March Madness: Your Channel needs more Coaches, Not Discounts

March Madness is always my favorite time of the sporting year.  On my flight to Austin yesterday I read a great article in the New York Times that provided a nice reminder about how the “Games Are Big, but Life is Bigger”. 

Wisc

Why is basketball so special and 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 High School Basketball Coach, 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

What did the Tough Mudder teach me about Channel Partnerships?


Everest

Not long ago my team (Team AB) completed the Tough Mudder event in Mansfield, OH.  The Tough Mudder is probably the toughest events on the planet.   Don’t ask me to compare it to running a Marathon because it’s just different.   Marathons are individual competitions and a Tough Mudder is all about camaraderie.  Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, 700,000 inspiring participants worldwide to date, and more than $5 million raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world.   At the end of the course you are handed a beer and crowned with an orange sweatband.

Final SurgeWhy would anyone willingly subject themselves to something like this?  Well, personally I’m generally up for a challenge that pushes me to my limits.  The fact that this event has raised over $5 million for such a wonderful cause like the Wounded Warrior Project helps, too.  But the main inspiration was my good friend and fraternity brother Adam Black (AB) who continues to battle cancer.  Hence the team I ran with was called Team AB.

On the course I realized how important each of my teammates was to the collective unit.  Each person brought different qualities that enabled us to not just finish the challenge but destroy the course altogether.   Some might have been tempted to push ahead and finish before the group, but instead we all ran across the finish line with locked arms.

Our goal was clear: Team AB would complete the course together.

The channel could benefit a lot from this type of attitude.  If each partner, all the way through the channel, showed that level of commitment to the collective unit/solution, it would be an unstoppable force in the market.  I imagine the most successful channel partnerships have experienced some Tough Mudder-level adversity at one point or another.  Maybe sticking with each other through tough economic times or a strategic redirection is the Tough Mudder of channel adversity.

As a Tough Mudder, I pledged to:

  • Understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge
  • Put my teamwork and camaraderie before my course time
  • No whine – kids whine
  • Help my fellow Mudders complete the course
  • Overcome all fears

Can a channel program learn something from the Tough Mudder Pledge?  What would be your Channel Program Pledge?

As always send me email or share in a discussion in our LinkedIn Group.

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Channel Conduit of the Week: Show your Channel Partner What is Important (other than sales)

Channel Conduit of the Weekpractical-stress-relief

  • Small gestures that make big impacts on channel behavior
  • Commonsense reminders that make the difference b/t you and your competition
  • Elements that should be considered in a Channel Incentive Programs

Channel Incentives must be focused on the right behaviors….  not only sales.  

Our partners want to bring value to our solution and to be recognized for being an important piece of our strategies.  Yes we do a good job of telling them what their yearly growth goal is or what it’s going to take for them to achieve “Gold” status.  Don’t get me wrong these are important behavior to define and recognize.

But there are other behaviors that should be recognized too.  And almost always these other behaviors lead to more sales.  Make sure they know what behaviors are valued and then make sure to recognize for them.  Here are some key behaviors that are often included in a Channel Incentive Program:

  • Deal Registrations
  • Early introductions into the sales cycle
  • Achieved Sales and technical certification or accreditation
  • Customer service – End User tells brags about the support from the partner
  • On-time delivery
  • Integrity
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Case Study worthy clients

Take some time today to identify your company’s key values and communicate them to your partner.  Then use those values as the foundation of your channel incentive efforts.

As always, send me an email with your thoughts and comments!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Conduit: Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Culture BreakfastI recently had a thought provoking conversation with impressive channel leaders at a dynamic company that inspired this blog.

The conversation made me think of the late Peter Drucker’s infamous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  On the surface we might think he’s suggesting that a company should focus on changing their culture before implementing new strategy.  But after more research and considering the context of the statement, he isn’t suggesting changing culture at all.  In fact Peter also said, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got”.

So how can we apply this same wisdom to Moving the Channel?

Over the last couple of weeks we have spent time discussing and debating the importance of developing a strategy and sharing the playbook with your channel partners. In this same vein, it’s also imperative for your organization to focus its sights internally in order to evaluate the special dynamics of the channel partners’ culture.

First, we should recognize and embrace our channel partner’s culture and “work with what we’ve got”.  Maybe the cultural differences between your organizations are holding up the partnership and sales.  Instead of battling these differences, try to adjust your support, strategies and approaches to fit their beliefs and values.

Second, does this present an opportunity to share your winning culture with your channel?  We know expecting major changes of culture may not be the best idea, but certainly isn’t influencing it a possibility?

Is your company culture a differentiator for you in the market? If so, it could be one of your biggest assets when it comes to creating a loyal partner network and Champions of your brand.

Just as many companies fail to include their partners in their channel strategies, so do they also neglect to share their organization’s principles & values with their channel.   Invite your channel partners’ Executive Management to a typically internal team building event or a remote brainstorming session.  Make sure to spend time not just on your playbook’s X’s & O’s but philosophy and various viewpoints.  ROE (Return on Experience) is often achieved when you host your top performing channel partners to a group incentive trip to a desirable destination.

While your competition can adjust their strategy, pricing, and partner programs to look like yours, what they cannot so easily emulate is the unique culture of your organization. If your company has a winning culture, it is critical for you share it your channel partners. All else being equal, the right company culture can often make the difference between a reseller of product and a true champion of your brand.

