What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taught Channel Marketing?

Ever heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Sure you have. It’s been one of the most successful viral campaigns in the history of social media. For me, this particular movement is rather close to my heart, because not only is it an amazing cause—bringing awareness to a terrible disease and raising money for research that will hopefully lead to a cure soon—but also my friend and high school classmate is currently battling ALS with unbelievable courage and grace.

As it stands, this social media campaign has been remarkably successful, raising $15.6 million thus far as a result of the challenge. That’s more than nine times the amount of money that’s normally donated to the major ALS organizations in the same time frame.

Beyond the obvious implications of this amazing human-interest story, what else can we learn from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

1.) Everyone and their parents are on social media, and those who were heretofore uncomfortable using social media are becoming more comfortable with it.  At this point, if you aren’t using social media in some form, you’re probably missing some important conversations that are taking place within, around, and about your channel. This includes dialogue between your channel partners and their employees.

chick ice bucket

2.) Social media can be an extremely personal—and thereby effective—form of communication. For starters, you can comment directly to an individual customer, employee, or partner. Also, when you write on someone’s page or comment on a conversation they’ve started, you are giving them a vote of confidence. Essentially you’re saying, I’m not afraid to be seen with you in public! When working with your channel, the best social media campaigns are usually managed in a secure, Facebook-like module in the Channel Incentive Portal.

3.) If you “challenge” the individual, the masses will follow. As far as I can tell, communications to a mass audience doesn’t work very well. On the other hand, if you engage or “challenge” an individual with a call-to-action, the effectiveness of this contact will greatly increase. The fact is, unless you have a friendly relationship with someone, you probably aren’t going to contact him/her on Facebook, LinkedIn, or via text message. My point is, if you are reaching out through these mediums directly, then it could help you make the jump from business partner to business friend.

4.) Fun, public “call-outs” work with people you already are friendly with. Yes, the ALS challenge is intended to support an incredibly good cause, so most people are excited to help and participate in it. But a good social media campaign doesn’t have to be in the name of a charity or fighting for a cure in order to be effective. As long as there is good will between the “challenger” and the “challenged,” people will see it as simply as a fun way to engage and connect.

Here are some silly, yet very successful marketing campaigns I have designed, witnessed, or participated in, that have all utilized the power of social media in some way:

1.)    Concrete Chicken Tour — This concrete (yes, a heavy concrete) chicken named “Albert” was hand-delivered to the partner salesperson who happened to close the biggest deal that month. This lucky individual held onto—i.e. showed off—their trophy for an entire week, and was asked to “take care” of Albert and to take pictures of him throughout the week. In the office, in a meeting, with a client—even at home at the dinner table—there was Albert. You can image how much chatter amongst the channel partners this created. Of course, each of Albert’s “caretakers” kept upping the ante with their pictures, which were posted in a communal social media module inside their Global Channel Incentive Program Portal.

computer-skip2.)    Crush the Competition — One particular manufacturer ran a program called “Crush the Competition,” which included a social media component that evolved organically from a “conversion” incentive promotion. In their channel incentive program, this partner sales or sales engineer was offering valuable reward points for a sale that replaced any qualifying competitor’s equipment. To get credit for the conversion they had to submit a picture of the equipment they were replacing.  They would submit the picture through their normal claims process in their incentive portal.   It wasn’t long before the pictures became terrific images and even videos of playful destruction. Senior management loved the excitement it generated throughout the channel partner community.

3.)    Life’s a Beach — We all know that the Ultimate Reward for a channel partner is the achievement of the prestigious President’s Club group trip. One of my clients had a great community dialogue going with its channel partner that was hosted in their Channel Incentive Portal. Of course when pictures started being uploaded from the trip, it turned into great motivation for those that didn’t earn into that year’s President’s Club. This resulted in more first-time qualifiers than ever before!

If you haven’t been using social media to engage and “challenge” your channel, the time is now. Please share with me some successful programs you may have run. Or email or call me to brainstorm on some ideas that might work for your unique channel.

Move the Channel,
Travis

Email

 

Move the Channel Marketing Guide & 1.0 & RIMES Chart – Origin Story

RIMES PicSince the release of Move The Channel’s Channel Marketing & Sales Guide 1.0, I’ve been inundated with emails and phone calls asking me, “Travis, what is the Move The Channel Marketing & Sales Guide, what is RIMES, and how did you come up with them?”

So here’s the brief origin story: In collaboration with the Move The Channel Community (LinkedIn Group and www.movethechannel.com), we began brainstorming what the most important components of a successful channel marketing campaign might be. To initiate this discussion, we first enlisted the thousands of MTC members to offer up their opinions and ideas regarding marketing strategies, sales techniques, technological advancements, and other channel solutions. The best part of this process was that all of the data, concepts, and suggestions we received were based on the extensive personal experience of real channel professionals.

As we began organizing literally thousands of ideas and best practices from our numerous group members, we started to see different categories coming into focus, and we determined that the most effective way to present this information would be as a five-pronged holistic methodology, which we’ve referred to as “RIMES.” We deemed these to be the 5 major “pillars” of any successful channel marketing program, and our goal was to highlight each as it relates to the greater whole. For those who don’t yet know, RIMES stands for:

  •  Relationships
  •  Information Technology (As in the channel professionals have access to and can use IT to better support their goals)
  •  Marketing & Communications (although sometimes we also refer to this pillar as “Management” — as in Channel Management)
  •  Enablement and Education
  •  Selling — pushing products/solutions THROUGH the channel

In addition to RIMES serving as the pillars of a successful channel marketing program, it is also the foundation of our exclusive eBook, which we have called the Channel Marketing & Sales Guide 1.0. It has been designed and structured from an outside-in perspective, so that in future versions we can start to drill down and explore all of the various sub-categories. In this way, each pillar is a potential gold mine of information and insight regarding channel best practices, and it will be our job at Move The Channel to harvest these nuggets, one step at a time. So in this way, you might even think of 1.0 as the origins of a future Channel Wiki…

Please send me your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions on where to go during the next stage of Move the Channel’s Marketing Guide.

