Building a successful channel program is a lot like building a house. This blog series from Valerie Richards, Account Manager at Zift Solutions, will help you determine the right space and resources for all of the “inhabitants” of your channel program.

A Bit of Background

Prior to joining Zift Solutions, I spent nearly two decades in sales and marketing roles with the bulk of my career focusing on channel marketing as a director and manager of channel programs and marketing for well-known organizations like McAfee (now Intel Security), Hitachi Data Systems and Polycom. Over the years, I gained a strong understanding of what it takes to engage and enable partners in today’s marketplace. That’s one of the primary reasons that I enjoy helping our customers get the most out of the Zift Solutions Platform. I’ve been in your shoes and have faced what I know can feel like overwhelming channel marketing challenges firsthand. Now, I get to use my experience of being on both sides to help others use Zift’s powerful tools and resources to overcome them.

Success Starts with a Plan

House blueprintsTo determine the right solutions for their channel partners, I often encourage channel marketing managers to take a step back to look at the big picture. Much like building a house, building a powerful partner program takes insight and forethought. You may have all of the materials and resources you need on hand. But without a structured plan for usage, they could go to waste.

No one builds a house without a blueprint and the same goes for designing a successful channel marketing program. Before you start building, you must be mindful of the characteristics of your occupants (channel partners) and provide exactly what each will need to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the “household” (channel program). In the case of channel marketing, that means taking time to carefully segment your partners.

Segmenting Partners for Maximum Impact

You can likely categorize and segment partners into one of three (3) primary categories:

  • Referral Partners: These are typically independent consultants who receive a referral bonus for passing on a lead to a vendor after uncovering an opportunity or recommending a specific solution to a member of their client base.
  • Resale Partners: These are your Value Added Resellers (VARs), Managed Service Providers (MSPs), Solution Providers and System Integrators, all of whom serve as a direct extension of a vendor’s sales and possibly support organizations. They are active sales professionals who are highly involved in prospect activities and relationship-building, providing pre-sales expertise and post-sales deployment services to prospects and clients.
  • Distributors: These partners typically have a direct relationship with vendors and resellers, buying direct from manufacturers, selling to resellers, and providing the opportunity for vendors to broaden their reach without adding additional costs.

What Kind of Landlord Will You Be?

Like a homeowner or landlord, the channel marketing manager serves as the ultimate owner or head of your channel marketing programs, deciding how to prioritize and what to provide to each of your channel partners. By understanding and fulfilling their unique needs, you’ll either create a harmonious or dysfunctional atmosphere. So, who goes where and what do they actually require?

The Right Tools for Referral Partners

Let’s start with Referral Partners. Using the homebuilding analogy, Referral Partners don’t need a master suite and would be perfectly comfortable with the necessities of a guest room. They aren’t going to stay too long, so providing them with the basics works well, but don’t worry, you’ve made your “home” very easy and comfortable to live in, they’ll be back, and you are fine with that.

As Referral Partners are focused primarily on lead generation and don’t require extensive nurturing capabilities, you can deliver “set it and forget it” capabilities to help them fill the top of the sales funnel, pass on leads and move on with their business. Some of the ideal tools for Referral Partners typically include:

  • Content Syndication: Great website content is critical as the sales journey and education process for today’s self-empowered buyers often starts online. Content syndication makes it easy for referral partners to deliver fresh, relevant product information to prospects, even when they don’t have the resources to develop it themselves. Product showcases and individual widgets allow you to automatically embed your content into a referral partner’s website. Plus, dynamic content syndication automatically adjusts content to match prospect interests and behavior to boost conversion rates.
    • Banner Ads & Lead Forms: Your Content Syndication solution should provide an array of online advertising capabilities for Referral Partners. Some of these include the ability to generate targeted banner ads on partner websites plus landing pages with lead forms, making it easy to capture and pass on the customer lead data that generates their referral fees. You control the content and duration of campaigns.
    • Website Analytics: It’s critical to provide the capabilities for Referral Partners to measure and monitor site visits. Both you and your Referral Partners should see exactly how content is consumed with real-time analytics, and reverse IP look-up even lets Referral Partners generate their own leads.
  • Social Media Syndication: Referral Partners are often one- or two-man shops, so help them build their presence, jump start prospect connections and enable thought leadership through social media syndication. Provide Referral Partners with the tools needed to supplement their social contributions and enhance their social media presence across multiple sites with vendor-provided content and lead-capture forms.
  • PPC Advertising: PPC is a flexible, low cost way to help Referral Partners drive in net new leads via online marketing through Google and/or LinkedIn.
  • Campaign Analytics, Lead Scoring & Notifications: Referral Partners rely on measurement and need the freedom to focus on their business. Campaign analytics, lead scoring and notifications provide the information Referral Partners need and facilitate engagement without adding anything to their workload. They can easily download lead reports and pass that along to the vendor for follow-up.

Up Next

In upcoming installments of this series, we’ll explore how to further refine your house plans to match the needs of Resellers and Distributors. Be sure to check back in at Channel Chatter as we detail the best ways to utilize tools to meet unique requirements of your partners and ensure the overall success of your channel program.