Please shoot me a note with ideas and questions.  Do you have a story about culture or current culture challenge?  I always enjoy the channel community’s feedback and thoughts!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Super Bowl Edition: Share your playbook with your channel

superbowl-trophy-hed-2013I started my  Sunday evening the same way I start every Sunday evening.   I read my good friend Anthony Iannarino’s weekly Newsletter.  Beyond being a good friend, Anthony is an author, professional speaker/trainer, and writes daily at The Sales Blog.   If you want your sales organization to have an edge and become a “Level 4 Value Creator”, you need make Anthony apart of your Sunday too.

Anthony starts today’s newsletter reminding us when a team acquires a new player, that player is given a playbook. Inside that playbook is every play the team runs and the player is expected to memorize the book and its plays, cover-to-cover. He or she is expected to know how to execute his/her role so that the play—and team—succeeds.

A good playbook integrates all of their product knowledge, their sales process, their buyer’s roles, the necessary sales dialogues, and competitive information in some format the salesperson can actually use. Anthony goes on to point out the challenges facing sales organization who do not have a playbook or are not fully utilizing their current playbook.  He presses further on the importance of the playbook issue by sharing ideas for developing a playbook.

But WE go-to-market through a Channel.  Our channel partners are the ones that execute the plays in the field.   This is where most channel organizations fall short.  If you don’t share your playbook with your channel partners you will not make it to, let alone win the Super Bowl.  Share with them the playbook that got you to be a leader in the industry.  In a meeting, share the goals for the entire channel ecosystem, and why their role is so critical to the channel’s overall success. The companies that are able to do this well tend to have the best and most loyal channels.playbook-ipad-chalkboard

A great way to share the playbook with the channel through a Channel Incentive Program that rewards for Steps-to-the-Sale behavior.  Reward for knowing the playbook and executing plays that win new business.

Similar to a new NFL player and coach, do you share your playbook when you acquire a new partner?

Let’s make it a great week moving the channel!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Marketing Reminder from Mrs. Disney “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

Mickey and MinnieOn October 1, 1971, five years after the great Walt Disney passed away; Disney World had its grand opening. During the dedication ceremony, someone turned to Mrs. Walt Disney and said, “Isn’t it a shame that Walt didn’t live to see this?” Mrs. Disney replied, “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

Walt Disney World sits on forty-three square miles—nearly twice the size of Manhattan—of some of the most valuable property in the state of Florida. Originally, it took seven years to plan, and more than four years to build. Such an enormous undertaking, I think you’ll agree, could never come to fruition without a great mind having a clear vision.

When a channel professional lacks vision we lose in two ways. One is not having a vision at all, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I think we can all agree this is true for every aspect of business and life. Many times I have seen good companies walt-disney-florida-mapwalt-disney-with-map-of-florida-olp-travel---news-viewsolp-zzuys1w3with good products try and go-to-market through a new channel. But they don’t have a plan; they haven’t refined their vision beyond the basic premise of selling and distributing their products to a larger universe. They don’t know what to expect from their partners, nor do they fully realize what their channel program could become. It seems like 100% of the time these new channel efforts fail. WDW Opening Day 01

For the more mature channel we can fall short in a different way. Often times we as manufacturers or distributors will fail to cast or properly communicate our goals to our partner. If we don’t explicitly show them the mutually beneficial vision of the partnership and the larger channel ecosystem, we risk leaving partners behind or worse: they switch to a competitor that has more effectively communicated a strategic vision.

How do we know Walt Disney effectively communicated his vision to his partners? It’s a fact that he spent seven years planning and communicating his dream of Disney World to those people who could turn it into a reality. And that’s exactly what they did. Five years after he passed away, his partners continued to carry on the relentless pursuit of Walt’s amazing vision. Today, Walt Disney World is one of the most recognizable icons in the world.
Have you shared your goals and vision with your channel partner? Do they understand how they are an important component of that vision, and why it is exciting for them to share it with you?

As always, send me an email with your thoughts and comments!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Get in Shape for the New Year:   Give your Channel a Metabolism Tune-Up

header-photo1The term metabolism simply means change or transformation. It relates to various processes within the body that convert food and other substances into energy and other metabolic byproducts used by the body. It is a necessary function that enables our body to maintain its working parts, repair damage, rid itself of toxins, and much more.

Just like our body our Channel needs to maintain its working parts, repair damage, rid itself of toxins, and much more.   Although we can’t control everything in the channel, here are 5 things that we can do to help us hone your channel’s “metabolism”

 

Improve “Cardiovascular Fitness”

What does a cardio workout look like in the channel? For starters, it’s all about consistency, and there’s no better way to improve consistency than by communicating frequently throughout your distribution channel and setting up regular channel rep meetings and joint customer calls.   These activities are the equivalent of  your weekly dose of your personal fitness cardio workouts.  Keep in mind: Consistency doesn’t mean you just go through the motions with minimal effort. Sure, a short walk every day is good for your health, but it won’t really do much for your overall fitness. To generate the kind of results you’re looking for, you need to work up a sweat. Your “workouts” should feel like you’re training for a marathon. So, go hard and make sure you’re getting the most out of your communications. Set concrete goals for your meetings and monitor the progress you make with your partners.

