positioned for productivity. There were resources at the ready to do my job — and seamless IT connections to the tools and systems I was already familiar with and use daily in the States. Everything was already aligned to help me succeed personally while driving value for the business.
The bottom line from channel experts was clear: Channel sales leaders who support and quantify partner-specific productivity and profitability establish credibility and influence with C-level executives and program stakeholders, as well as with partners themselves. Ideally, new partners should be engaged within 30 days of joining your program, fully informed of your business value within 60 days — and empowered to start selling and acting on leads within 90 days. If you can’t quickly onboard, motivate, and measure partner performance within those first 90 days, your efforts will likely fail.
I was still musing on these stats when I checked into the infamous Savoy Hotel for my last night in London. This was a personal treat for me after the Sirius Summit and before heading back to the States. Like a partner buzzing with excitement about the potential of a new alliance with a well-known established supplier, I approached the Savoy with a strong sense of respect for its historic influence. I also quickly saw how superior service sets the Savoy well apart from any potential competition. I was greeted by name and welcomed immediately. Check-in included a complete tour of the hotel’s expansive facilities and even an orientation of my suite. When I did need something — anything — the Savoy’s team was at the ready with answers, immediate support, and even suggestions for making my overall experience in London even better.
Some may say that a hotel is just a hotel. The Savoy taught me that the right services take everything to the next level — and create return if not lifelong customers. The same can be applied to channel programs. There’s so much more involved in channel success than popping up a partner portal or launching a campaign. Even the very best channel technology falls short without the proper support. That’s why an array of services, support, best practices, education and thought leadership should accompany any channel technology you evaluate or implement.
To create a solid foundation for long-term and lucrative channel success, the best and most successful suppliers know that their guest-partners require an array of self-service, managed and custom service options. Take a hard look at what your partners experience upon check-in to your channel program. Do you think they’ll return for more — or check out of your program and head straight to your competitors? Keep them cozy and close with strategic insight and tactical, on-going program support to maximize your (and your partners’) results and ROI.
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.