Move the Channel,

Travis

email

First Fight with your Channel Partner? Now you’re getting somewhere!

arm wrestWho doesn’t love those first idyllic months of a new relationship? You’re enamored, giddy and can do no wrong in one another’s eyes. But then whammo! One not-so-fine day the bubble bursts. He forgets a major commitment or she shows up an hour late for the third time and suddenly, instead of kissing, you’re sparring. Hello, reality.

If the above sounds like it might be the start of a blog from Match.com or some other dating advice site, it’s because it is.

Just like in personal relationships, channel partner relationships tend to go through stages of development that, although not without their challenges, can ultimately lead to healthy and mutually rewarding partnerships.

In my opinion, here is a rough outline of the 5 stages that any healthy relationship will go through:

  1. The Romance Stage
  2. The Power Struggle Stage
  3. The Stability Stage
  4. The Commitment Stage
  5. The Co-Creation or Bliss Stage

The Romance Stage is easy. If you have recently entered into an agreement with your partner, chances are to this point there has been lots of courting and a focus on all of the positives that the partnership can bring. At this stage both parties are probably excited, and may even possess some unrealistic expectations about the potential of the relationship.

Without a doubt, you should enjoy and make the most of this Romance Stage—but be careful not to stay in it for too long. The fact is that if you remain in this stage, it could mean not much actual business is getting done. If there is no friction, there is a good chance a big deal hasn’t forced you into the weeds of the partnership.  And therefore the partnership has never truly been tested.

I know this is going to sound crazy (and maybe even a bit strange), but your first “fight” with your channel partner could be the best thing to ever happen to the relationship. A fight might be a disagreement over the margin of a deal or who should “own” the end-customer relationship, etc.   Things might get a bit rocky for a time, and some partnerships might not even survive the first fight.  But you can work through it, you will have the foundation needed to build towards the highly lucrative and mutually beneficial partnership.   It isn’t until the partnership had been tested or until each party’s colors have been exposed they the relationship will enter into the Co-Creation or Bliss Stage. But remember: patience here is critical. While this final stage probably won’t be reached right after the first “fight,” it almost certainly wouldn’t happen without it.  sb10062994aa-003

The first “fight” is probably the best and most honest learning opportunity you will have with your partner. From this opportunity comes understanding, from understanding comes acceptance, and with acceptance comes a much easier path not just to longevity, but growth and success.

 

Are some of your best partnerships the ones that you have had a “fight’?

I wouldn’t ever go looking for a “fight”, but I might start questioning the partnerships that haven’t led to some kind of disparity or scuffle.
As always, please reach out with questions of comment!
Move the Channel,
Travis

Email

“Best” Lists Don’t Always Line Up With Group Channel Partner Incentive Travel

download

One of my favorite things to do is travel. I try not to make it a goal, but a way of life. Maybe that’s why I cherry-picked the performance incentive field for my career. When crafting performance incentive solution many of the programs I design are group trips to exotic destinations. And yes, I do usually try to join my client on the trip—one of the best perks to the business. J

As part of my job I subscribe to numerous travel magazines, and I love reading about destinations that I haven’t visited yet. This past week, Travel + Leisure Magazine published their annual “World’s Best Awards for 2014.” Looking at these lists of top hotels, cities, islands, and cruise lines, I realized that there is actually a huge contrast between what is considered “tops” for individual (vacation) travel as opposed to a larger group of high-performing sales reps or channel partners.

With individual travel, it seems that people are looking for the best beaches or sunsets when they choose their destination. The natural geography and beauty alone is often more than enough for the individual traveler. However, when it comes to selecting for larger groups there are much different metrics that should be considered before you crown a destination “best.” I call these metrics the “3 A’s,” as in:

  1. Accessibility — Is there a relatively large airport nearby? Or would you need to take a less convenient mode of transport (e.g. prop plane, sail boat, etc.) in order to reach the destination? Also, how far is the destination from your departure country? For example, Bali is a wonderful location for a group trip, except that it typically takes close to 24 hours by plane just to get there from the US east coast.
  2. Activities — If it’s only you or your family on a trip, choosing activities is a relatively easy task (although some families might disagree!). But for large groups, you may be asked to accommodate hundreds of different personalities and interests all in one location. Obviously, this can be a bit of a challenge. For example, Virgin Gouda is a wonderful destination—if everyone in your group wants to experience the laid back life of a boater. Often times, there just aren’t enough activities available in a single spot to entertain a large group for more than a couple of days.
  3. Accommodations — Does the destination have a property that can comfortably handle a large number of guests who may want to be grouped relatively close to each other? For example, Exumas, Bahamas only has one resort that can accommodate a large group, so you better reserve well in advance!

 

The following is Travel & Leisure’s list of the Top 10 Island Destinations.   I’ve added some additional commentary on whether these places could also function as successful group travel destinations:

images1.)                  Santorini, Greece – We agree this is a premier vacation destination in the world, but it’s not necessarily one that’s appropriate for a large group (100+). However, we’ve organized many Mediterranean Cruise Channel Programs “stop” on the island for wonderful events, but you probably wouldn’t want your large group staying there for more than 24 hours. So although it is a main attraction for a group travel incentive program, it usually isn’t the main destination.

2.)                  Maui, HI – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

3.)                  Kauai,HI – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

4.)                  Hawaii, the Big Island – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

5.)                  Bali, Indonesia – Excellent group travel destination. However, it requires a long flight and only offers one or two locations for suitable group accommodations.

6.)                  Oahu, HI – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

7.)                  Galapagos, Ecuador – Very difficult to access. The Galapagos would essentially be impossible for a large group, but they could serve as a great “Executive Retreat.”

8.)                  Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands – Only accessible by boat or prop plane. Virgin Gorda would be an excellent destination “stop” on a cruise but would not be ideal as a main destination for a large group.

9.)                  Vancouver Island, Canada – Weather is a concern.

10.)               San Juan Islands, WA – Weather is a concern.