 

Build Lean “Muscle”

If you want to build lean, toned muscles, you have to hit the weights. Don’t worry, most of us don’t work out hard or intensely enough to get bulky.   While cardio workouts can be good for your heart, it’s the heavy lifting that builds muscle. More muscle in the channel means more impact and engagement from you partners.   Heavy lifting sounds hard…  But don’t worry. You can build muscle without making drastic changes to your everyday business routines. Here are some Heavy ideas that don’t require constant attention and with the right vendor can be planned, marketed, and executed without adding resources:

Eat Smaller and Frequently 

The feast of a big deal is cause for celebration, but you should also be rewarding your channel for smaller, bite-sized accomplishments. This is why your channel incentive program should include Steps-To-The-Sale (STTS) incentives for each successful deal registration, product training, account introduction, etc.

Drink 10-16 glasses of water daily

Just as our body needs to be replenished with water every day, so our competitive edge requires fresh ideas and perspectives to keep its engine running. There are tons of great resources out there that can help you build your knowledge of channel developments and best practices. Try reading and some of these resources like Move the Channel and Channel Maven. Join communities and discussion groups in LinkedIn and make sure your strategies are keeping pace with the changing demands of the channel. FB_FitnessGroup

Get seven hours of sleep

Pounding the pavement and working hard in the field is how you often find success in the channel, but make sure you and your team take time to recharge your batteries.  Do this by attending channel conferences and other industry-related events can be a great way to absorb new ideas and become a thought leader in the field. I know these conferences can be tiresome and action packed, so make sure b/t the important meetings and networking to get some sleep and enjoy an amenity or two.

It’s the New Year.  Let’s make 2015 the best year yet!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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My favorite Christmas song for you: Bruce Springsteen – Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town

Bruce Springsteen Playing Guitar and Wearing a Santa HatDear Friends,

I wanted to share with you my favorite Christmas song… and quite possibly my favorite song of any season.   I hope it brings you a smile to your face and kicks off a wonderful holiday weekend with those you care about most.  You can fast forward to the 1:30 mark for the start of the song.

Merry Christmas!

Move the Channel,

Travis

A Christmas Lesson for Channel Marketers

hapI loved  this story.   Take a look at this must-watch holiday video about gift-giving that Westjet put together.  They absolutely earn loyal customers for life.

When Santa asked people what they wanted for Christmas, what did they say? Big-screen TVs, cameras, toys, underwear!

Why didn’t they say cash?  Because when Santa asks, it’s magic, and if there is magic involved, why not ask for something you normally couldn’t afford or wouldn’t splurge on? You’re not spending your own family’s money—apparently this is goodwill currency & equity you’ve built up all year from being “good”. You and your family have earned it. Live it up!

Gift Giving

Can you imagine Santa giving out cash? Where is the joy, the fun in that? What type of experience would the receiver of the cash have had while everyone else was opening their gifts?

The other element of this successful incentive promotion is the gift were unexpected. Many channel incentive program become entitlement programs.  How can you keep the element of surprise to maximize appreciation?

When rewarding your channel partners for being “good” all year, make sure you don’t flop by giving them cash. Give them something that builds loyalty and goodwill toward your brand.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Channel-Movers!

Move the Channel,

Travis

PS Thanks for sharing this video with me Anthony

Women of the Channel Winter Workshop 2014: Day 2 Report from the Field

she421ex.52616_mdTop Channel Executives Address Today’s Program Challenges and Priorities

By Allison Watters

Day 2:  The Women of the Channel Winter Conference is in session in New York City this week and there is much to report.   There are many Move the Channel Members presenting and attending this exciting sold out event.  For the Move the Channelfolks unable to attend….   Reporting from the conference is Allison Watters, a valued member and contributor to Move the Channel.   Allison is alsoRelayware’s director of global communications and has been in technology communications for nearly 15 years serving companies of all sizes that work with the channel.

Allison Writes:  On the second day of the Women of the Channel winter workshop, five top channel executives got on stage to discuss the challenges and priorities for today’s channel, providing the audience with insight as well as  comfort that everyone is facing the same issues.

Panelists:

  • Pam Johansen, Sr. Director, Worldwide Channel Operations, BMC Software
  • Paula Gil, Director of Partner Programs, CA
  • Penny Philpot, Group VP, OPN Program & Worldwide Partner Services, Oracle
  • Tricia Atchison, Sr. Director, RTM & Channel Marketing, Symantec

Right out of the gate moderator Lisa MacKenzie from The Channel Company asked  the panelists about the biggest issues they are facing in the channel today. A common thread was the change of pace in the industry, which is faster today than it ever has been. These executives understand that many of their channel partners are small- and medium-sized businesses and cannot waste resources abruptly rerouting their strategy. These executives say they are working to help partners plan quarter by quarter as one way they are working to address the balance between the face past of the technology industry and the steady strategy partners need.

These executives also acknowledged that there are significant difference between their big partners and smaller partners, and it is challenging to keep the entire community afloat taking into account the varied needs. They are always considering the most effective segmentations as well as different motivating factors for partners.

When asked by an audience member specifically about the impact cloud services is having on how technology vendors are addressing their partner programs, the panelists cited Gartner Vice President and Distinguished Analyst Tiffani Bova.

Bova has segmented partners into those that are product-heavy, those that sell some cloud services with application programming interfaces and development work, and those that are “born in the cloud.”

