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:

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

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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.

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

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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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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.

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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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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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Global Channel Incentive Programs: Plan Global, Execute Local.

 

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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

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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

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