 

If you’re looking for the perfect destination to send your high-achieving sales reps or channel partners to, it’s important to remember that what works for one person might not work for many. surfThis may seem like simple logic, but you’d be surprised by how many people tend to overlook these logistical details. Which is just one of the many reasons why employing a third party performance improvement company to manage your channel sales incentive program—and the group trip that is often the major reward—can prove to be extremely valuable in the long run.

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

email me

Why Channel Marketing Is NOT A Field of Dreams

Kevin_Costner_Field_of_DreamsKevin Costner has headlined some of my favorite sports movies of all time, including Tin Cup and Bull Durham. But perhaps his most loved and best-known sports film is “Field of Dreams,” famous for the line, “If you build it, he will come.” The story involves a down-on-his-luck farmer in the Midwest who suddenly hears a mysterious voice encouraging him to build a baseball diamond where his cornfield currently stands. Taking a leap of faith, the farmer decides to build the diamond, and the move eventually pays off as 1000s of visitors eventually line up to come see the “Field of Dreams.”

I’m someone who loves to see people make bold moves and follow their heart, but in Channel Marketing you can’t just “build it” and leave it up to fate.  Many companies with the best intentions go and build “Fields of Dreams” in the form of partner portals, marketing resources, learning management systems, partner relationship management solutions. They “build it” with the assumption that their channel partners will magically “come” and use these valuable resources, resulting in more sales and a stronger, more committed channel. An even bigger myth is that these “Fields of Dreams” will attract a new crop of partner prospects. However, unless your channel is exclusive to your products, the results and returns on these dreams always disappoint. field-of-dreams-movie-clip-screenshot-people-will-come_large

All too often I see companies building channel marketing plans, investing time and money into various systems without a clear path for achieving returns. They simply feel that if they “build it,” the partner “will come” and engage by embracing their new systems. But the good news is your investment in these valuable channel resources and tools don’t need to be like taking a leap of faith. A well-designed channel incentive program that shines a light on, rewards for, and recognizes key selling behaviors (including frequenting the systems “built,” such as your partner portals, marketing solutions, learning systems, etc.) can help build a strong channel partnership, one that offers a clear path to profitability. By highlighting these behaviors and introducing compelling rewards, you can help your partners understand WIIFM while laying out a blueprint for successfully selling your products. Ultimately, this will make for an easier, more clear-cut choice when they are deciding whether to do business with you or your competitors.

So remember: When it comes to Channel Marketing Programs, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.

How do you design the right channel incentive program?

What is the right reward and reward investment for your partner demographic?

 

As always please reach out with questions or comments!

Move the Channel,
Travis

email

 

Lady Gaga, Channel Marketing, and the Importance of Analytics

ladygaga_halloweenRecently, I was reading the blog of one of my favorite influencers, Bernard Marr. In his post, “What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Analytics,” I learned some really interesting—and surprising—things about Lady Gaga and how she leverages analytics to benefit her brand.

For years Lady Gaga has been a leader and trendsetter in the social media arena. Back in 2008, she was one of the first entertainers to take advantage of the vast potential of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Today, she has an astounding 42 million followers on Twitter and over 66 million “Likes” on Facebook; however, along the way Gaga has realized that despite her incredible following, she doesn’t own these databases and can’t fully leverage their power in the distinctively creative ways that she is famous for.

So what did she do? She decided to simply point direct her followers to her own personal website, LittleMonsters.com. This is where the real magic of analytics is manifested. On this site that she controls, she’s able to capture her fans’ information and use the resulting data in innovative ways, such as tailoring her concert set lists to the preferences of fans in particular regions. She also has boosted her merchandise sales by 30% by using fan artwork that’s been uploaded to her site on t-shirts and other clothing. Once again, Gaga is leading the way in harnessing the impressive power of analytics, big data, and social media.

“But it’s not just the music industry that can use big data to its advantage,” says Marr. “Any company—or indeed anyone—can, and should use data to make better decisions. And companies who don’t do that will be left behind.”

Mr. Marr, I couldn’t agree more!

 So, what can the channel marketing community learn from Lady Gaga?

1.) Social Media is NOT the source of knowing your Channel Partners and Market Ambassadors. It’s simply a way to build awareness of and drive traffic to your own space/website.

2.) What’s the BEST way to create your OWN website and space that will engage and appeal to your channel partner’s and partner’s sales people? Without question a channel incentive program packs the biggest draw of this audience.

3.) Capturing Partner and Partner Sales People Insight: Once you have designed a convincing Channel Rewards Program, your channel will start to surrender more information than you could hope for. This is more than just finding out who is selling your products—it’s who they are selling to, what complimenting vendors are part of their solution, what % of their sales are yours, what incentives motivate them, and what kind of dream awards are on their “wish list.”

4.) With this new channel insight, the opportunities to improve partner communication, marketing, training—and, well, “partnering”—are endless. In fact, this information may open up a whole new world that you never even knew existed.

Most of us are aware that well designed Channel Incentive Programs can always yield terrific gains when it comes to grabbing channel mind and market share. These results speak for themselves. But it’s also true that the #1 reason that leading companies implement and invest in channel incentive programs is for partner, partner sales people, and end-user information and insight. Why?  Because when you know your partners and partners’ sales people, you know how to talk with them, how to sell with them.  

So far, we have only scratched the surface regarding the powerful potential of data collection during the early parts of channel incentive programs. But think about the sales and training data that can be tracked and harnessed after years 1,2,3, and beyond! What will that data yield as far as insight into how to improve your business and your channel? How valuable will that information be as you make key decisions about the direction of your company? At HMI-MMI, we’ve developed R-Cube, a software-as-a-system (SaaS) that is a lethal combination of technology, process, and research expertise. In a way, companies that invest in this level of data management can become just a bit like Lady Gaga: always on the cutting edge of channel analytics.

Are you using Channel Incentive Programs to capture elusive data?  Are you analyzing that data to make better decisions going forward…. to Move the Channel?

As always, please reach out with questions or comment!