Philpot said that vendors must be able to work with partners in all three of these groups. Atchison also reiterated the point stating that VARs will not be left behind in this evolution.

When asked where these executives look for information, they said they highly value the information and insight that comes from data, and they reach out directly from their partners, including surveys and conversations. They also keep pace with information through industry trade outlets as well as talking to analysts.

Next, MacKenzie asked the women what aspects they would include if they had to build a partner program from scratch and what they would eliminate.

Symantec’s Atchison astutely said, “Complexity is not your friend. Partners do not like complexity.” She also recommended figuring out the balance of investment in different partners and working to get that right. As with all of their answers, she once again reiterated the importance of going back to the partner community to get their feedback.

Gil from CA also echoed partner collaboration and making sure that everyone in the chain is focused on serving the best interests of the customer every day with every action.

Philpot with Oracle said that the best partner programs are built taking specialization into account, and Johansen agreed. She went on to say “One size does not fit all.”

Additionally, BMC’s Johansen reminded the audience that the most productive partner programs have leadership support with the appropriate resources. “If you don’t have support, it’s not worth building the program. Also, it takes a lot of money. If you don’t have the money, then don’t do it (build a partner program).”

This was only one of the many sessions at the Women of the Channel winter workshop that offered attendees valuable perspectives. If you weren’t able to attend, The Channel Company is planning Women of the Channel West conference in 2015.

 

About Allison:

AllisionAllison Watters (@aawatters), Relayware’s director of global communications, has been in technology communications for nearly 15 years serving companies of all sizes that work with the channel. As a marketer, she pays close attention to industry trends and the business realities, and this is the lens through which she consumes and processes information.

Women of the Channel Winter Workshop 2014: Report from the Field

WOC

Topic: Survey of Channel Managers & Non-Managers

By Allison Watters

The Women of the Channel Winter Conference is in session in New York City this week and there is much to report.   There are many Move the Channel Members presenting and attending this exciting sold out event.  For the Move the Channel folks unable to attend….   Reporting from the conference is Allison Watters, a valued member and contributor to Move the Channel.   Allison is also Relayware’s director of global communications and has been in technology communications for nearly 15 years serving companies of all sizes that work with the channel.

Allison writes:

During the open remarks of the Women of the Channel Winter workshop the positive energy was palpable, and there were so many attendees that it was hard to find a seat. It’s an incredible way to kick off an exciting event. (despite the weather)

Lisa MacKenzie, SVP of Events and an owner of The Channel Company, opened the session (despite having lost her voice) reviewing interesting findings from a recent survey of managers and non-managers.  Also on stage was Brooke Cunningham, a member of the Women of the Channel conference advisory board. She talked about what it’s like to be a woman in the channel and shared how other women had helped her with her career moves along the way.

First up, 70 percent of managers report that they are a mentor. However, 56 percent of non-managers say they are mentored, though 92 percent report they would like a mentor. It’s an interesting difference of perspective. Potentially, it just happens to be who was surveyed. Alternatively, do some in manager positions see their guidance differently than those reporting up to them? When non-managers who say they want a mentor were asked why they do not have a mentor, they mainly reported that are not sure where to go for mentorship. There’s an opportunity here for organizations to have internal mentor programs or seek external programs. Many organizations have mentoring programs, such as Women in the Channel.

Next up, the survey asked respondents about their goals for the year ahead. Over half of manager and non-managers said health was a primary concern. This goal is underscored by research that says “Exercise has also been show to elevate mood, which has serious implications for workplace performance,” as reported by the Harvard Business Review.

Also highlighted in the survey – today’s workplace challenges. Managers say that their greatest challenge is not enough staff. This means that these professionals are trying to do more with fewer people. Additionally, they are not finding the talent they are looking for. So, when asked what the top skills they want non-managers to develop, the top three answers were communication, financial and negotiation skills.

When managers and non were asked about their current career, the majority of both reported that they are pretty happy. And interestingly, only 20 percent of non-managers responded that they want to move into the management position. Managers should consider the career path for these non-managers as well as ensuring that a fear of losing work-life balance isn’t throttling ambition.

The Women of the Channel Winter workshop 2014 makes attendees think about the year ahead, and these survey results provide a solid springboard for employee needs in the year ahead.

About Allison:

AllisionAllison Watters (@aawatters), Relayware’s director of global communications, has been in technology communications for nearly 15 years serving companies of all sizes that work with the channel. As a marketer, she pays close attention to industry trends and the business realities, and this is the lens through which she consumes and processes information.

Channel Marketing Conduit: Correct Way to Respond to “Thanks”

How to respond to Thanks

How to respond to Thanks

I know as channel professionals we feel like we don’t hear the phrase “thank you” enough from our partners. So when we do receive gratitude for our efforts, it’s important to respond in a way that really strengthens our partnership.

Last year I read a wonderful and very appropriate post from my friend at influencePEOPLE. Brian Ahearn is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer and, through his blog, trainings, and workshops, he helps people influence others. If you want to hear your clients, friends, and family say “yes” more often, you should definitely subscribe to his blog.

In his Thanksgiving-week blog, “Correct Ways to respond to ‘Thanks!’” he points out how most people typically respond to the phrase “thank you”:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

In the words of Ahearn, people need to “strike each of these responses from their vocabulary!”

I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to engaging with your channel partners, it’s important to take advantage of any and every opportunity that’s available. Here are some suggestions for how to respond next time your channel partner offers their appreciation to you:

  • “You’re one of our most important channel partners, so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you, your business, and our continued partnership.”
  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (Some people will appreciate the humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (and your business).”

During this holiday season, it is so important to count our blessings and give thanks. But equally as significant is how you respond to those that take the time to say “thank you” to you.  Whether you are around the dinner table or the boardroom table, don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to deepen your relationships with those around you.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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One Amazingly Simple Step toward Channel Partner Tranquility


woman-happy-yoga-by-Andresr
The holidays are fast approaching! Sadly, there are still many people who dread what they consider to be a stressful time, seeing family members who they don’t always get along with. I’ve talked to many friends who possess this “you are stuck with your family” mentality, making what should be a joyous time difficult and demanding.

Interestingly, my channel marketing peers often express having similar reservations about their channel partners around this time of year. Much like a family, they too are in many ways “stuck” with the channel partners they do business with. Now, as someone who loves both the channel and his family (in-laws included), I’m always a little disheartened to hear that others feel this way. Life is too short, in my opinion, to maintain this “stuck” mentality. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a cure for this common dissatisfaction, and I’d like to take a moment to share it with all of you.

As channel marketing leaders, we often mastermind solutions or search for ways to transform our channel partners so that they come around to seeing things our way. For example we might up the requirements for training or develop Platinum Tier to strive for.  These are bad things.  But as a strategy, this alone isn’t enough.  It’s true, a well-designed Channel Incentive Strategy is often essential to channel success. However, there’s something even more fundamental to your business, something that first must be in place to serve as a foundation for that success.Wine-tasting dinner party

Now, what I’m about to suggest isn’t a magic bullet; it won’t change things for you overnight. But if you apply it to each partner engagement, in every channel marketing program planning meeting, this insight can lead you to channel partner tranquility through the holidays and beyond. Are you ready for this pearl of wisdom? Here goes:

Every time you go to meet with a partner executive or partner sales person, ask yourself two questions:

1) How can I make their lives a little better today?

and

2) When I leave here today, will they be glad that I came?

That’s right. The key to channel success isn’t a genius marketing strategy or the perfect channel program.   It all starts by accepting them for who they are and then looking in the mirror and asking yourself those two questions.

And the best part? You can also use this technique to help you better enjoy the next holiday get-together with family!  ;-)

Try it and get back to me with your thoughts.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Don’t “Buy” your channel partners’ business, Nurture It.

Nurture-Your-Business-300x208Over the years, I’ve talked to many Channel Marketing Pros who worry that an incentive program is just a way to “buy” business. On the face of it, that almost sounds unethical (and a little bit slimy, if you ask me). While it’s true that some programs are basically designed that way, these program types usually don’t have a good long-term outcome. If you can “buy” something it means it’s for sale…  which means there will be other buyers in the future.   The channel incentive programs that typically end up providing a lasting sales lift are those that reward for “good behavior.”  By good behavior I mean actions that lead to sales or better service.  This is reflected in the fact that some program mangers have even begun eschewing the label of “incentive programs” in favor of the more benign term “integrity programs.” Whatever their name, these types of programs that reward for certain behaviors not only take your channel engagement from “slimy” to “sincere,” they also often end up yielding much higher ROIs.

To illustrate the point, I wanted to share a study shared by my friend and persuasion expert, influencer, Brian Ahearn.  Brian blogs about Influence and Persuasion at InfluencePeople.

The study is about how to get the best survey participation and to move the channel partners to invest their time to respond.   With one group of business owners a $50 reward was offered for completing the questionnaire. With the rest of the business owners a $5 check was sent to acknowledging their time was valuable and they appreciated them taking time to complete the questionnaire.

Here are the result in Ahearn’s own words, “And what were the results? You’d think the $50 offer being 10 times more would definitely get a better response but it didn’t. Only 23% of those offered the big reward filled out the questionnaire but 52% who were given the $5 gift up front complied with the request. So the response was more than twice as much in the gift scenario and there was a huge savings depending on exactly how many people cashed the $5 check. If every person, including those who didn’t fill out the questionnaire, cashed the check, the savings would be 57%. If only those who completed the questionnaire cashed the check the health company would have saved 77%! “No matter how you look at it, more than doubling the response at a substantial savings is the smart business decision.”

We see similar stories all the time in Channel Incentive Programs. We are much more likely to inspire loyalty and receive the “big order” if we reward from the beginning for smaller yet significant behaviors and Steps-to-the-Sale.  not-for-sale

Here are some examples of smaller goals that can be critical Steps-to-the-Sale.

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

 

Remember: When it comes to Channel Marketing Programs, don’t strategize how to “buy” business, but give smaller incentives for smaller behaviors.  Those smaller incentives can accumulate and lead to BIG rewards.   And those smaller behaviors lead to BIG loyalty from you Channel Partners.

How do you design the right channel incentive program?

What are the Steps-to-the-Sale in your particular sales channel? And are you properly rewarding for your channel’s most important behaviors?

As always please reach out with questions or comments!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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4 things your distribution channel partners will expect in 2015

Goldfish Jump Out Of Bowl 2 - expectationsAs you can tell from my last few posts, it is a busy time for 2015 channel strategy and planning.   My clients often ask me, “what do our distribution partners expect from us in 2015?”.