Move the Channel,
Travis

Email 

Channel Partner Incentives: The Ultimate Reward for your Channel Partner

Ultimate RewardAs many of you know, I have been in the business of recommending, designing, implementing, and managing channel incentive strategies for my clients for a long time now. Over the years, this experience has enabled me to recognize some of the most critical components of a successful channel incentive program, including identifying the behaviors you want to drive, developing the right rule structure, targeting the right “player” in the channel, and executing a sticky and engaging communications. However, I’ve also noticed that one component that can sometimes get lost amidst all of these program nuances is the actual incentive reward you choose to offer in order to MOVE YOUR CHANNEL. Hiding in plain sight, the most obvious and central element of your channel incentive program—the incentive itself—can become secondary in importance if you’re not vigilant about it. Take it from me, your program can have the best rules structure, the snazziest incentive portal, and all of the right engagement bells and whistles, but if you don’t have a reward that truly motivates the participant, it will all be for naught.

In my experience, there are two important factors to consider when providing a great incentive reward:

1.) The value, or the “perceived value” of the reward. Is the reward enough to engage and change behavior? Making sure that the actions you are requesting are worthwhile for the program participants is obviously vital to the success of achievement of those actions. When the participant asks “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)…..   the answer needs to be something exciting, desirable, & clear.

2.) The type of reward. This is often the main driver of significant gains in these channel incentive programs. Depending on the demographics of your program audience, there are many appealing rewards options. Most of the programs I recommend and manage allow the channel partner to choose what reward motivates them the most. By promoting this sense of autonomy, I’ve found that partners assume an added sense of ownership over their programs, which ultimately drives performance. They earn program currency (points) by achieving their goals or increasing certain sales driven activates (Steps-to-the-Sale). This award system is very effective and gives the participant the choice of endless merchandise, real-time travel options, online event tickets, a plethora of experience awards, and a personalized concierge service.flowating

So what’s the best type of reward? Is there a “best?” Without question, I’ve found that the undisputed champion of Channel Partner Rewards or Incentive is Group Travel Incentives. If your channel incentive program rewards its top-performing sales and channel partners with an incentive program then you know there is no greater form of recognition than achieving “President’s Club” status and taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic destination. Typically, these trips are more than just your average vacation; to be sure, they afford unique opportunities for fun, relaxation, and adventure, however they also provide the perfect networking opportunities in which to mingle with other high-achieving coworkers, peers, partners, and executive management. The memories and personal connections that these types of programs offer can very often lead to a lifetime of loyalty and lasting friendships.

Does your Channel Marketing Program Include and Group Travel Incentive Component?

Move the Channel,

Travis

email me

Global Channel Incentive Programs: Plan Global, Execute Local.

 

USA images

There are a handful of channel incentive companies that think they have the resources in place to run a global incentive program, but only a few who have actually executed these types of programs successfully. The reality is global incentive programs are hard.  God knows I have a ton of scar tissue from years of trying to iron out the many wrinkles that my programs have had to adjust to.

This past week I was in meetings with some of the brightest, most experienced and accomplished global channel incentive thought leaders in the country. These people are the brains behind 4 of the 6 leading global incentive programs in operation today. While I definitely learned a lot from these meetings, there was one concept in particular that stood out: “Plan global, execute local.” I love this motto. Not many years ago, the main factors for global programs—as opposed to regional independent programs—were that manufacturers wanted “the 3 C’s”: consistency in quality, controls (single pane of glass reports & audits), and continuity in best practices. So, back then we would roll out a centralized program that scaled across the globe with local delivery and customer service. This was a success!

soccer ball

In the short term, we achieved the 3 C’s. However, over time we realized that our solution was not flawless. For example, the various regions and countries didn’t want to be told how to engage and motivate their local partners. “The Americans don’t know my partners,” they would say—and they were right. We don’t always know what participants in one country want versus another. So how do we still share the technology investment and best practices without force-feeding a one-size-fits-all strategy into APAC solutions? One thing you can do provide them with local program management resources that can allow them to design and communicate their own programs that are unique to their regions, their partners, and their business objectives.  HMI-MMI is built for this type of support and program management.

True, this model comes with an increased cost; but the incremental mindshare and market share gains make this “plan global, execute local” strategy a no-brainer!

Is your global channel incentive program giving localized flexibility to multinational sales teams? Are you considering extending your program across the globe?

As always, reach out to me with idea, questions, and comments.

Move the Channel,

Travis

email me 

Channel Marketing: Is there really such a thing as a “good” problem?

Travis Good Problem QuoteLast week I was talking to a Channel Chief about her business, and she offered the following: “We are very excited that we met on our quota of new partner recruits last quarter. But now we’re struggling to give them the attention and training they need. I guess it’s a good problem.”

Here’s the rub. Most of the time, these “good problems” have to do with an increase in new business or new channel partners. However, I personally don’t believe there is such a thing as a good problem. You are either managing your business properly by anticipating the challenges that accompany success, or you’re not. If you’re a channel organization, one of your goals is to bring new partners into the fold who can help drive new business. But, if you aren’t able to support those new partners, then it’s liable to be bad for business, and anything that is bad for business can’t be good. I think that in order to be successful, you need to expect success. You need to be prepared for growth that might put a strain on your business, for new partners who will need your help closing and delivering on your solutions. When you anticipate these challenges, you can develop the tools that are required to solve them, such as a channel sales support team, a channel training team, and a scalable channel program that makes it easier for your partner to become more self-sufficient.

The thing about a “good problem” is that it sounds, well, good.  I call it what it is, a “bad problem”, because bad is something you want to avoid.  

We all have talked about our “good problems”.   Next time you catch yourself saying those words,  let it be an alarm for you to assess your business.  Let’s be honest and call them what they are, BAD Problems.   If we aren’t honest, we will always be OK with “Good” problems.  When we admit there are no good problems,  we can avoid bad problems in the future and start focusing on good opportunities to grow the business.

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

 email me

Mobile Up! The Top 5 Reasons why it’s time for Channel Marketing Mobile Apps

smartphone-kill-switch2#1:  Everyone has a smartphone today.  Almost all of your channel partners, channel partner sales, and their sales engineers—basically EVERYONE you want to engage—have a smartphone.  This morning, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released new survey data (n=2,252 US adults) on smartphone adoption. The organization says that 56 percent of all US adults now have smartphones. However, among the population of mobile phone owners (91 percent of US adults), the smartphone penetration number is now 61 percent, up from 35% three years ago.  What’s more, when we segment high-earning professionals like our channel partner’s sales and sales engineers, that number goes even higher.