Let’s talk about what your Channel will expect from you in 2015.

1.)    Simplicity — Your Channel Partners don’t want a partner program that needs a map & key to navigate.   They want a program that clearly states what is expected from them and what resources will be available to help them deliver solutions to the market.  Design an engagement and reward portal that tracks their goals and gives them easy access to the handful of the most important components and tools available.

Here is great guide to make sure you aren’t over complicating things:

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2.)    Clear Expectations — Yes, Channel Partners need to know your expectations so they can build those expectations into their company goals for 2015. By integrating benefits like soft benefits into your channel incentive program you can deliver a personal touch that leads to deeper, stronger relationships with your partners.

3.)    More Efficient Communication — Notice I did not say “MORE” communication. This year you should try to be more deliberate and concise with your message and how you deliver it. The channel has more “noise” than ever before, and how you communicate with your partners will help determine your success this year.  This goes for both your communication to your channel partner and your marketing THROUGH the channel to the End Buyer.

4.)    Be A Part Of Something Great — Your channel partners don’t want to be chess piece in your overall company strategy—they want to feel as important as the first chair in a world-class symphony. Share with them in a meeting what the goals will be for the entire channel ecosystem, and why their role is so critical to the channel’s overall success. There is a reason why Martin Luther King said “I have a Dream”, and not “I have a Plan”.   This is where most organizations tend to fall short. The companies that are able to do this well tend to have the best and most loyal channels.600-029042

As always, send me an email or give me a ring with some of your ideas and questions. I couldn’t be more excited about moving the channel in 2015!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Transforming your Channel?  Here’s the Secret. 

change tranformThe Secret to change is to focus ALL of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.   – Socrates

This is certainly true when it comes to transforming your channel.

I’ve had many 2015 planning sessions with clients the last few weeks.  The overlying theme from these meetings and Channel Chiefs seems to be “how do I Transform my channel.”  This week alone I’ve met with two senior executives of industry-leading organizations who both suggested that transformation of their channel has become a priority.  Although this is not a new idea, most of my channel initiatives in the previous years had involved trying to inspire MORE of an existing behavior within the channel. But transforming the channel is about “Building the New”.  And it’s not just about a tweak here and a turn there. These executives want to fundamentally change how their channel partners and partner salespeople do two things: a) How their partners interact with their company, and b) How their partners Engage and sell to the end-user.

Part of the art of channel marketing is being able to influence key stakeholders in the channel without having the most powerful tool of compensation. Our channel stakeholders aren’t employees and therefore we don’t control our channel partner’s compensation plans. That being said, we do have significant control at the partner firm-level, and therefore we have the ability to adjust pricing discounts, offer rebates, and create MDF thresholds, all of which can encourage the partner to take their channel in a new transformative direction. If we want to change our business-as-usual approach to the channel, we must not be afraid to use every tool in our toolbox.

Another powerful instrument that can be used to transform your channel strategy is a wisely crafted channel incentive program. We’ve already talked about levers you have that can impact your partner at firm-levelBut what about motivating the Point Of Influence (POI) of our sale? The POI typically identifies the partner’s sales people or Sales Engineers that interface with the end-user/end-buyer and own the relationship. The question is: How do we reach and engage these important channel influencers?

With a well-designed channel incentive program we can focus on building the new and accelerating the transformation of our channel. Some transforming behaviors we can start to influence?

  • Building the New — Training. There are many different degrees of training. There is everything from “Readiness” lessons and quizzes to full-blown Accreditation programs. Of course while any readiness initiative can be rolled out in weeks, a more significant accreditation program will usually take significant time & effort. Also, we know if Partner Salespeople (POI) invest their time in these training initiatives—whether its 15 minutes or 15 hours—this mindshare WILL ultimately translate into market share.  Readiness initiatives should be hosted in your Channel incentive or engagement portals that target the POI audience.  transformational-chess-pieces
  • A New Partnership — Transformation of the channel isn’t just about how our channel goes to market but how the channel partner works and interacts with us (the manufacture or distributor). This may be asking our channel partners and channel partner salespeople to change how they engage, where they engage, and what they engage at our organization. For example, for years manufactures and distributors have been investing in various partner resources including partner portals, partner marketing automation, etc. Although these “portals” are certainly still valuable resource centers, most organizations have started to realize that the “Do it yourself” approach makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness.
  • A New message for the End Buyer — As mentioned above, the DIY approaches haven’t worked as planned. There’s a concrete need to guide our channel partners especially at the POI to market and communicate the New…. products, services, and approach.  When and how end-buyer communications are executive is often a trackable behavior and therefore one that can be incentivized in your channel engagement portal.
  • Selling to a New Stakeholder . . . the Decision Maker — It’s not only what we’re selling that is New: it’s who we’re selling to. Setting up meetings with the right people or the New decision makers is something else we can influence. With a decent CRM setting meetings with right people is a trackable behavior and therefore one that can be incentivized in your channel engagement portal.

These are just some examples of trackable and rewardable behaviors that can help you transform your channel. Remember, the Secret is to focus ALL of your energy on building the new, or what will transform your channel. A well-designed and properly managed channel incentive program can help you do that.

Have you been tasked with transforming your channel? Are you reaching the partner firm-level as well as at the Point of Influence (POI)?