If the #1 on the list isn’t enough reason alone, read on…

#2:  Access to your Audience:  Much of our audience is in the field—right where we want them to be. Because of this, Mobile allows us unprecedented access to our partners. In fact, most don’t even need to come back to the office to check their emails anymore. That probably also means they aren’t going back to the office to browse what’s new on your partner portal, either.

#3:  Communication:  Your partner program lives where your audience lives, and nowadays that life is mobile, on their smartphone. Your channel marketing logo (http://movethechannel.com/?p=292) can now sit next door to their Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn apps, like one big happy community. Making your channel program mobile enables your audience to quickly access key information that can help them sell more, determine what to sell, and close more frequently.  In addition to giving them access to these tools, we can also push communications and text messages to them, which comes in handy with promotions and channel reward programs.

#4:  Motivate and Engage:  We’re all familiar with the maxim “out of site, is out of mind.”  With a channel program app, we’re never out of sight. Talk about mindshare! Also, a mobile app means we don’t have to wait for the participant to come to us; now we can come to them.  For example, we can now push notifications about incentive promotions for certain products, offer leaderboard updates, let participants know their percent to goal, and send them an alert when they have enough points to redeem for that family vacation on their program Wish List!o-SMARTPHONE-facebook

#5: Capture Key Insight:  With mobile apps you can also capture key data that is critical to your business.  One challenge of a channel go-to-market strategy is that you lose a little bit of direct access to the end-user. But now, you can reward your channel partners for uploading pictures of the solution or the competitive product that needs replaced. Do people still talk about conversions as a KPI?  You can also have a claims process on the app so helps ensure you are giving credit to the right sales person or SE at the right partner.

The biggest question in terms of going mobile: Where do I get started?  I don’t encourage you to start from scratch.  Make sure you are working with a platform that already supports mobile technology.  If you are working on a partner platform it is a much smaller investment for Mobile Apps features.  For example HMI Performance Incentives will soon be offering a “Starter App” for our client’s channel incentive reward program that starts at around $10,000.

Looking for some mobile ideas? Shoot me an email with any questions.

Do you have a Mobile App for your Channel Marketing & Channel Incentive Program?

Move the Channel,

Travis

email

Your Channel Marketing Program: If you can’t explain it simply,….

albert-einstein-if-you-cant-explain-it-simply-you-dont-understand-it-well-enough

…you don’t understand it well enough. And your channel partners understand your programs even less than you. I have seen Channel Program Brochures that are 10 pages long, and presentation Channel Program overviews that are more than 40 slides.

We often get so involved in delivering MORE resources and MORE benefits, that we get trapped into thinking MORE is always better. It can be—to a point. Usually more resources and more benefits are a positive, but if your program needs a map and compass just to navigate through it, chances are you’ve overdone it.

Move the Channel has developed a Channel Marketing Guide & R.I.M.E.S chart. Don’t be trapped into thinking that you need to employ every one of the bullet points in your channel marketing program. Rather, consider the few that would be most impactful for your business and the relationship you have with your channel partners.

Download your MTC Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart here:

Move the Channel Cover

Enter your name and email address to download Move the Channel Guide and RIMES Chart

Name: Email:

Move the Channel,

Travis

The Worst thing you can do for your Channel Partners

mature-ecosystem-low-resYour Channel Distribution Partners have always been an important part of your business. Today we know more than ever we have understanding and insights into our distribution that enable to be a better partner. However, the more we understand the channel network, the more we realize how complex the channel ecosystem really is. It is easy to get lost and lose significance in such a complex ecosystem. However, we also know that with complexity comes great opportunity.

This points to a deeper question: Are you a positive influence on your channel ecosystem, causing it to thrive or are you passively watching the ecosystem fluctuate? If your channel marketing engagement and incentive programs look the same or similar as they did 5 or even 2 years ago, YOU are watching…. Not influencing.

I see it time and time again: A manufacturer feels like they have reached their initial channel marketing goals, and decides that they no longer want or need to push the envelope to get the most out of their channel. What begins as a goal-oriented strategy that’s based on growth and progress eventually seems to plateau into what is comfortable, familiar, and relatively risk-averse.

But make no mistake: I believe this is the WORST thing you can do for your channel partners, which is to say keep doing what you’re doing.

But we are recognized by CRN as having a five star program—why should we change?”

Or

We have worked hard to offer our channel a partner portal, marketing resources, field resources, as well as some of the best benefits in the industry—why should we rock the boat?

An effective channel marketing program should be a journey, not a destination. The moment you decide that your program has “made it” is the moment it starts to become stale.

Are you bringing new talent into your channel organization that includes fresh ideas and a unique perspective?  Are you working with new (or at least new to you) leading vendors who bring upgraded best practices and ways to engage the channel?

As always, send me a note with ideas or to discuss further.

Move the Channel,

Travis

Email

Dear Channel Sales Rep,

Anthonoy Iannarino Coaching

The letter below and many of the concepts included in it are borrowed from Anthony Iannarino’ weekly newsletter. Of course I spun it into a letter that could be directed to your channel sales force and injected it with some Move the Channel vernacular.

Anthony is a sales coach for hire, and one of the best Keynote speakers I have ever seen. I usually start my morning by reading Anthony’s blog, and I never miss his weekly newsletter. If you are a Channel Sales Leader, you and your sales force should make The Sales Blog part of your weekly diet too.

 

Dear Channel Sales Rep,

If you are going to sell successfully with your channel partner, you can’t be “just a salesperson,” or “just a vendor.” You need to be someone with the business acumen and situational knowledge that can help your partner grow their business while also growing your own.