As always, send me an email with questions, comments, or to set up a call.
Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Marketing: Planning for 2015? Here’s your Channel Marketing Checklist

Business strategy organizational charts and graphs

Autumn: by far my favorite time of year! The leaves are changing daily to some of the most brilliant colors in nature. The weather is crisp but not too cold. Football is in the air, and two of my favorite holidays (Halloween & Thanksgiving) are right around the corner.

It also happens to be a wonderful time of year for the channel marketing industry. Like the leaves on a tree, the ever changing channel landscape impacts our positioning, our solutions, and how we move business through the channelAnd through change comes a wonderful opportunity to grow our channel business with the proper strategy and execution.

The months of October and November are also a great time to start planning for 2015. At this point you probably have a pretty good idea of what went well this past year, and what needs improvement. Well now is the time when you should start to develop your plan for next year and start trying to secure and allocate marketing dollars to initiatives that are likely to Move the Channel.

Move the Channel’s Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart can help you organize your strategy during this planning process. As a broad-stroke checklist for all of your channel requirements and future goals, this guide can only offer a general blueprint for channel success; it is incumbent upon you to decide which programs, resources, and benefits are appropriate for your 2015 approach, and which are not.

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As 2014 draws to a close, I challenge you to be as bold as the many colors of the trees you see on your lunch break today. Take a look back at the MTC Marketing Guide and try to figure out what is missing from your channel strategy. Are there certain components—even small ones—that your channel partners are currently lacking? Remember, being bold doesn’t always mean taking a big gamble. Sometimes it just means avoiding the same old status quo, creating that little extra separation between you and your competitors.new-england-fall-colors-photo-by-chrisbastian44

Are you aggressively guiding your channel partners? Do they have all of the resources they need? Are you communicating, enabling, and training them to be more self-sufficient? Have you properly allocated or invested in a Channel Incentive Program that influences and incentivized your partners’ salespeople and technical sales folks?

As always, shoot me an email with your ideas and any questions.

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Delivering a Q4 Channel Promotion that is not a Dud

DChitwood_FinishStrong‘Tis the season for the BIG Q4 Push!  The time has finally come to reap the fruit of all the hard work and planning undertaken in the past year. The pressure is high to bring in as many deals as possible before the EOY, with many a bonus depending on it. Without fail, companies are trying to find that next gear to help them finish the year on a high note. But after developing your business model and making investments to achieve the aggressive growth goals set by your company and stakeholders, are you rolling out a BIG year-end Promotion Dud?

Below are five reasons why your year-end Sales Person, Channel Rep and Sales Engineer Year-End Promotion might be a Dud:

  • Expecting accelerated sales without accelerated incentive — There are many natural reasons why there are more sales closed at the end of the year, including pre-conceived sales timelines and the deadlines set by the customers themselves. But if you want a BIG lift, you need to invest in accelerated incentives for the channel. In other words, get your channel salesforce engaged & motivated with an exciting (worthwhile) award!
  • End-Buyer or End-User incentives – Offering an End of Year Incentive for a signature can seem desperate and worse has proven ineffective. Now, If you know exactly what is needed to get the end-user to buy, a custom carefully crafted incentive can be effective effective.  This is better known as negotiating.  But a blanket incentive (i.e. “buy before the end of the year and get a 10% discount”) often ends up being a serious dud. In addition to having a minimum impact on overall sales, these types of promotions make your organization look desperate and set a precedent for future negotiations.
  • Incentivizing the wrong channel stakeholder — Make sure you are incentivizing the people that actually influence the sales. These people are the people in the channel that interface directly with the end buyer. Usually these are the channel partner’s sales people and sales engineers. At Move the Channel, we call these people the POI (Point of Influence).
  • Zero Creativity — Doubling or tripling a current incentive will certainly get an audience’s attention, but if you don’t infuse your channel strategy with creative promotions, you could be missing a huge opportunity. Coming up with a something like a well-marketed “Grand Prize” or themed rewards gives you the chance to create some buzz and generate excitement.
  • First timer — Just because you’re new to the game, doesn’t mean you have to look the part. Hopefully you have an incentive platform already in place that can roll promotions and campaigns quickly and professionally to the channel.  If you don’t, you should look into working with an incentive partner who has a turnkey platform that can be configured quickly and easily be customized to your brand.2014 B.A.A. Boston Marathon

Here are some of the themed year-end promotions I’m seeing right now. Lot’s of motivation psychology applied including Cialdini’s principals of influence including:  Reciprocation, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity…. otherwise know as FOMO!

  • Take the Title!
  • Get into the Game
  • Reach for New Heights
  • Step Up to the Plate
  • Race to Riches – Horse Race
  • Escape Race
  • Second Chance
  • Crown Jewels
  • F1 – Leaderboard
  • Pacesetters 0 Americas Cup
  • Express2Hawaii
  • Track2Travel
  • 2 for the Show!

Let me know if you want to take closer look at the rule structure and promotion delivery. Or if you’re looking for other ideas on how to finish the year off strong, send me an email and I’ll forward you two of the most popular Year-End Push Campaigns this year.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Marketing Conduit: Apple just gave iPhone buyers the gift of a rockin’ U2 album.

u2_apple_bono_tim_cook_2014_l (1)2 weeks ago Apple paid U2 $100 million and distributed their new album Songs of Innocence to 500 million people – for FREE!