What sort of business acumen do you possess? As someone who’s position is atop the sales channel, your knowledge of your industry should cater to both the micro and the macro elements of business. This means mastering the language of both our business (i.e. the manufacturer) and the language that is unique to your channel partner’s business. Do you understand the unique business of your business partner? Obviously, their goal will not be just to sell more of our products–after all, their loyalties lie first with their shareholders and employees. However, if we can align our goals with those of our partners, then ideally the achievement of their goals will result in the selling of our products. In other words, we want to be a (big) part of their overall solution and offering. Thus, if we can understand our channel partner’s goals, we can better position our products and services to help them achieve those goals.

How much situational knowledge do you own? To sell effectively, you need more than just experience. You need to know which choices are available to your channel partner and the end customer, including which products to buy, which services to use which partner to sign with, etc. Even if you are the industry leader, they have choices. As someone whose position is atop the sales channel, you need to be an expert not just with your products, but with your partner’s overall solution as well, and you need to know which options are available to the end customer. There should never be information parity between you, your channel partner, and the end-customer.  Obviously, you are expected to be the expert when it comes to your products; but in order to help your partner and the end-user, you also need to know all of the choices that are unique to them.   

As our Channel Sales Rep, what are you going to do this week to develop your business acumen?  Can you apply knowledge & empathy to your partners’ and end-customers’ situation?

Let’s go Move the Channel!

Sincerely,

trav signature image

 

 

Travis M. Channel

 

Channel Chief, Any Leading Company, Inc.

Email

781-680-0258

www.movethechannel.com

 

10 Channel Marketing Program lessons from Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir AlexToday I bring to you a story from a different hemisphere.  A story about arguably one the most impactful figures in all of sport.  You have heard me speak with passion about American Football, Baseball, Basketball, and the people in those sports that have changed the game.  Today I share Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson’s secrets of persuasion and turn them into Channel Marketing lessons.

I found the story at one of my favorite blogs spots http://influence-people-brian.blogspot.com/ .  Brian Ahearn is a friend and master of persuasion and one of only 20 Cialdini Method Certified Trainers® (CMCT®) in the world.   He recently shared a post from Sean Patrick a fellow Cialdini Method Certified Trainer.

Each number (1-10) references and matches a passage from the story below.   Here are the lessons I took away from this wonderful piece on SAF:

  1. Move the Channel:  Do your channel partners put themselves before winning titles?  Culture. 
  2. Move the Channel:  To find the best partners, we need grassroots “talent scouts” too.  Recruiting.
  3. Move the Channel:  Have you developed an academy and channel training strategy the produces the most successful teams?  Training.
  4. Move the Channel:  Does your organization have you finger on the pulse of every area of the Channel Ecosystem?  Pulse.
  5. Move the Channel:  Are you holding your channel partner accountable and “coaching them up”?  Goals and QBR Process.
  6. Move the Channel:  Have you fired a channel partner recently and focused on ones showing great potential?  Should you?
  7. Move the Channel:  Do you demonstrate respect, fairness, and empathy toward you partners?
  8. Move the Channel:  Do you invest to retain and coach your partners that have potential to be great?   Coaching. 
  9. Move the Channel:  Do your channel partners feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves?  Inspired.
  10. Move the Channel:  Do you have a channel rewards and incentive program that helps your channel partners hear “well-done”.  Channel Incentive Programs.

 

Here’s the story from Sean Patrick, Sales Coach:

In May 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson or SAF as he’s otherwise known as, stepped down as manager of Manchester United.  He had just won his 13th Premiership title, the most successful and highly decorated manager in English football.  This ended his 26th season in charge of one of the biggest sporting franchises in the world.

During his time at Old Trafford he won 38 titles including two UEFA champions league trophies. 1.) Ferguson took control of the club at a time when player status was more important than winning titles, over the course of four seasons and under severe pressure to deliver, he transformed the club from the inside out.  2.) He employed countless talent scouts to find the best youth players at grassroots level and 3.) developed an academy that produced one of the most successful teams in English football history.  4.) Every season a major development was installed inside the club that cemented United’s ability to find and retain the best playing staff.  Ferguson was well known for having his finger on the pulse in every area of the club.  Only Matt Busby, a legendary former United manager had any such influence across the entire club.

So how did he do it?  Ferguson was well known for his ability to psychologically influence the players around him and rival managers.  Ferguson believed that the key to success was to make sure that every player put in 100% during training.  He never allowed a bad training session as this proved a player would find mediocrity acceptable, he knew bad habits form quickly.  5.) He ensured that every player who under-performed at half time became aware of their poor performances thus the legendary motivational skills reared itself in the dressing room.

Former rival manager Jose Mourinho claimed Ferguson was the master of the ‘second game’, sing the media to motivate his team and to begin, as he put it, ‘to play the next game before it starts’.

The club and everyone around him knew he was the authority figure.  If a player tried to take over the dressing room or put in a poor performance he was either swiftly removed from the club or was given a severe face-to-face screaming which had become known as the hairdryer treatment.  His authority was without question embedded into the organization. 6.) Over the course of his 26 season reign he made difficult choices and this came in the form of releasing established world class players such as Roy Keane, Jaap Stam and David Beckham to make room for untested younger players such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo who became medal winners at United.

There was another side to 7.) Ferguson, he was liked and respected.  He was treated respectfully by senior management and back-room support staff and reciprocated respect by demonstrating fairness and his ability to empathize.  These skills were tested during the season of 1995-96 when maverick player Eric Cantona attacked an opposition supporter Kung-Fu style and consequently given a heavy suspension lasting several months.  8.) Over the course of this period, Ferguson mentally coached Cantona, firstly to retain his services and secondly to mentally motivate and prepare the player for his return.  Subsequently, Cantona blossomed to become a model player and became club captain helping United secure more silverware.

This method of psychologically preparing and motivating players culminated in United’s first UEFA Champions league title in 1999.  They faced a tough fixture against Germany’s Bayern Munich.  At half-time United were trailing, he reminded his players that if they lost the match they would not as much be allowed to touch the trophy, just amble past at a safe distance wearing their losers medal.  9.)  One of the players later recalled that Ferguson’s inspirational speech turned fearful men into world-beaters.  During that same season, United became the first side from a major league to win the treble of Champions league, English Premier league and League cup in a single season.

sir-alex-ferguson-hd-wallpapers

Ferguson understood the importance being consistent. One of his key skills in improving the preparedness of his players was his use of storytelling and being to talk to each player individually.  He liked to change the themes of his team talks with regularity.  “I once heard a coach start with ‘this must be the 1000th team talk I’ve had with you’ and saw a player quickly respond with ‘and I’ve slept through half of them!’  If a player was to sit out a game, he gave a personal and very frank conversation that conveyed empathy and instilled confidence in the player.

10.) Ferguson emphasized on the use of instilling confidence on the training pitch.  “There is no room for criticism on the training field’.  ‘There is nothing better than hearing ‘well-done.”

What is a Channel Engagement Portal?

portal

What is a Channel Engagement Portal? Before I explain what it is, maybe first I should start by telling you what it is NOT.

  • It’s NOT a robust LMS, or a heavy training, certification, and accreditation solution.
  • It’s NOT a robust marketing center where partners can co-brand and customize messaging and campaigns on demand.
  • It’s NOT a rebate or co-op management and distribution solution.
  • It’s NOT a robust CRM system, nor a social networking site.
  • It is NOT a Channel Rewards or cash spiff program.

 

E Portal Log In

Now, with that being said, here’s what an engagement portal IS:

 

  • It IS the perfect platform for new products readiness & competitive positioning readiness trainingAnd it can totally integrate with those necessary LMS systems to track and reward important accomplishments.
  • It IS ideal for serving up the latest and most relevant content to help your partners sell and stay informed.
  • It IS an effective tool for creating awareness and excitement for the principal, while also serving up their % to goals and partner level tiers.
  • It IS a great way to reward and motivate the partner’s salespeople for KPIs that are being tracked and measured in your CRM.
  • It IS a platform that can be used to incentivize social behavior related to a partner’s business.
  • It IS an essential part of rewarding your channel stakeholders. It’s what ties all of their good selling behaviors together. While you reward for training, sales, KPIs, social sharing, etc., they can redeem for merchandise, travel, event tickets, or anything else that engages people.

If you can only see Engagement Portals for what they can’t do, then you’re probably ignoring the inherent value that they can bring to any partner program. Maybe it IS time you kicked that glass-half-empty vision and started taking advantage of these platforms’ full potential.

If you want to hear or see more about the power of Engagement Portals shoot me a note here:  Contact Us

Move the Channel,
Travis

Channel Marketing: In With The Old, and The New (Part 1)

old-vs-new-21313880The old model of channel marketing features three main components: partner benefits, sales resources and training, and quarterly goal setting.

On the other hand, the new model of channel marketing focuses on channel community/collaboration, educating (not just product training), and motivating the POI (Point of Influence).

Well guess what? The old model is still the foundation for a successful channel.  The new way simply AMPLIFIES the old way.

As much as the channel has evolved in recent years, there are still many aspects of it that remain the same. For instance, you still need benefits that offer profitability to the partner at the firm-level. You still need serious ease of selling resources to move the partner’s sales and sales management. You still need clear goals to make sure everyone’s objectives are aligned.

Although these continue to be pillars of a channel partner program, we now find ourselves strengthening and enhancing these areas in new ways.

Program benefits now includes being part of a channel community where ideas are shared, experiences become best practices, and solutions to the end-user are delivered collaboratively.

Time-honored sales resources and training now also tend to include industry knowledge-sharing and value-creation training that is elastic and able to be delivered in timely, relevant “lessons.”  The process of “Educating” is developed by the training department but in conjunction with the channel marketing and sales teams that are in the field selling.

Finally, the Partner Firm-level is still typically the target of many incentives and communications; but now we have also extended our engagement and messaging to target the POI (Point of Influence), which is mainly the partner’s sales or sales engineers that interface directly with the end-user customer.   Before, it used to be the touch to the POI was with Cash Spiffs.  Today, a true engagement and incentive program enables you to reward the partner’s sales people for behaviors that lead to sales or Steps-to-the-Sale (STTS)!

Sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same. Are you embracing the New, or is your channel program just getting Old? Maybe it should be a bit of both. . .

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

Channel Partner Meetings: Quantity or Quality

quality_vs_quantityBack in the day when I was a regional channel rep, I would pride myself on the number of partner meetings I could fit in during a 48-hour city visit.  My all-time high meetings in a single Day was in Phoenix when I met with 4 partners, 2 partner prospects, and 2 end-users.

Here is what a REALLY good day looked like:

  • 7am – Breakfast Partner Meeting
  • 9am – Partner Meeting
  • 11am – End-User Site Visit
  • 12pm – Lunch with Partner Prospect
  • 2pm – End-User Prospect Meeting with Partner
  • 4pm – Partner Meeting that ran into happy hour
  • 6:30pm – Dinner with my largest Partner’s Sales Team

Yes, this was back when our T&E budgets were bigger and less scrutinized! It was one of the best times of my career, when I met and befriended some great people with whom I did lots of good business. Of course I still enjoy traveling and visiting clients today, and I’m always trying to secure as much face-time with partners as I possibly can; but looking back on that whirlwind day, I can’t help but think that with that kind of schedule I could not have been properly prepared for each and every one of those meetings. Sure, I went through my finely tuned checklist, introduced my products, and even helped train some of my partners on how to position and sell those products. But did I take the time to research each of their unique and evolving business interests, and show them how OUR products could help THEM provide a more complete solution that would lead to more and longer-lasting end-customers for their business? You know, I probably didn’t do this as well, or as thoroughly as I should have. I’m guessing that somewhere during that Day of Many Meetings I missed a big opportunity, both for myself and for my company. My attention had to be in too many places at once.

Since then I’ve realized that to improve the quality of my meetings, I may need to limit their quantity. Sure, it may sound impressive when I say I successfully met with more than a dozen business associates over the course of seven different meetings, but nowadays I’m a little more focused on the output of those meetings, and the success that comes of them. Despite how exciting it can be to “run up the score,” the fact is that not every meeting is a win. To earn a win usually means taking the time to get to know our partner and truly understand their business. Only when we show this level of respect can we expect these meetings to bear fruit.