Of course, a bold marketing move from one of the most powerful companies on the planet is bound to attract some criticism. Everyone in the marketing world has an opinion, and those opinions regarding Apple’s strategy range from it being a huge debacle to a stroke of marketing genius.

Let’s be clear, Apple got everything it wanted out of this deal; an enhanced image, increased branding, positioning in the market, a greater global reach, and most importantly, hype. Looking to launch and sell its new products, the iPhone 6 & Apple Watch, Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook, wanted to ensure that everyone was still talking about Apple, no matter how successful or unsuccessful the new product ended up being. After all, the Apple Watch hasn’t generated the type of social conversation that Apple’s been hoping for, certainly not in the same way that Songs of Innocence landing in people’s iTunes accounts probably has.  What’s more, how many millions of people now have a better understanding of Apple’s iCloud technology? Although most of the Move the Channel audience is very familiar with the power of the cloud, there is still much educating and an album magically appearing on your phone is doing that.   It seems that Apple is getting their money’s worth right there.

As someone who designs Channel Incentive Programs, I often apply the same principles of loyalty and persuasion that Apple utilized during its campaign in order to inspire MY customers and Move the Channel. The concept behind these principles comes from a book I read, The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

For example, one of the proven principles espoused by Cialdini is the Principle of Reciprocity. It’s that feeling that we ought to give back to those who have given to us.  To activate loyalty and the power of Reciprocity the reward must be meaningful, customized, and unexpected.  Apple’s actions enough to trigger sentiments of reciprocity in its customers?

On top of all of the other benefits of the campaign, we have to acknowledge that this was meaningful to most, customized not-so-much, but certainly an unexpected REWARD, especially for fans of U2. But even if you don’t care for the band, or even rock n’ roll, my guess is that you still might appreciate the gesture and enjoy being part of the worldwide conversation.music2

Or should Apple have just given cash or an iTunes discount? Would that have been a more successful marketing ploy? I certainly don’t think so. What would Apple have received from this type of reward? I have to imagine that a few extra dollars in your account would not have the same impact as a free album that you could listen to over and over again. Now, every time a customer sees Songs of Innocence in their library, or hears it on their iPod, they will probably think back to when Apple gave it away to them as a reward for their continued loyalty.

As most of you in the Move the Channel community know, there is an ongoing debate about what is the right reward or incentive when it comes to engaging and growing mindshare in your channel.   The fact is that a meaningful, customized, and sometimes unexpected reward is something that can trigger the powerful Principle of Reciprocity, lead to increased loyalty, and impact future buying behaviors.

Apple had a difficult challenge coming up with a reward for its millions of diverse customers. Fortunately for those of us in Channel Marketing, our audience is much more focused, making it that much easier to engage, communicate with, and reward them when the time is right.

Should YOU be rewarding YOUR Channel Partners for their loyalty too?

As always, please send me a an email with questions or comment.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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About Travis

Global Channel Incentive Programs:   Multi-Business Unit, Multi-Distribution Channels, Multi-Cultural, OH MY!

create-your-own-adventureIf Dorothy thought lions, tigers, and bears sounded scary, imagine the anxiety she would feel living in our complex, multi-national channel world. I have to admit I still occasionally break out into a cold sweat when I try and wrap my head around all that’s involved with global channel incentive programs. 7 years ago, I was intimidated by the idea of building and managing a global platform and strategy, and rightfully so. But today that fear has become more like a sense of excitement and anticipation when visiting a new country, the feeling you might get right before you start a new adventure. I recently heard that there is no such thing “too much” adventure. This statement is certainly true as it relates to your channel incentive programs. The fact is, unless you are adventurous with your channel marketing and engagement, you are falling behind. Let’s continue to be in the forefront!

Adventure is a good thing, but only if we properly prepare for the journey. Most importantly, if you decide to pursue a global channel incentive program, careful navigation is key. To be sure, while you aren’t signing up for a Mount Everest expedition, running a global program isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Above all else you need to select the proper “guide” (vendor partner) for your “journey,” one that not only has the global footprint and resources to make the trip a successful one, but also has the years of experience and scar tissue from actually executing these types of exhilarating solutions.

But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why would anyone want to pursue this holistic global channel “adventure” in the first place? Well, there are a few reasons I can think of:

  • One platform that can scale across multiple business units, channels, and 132 countries
  • Consistency and continuity, while providing flexibility in each region and business unit
  • Sharing best practices across the globe, while providing flexibility to each region/business unit.    that are applied to their unique business objectives and sales channels
  • Analytics—a single pane-of-glass reporting and channel insight

There are a handful of channel incentive companies that think they have the resources in place to run this kind of incentive program, but only a few who have actually gone out and executed them successfully. The reality is global incentive programs are hard. I mean really hard.

So what’s the trick? “Plan global, execute local.”  In a nutshell this means having a global platform that provides constancy, continuity, and controls while providing local strategy and program management (people) down to the theater or even the country level.

global

The fact is that this type of strategy can generate the kinds of incremental mindshare and market share gains that make it simply a no-brainer! Imagine empowering your regional sales and marketing leadership the flexibility to launch their unique incentive campaigns.   And while I certainly understand that a foray out into the global channel arena can be a bit daunting at first—heck, it was for me!—if you can overcome the initial fear of the new, there are rewards to be reaped that will make you glad you took that bold first step into the unknown. After all, isn’t that what adventure is all about?

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

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