Are you focused on the quality of your meetings, or the quantity?

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

Channel Partner Programs don’t matter unless you target your Partner’s Sales People

POI Book CoverI know many of us in the Move the Channel community tend to focus on Channel Partner Programs that deal in Partner-level or firm-level benefits. Now don’t get me wrong, these can certainly act as critical foundations for the formal partnership between you and your supply chain partners. BUT these types of programs don’t always differentiate you from your competitors, and they often don’t move the channel or grow market share as well as you might like. The exception here would be if your Channel Partners are made up of small companies, where the principal also happens to be the salesperson. You see this with many companies that sell through small contractors, dealers, or consultants. In these cases, the firm-level benefits are actually targeting the firm’s salesperson, which, I will argue, is really where you can strike with your program.

What are these important but industry standard firm-level benefits?

  • Quarterly & Annual Rebates
  • Manufacture Development Programs
  • Pricing Discounts Schedules
  • Registration & Demo Programs
  • Training Minimums and Requirements

I know these kinds of benefits are not easy things to design, and they can certainly be a lot of work to manage and articulate. But at the end of the day,

Miguel Carerea POI

Miguel Cabrera POI

90% of your Partner/Firm-Level Programs are actually made of the same components. Sure your discount might be more exciting or your MDF program might be appreciated, but even if your program is superior to your competitor’s, it’s probably only a month or so away from being matched by the competition.

So where do we see real impact?  How do we actually MOVE THE CHANNEL? The biggest impact and most measurable movement can be realized when you effectively target, engage, and incentivize performance at the Point of Impact (POI). Also known as the Point of Influence, the POI is the person in the channel that can best influence the sale—to YOUR END USER. Believe it or not, the POI is almost always your channel partner’s salesperson or sales engineer. It is the individual who interfaces with your end customers, the person with influence who can take advangtage of THEIR relationship with YOUR end customer. Each Industry and every company has its own vernacular for this person, but we at Move the Channel have coined this strategic player the POI.

Behaviors you may want to impact at the POI

  • Increased Deal Registration
  • Training Completions
  • Individual Sales and Goals
  • Target Prospect Engagements
  • Customer Introductions
  • POC or Evaluation Placements

When you design a program and performance incentive strategy around the POI, you are engaging at the most valuable touch point in the channel—the Point of Influence. Programs that can engage and motivate at this level are much more difficult to duplicate, and thus they have a more profound impact on the sale and overall market share.

Make sure your Partner/Firm-Level benefits are top-notch, but also quickly turn your marketing genius and resource to the people in the channel that have the real influence you are looking for . . . the POI.

Move the Channel,

Travis

Your Channel Partners need more Coaches, Not Discounts

This was a terrific sports weekend for the Smith house. March Madness is always a favorite time of year, but this week was especially fun. First, my wife’s alma mater, the University of Dayton, beat my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the big dance. Then they went on to upset the mighty Orangemen of Syracuse to move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time in almost 30 years. To top that off, our local high school made an amazing run in the State basketball tournament to earn Division I State Champion Runner-Up. But by far, the highlight of the weekend was witnessing my old high school basketball coach finally win a Division II State Championship.Coach Gray cutting the net

Of all the big sports news from the weekend, why was this so important to me? Even though it has been 20 years since I graduated from high school, I still feel a great deal of loyalty, appreciation, and pride for Coach Gray. Many of the lessons he imparted to us as juniors and seniors have stayed with me to this day, and it seems a bit strange now to think that in the course of my life, one of the most important and inspiring teachers I ever had was a coach. Somehow, through his leadership, he was always able to get the most out of us, his players.

Leadership is a skill that is required in business as much as it is in sports. Take channel marketing and sales leaders, for example. Much of your efforts are spent designing, implementing, and marketing the perfect partner program. Discounts structures, rebate tiers, MDFs, CO-OPs, partner benefits, etc., are all foundations for any Channel Partner Program. In fact, Move the Channel has published its own Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart to serve as a sort of “playbook” for all of these critical features.

But even if you have the best playbook in the business, it’s difficult to get the best results without an effective “coach” to implement the plays and motivate the “players.” These coaches are the people in your channel organization who interface directly and consistently with your channel partners. They are the people selling in the field whose compensation is linked to the partners they support. In many organizations, their main role is to “manage” their accounts; but if they’ve never managed (or coached) before, they might have a hard time doing this efficiently, with deals only getting done when they are heavily involved.

The people that interface with your channel partner need to have a coach’s mentality. All too often in business we have a first practice, hand out the playbook, and check back in the next quarter to review how many rebounds, assists, and points the partner and partner’s salespeople scored for our team. These partner “coaches” need to recognize the partner’s strengths and weaknesses in order to identify how that partner might best contribute to the “team.”  This takes time, energy, organization, and leadership—basically a coach’s approach. In the short term, this can lead to increased mind share, market share, and sales. In the long-term, you will have a partner who is loyal and appreciative, and who takes pride in working with your championship-caliber organization. Just don’t expect them to call you “coach.”

Enjoy the rest of March Madness and make it a great week!

Move the Channel,
Travis

Channel R.I.M.E.S: Relationships, IT Integration, Management, Enablement & Education, Selling

 

Move the Channel Cover

Enter your name and email address to download Move the Channel Guide and RIMES Chart

Name: Email:

 

What makes Move the Channel’s Marketing Guide 1.0 the first of its kind?  Well as most of you know, this project started over a year ago as simple discussion in our LinkedIn Group.  It grew from there to an all-out pouring of ideas from across the Move the Channel community.

The next thing that is unique about this eBook, is how it’s organized.  While organizing all the ideas and best practices different categories became clear.  These categories are what we call RIMES –and are the pillars of any successful channel marketing program.

  • Relationships
  • Information Technology (As in the technology they have access to and use to better support them)
  • Management – as in Channel Management
  • Enablement and Education
  • Selling

So anyway it’s here.  You can download it right here at move the channel.com

%d bloggers like this: