Travis Smith’s Interview & Podcast with Allbound

podcastTravis SmithAllbound Blog and Podcast, Global Channels and Regional Vice President for HMI Performance Incentives (as well as CEO and Founder of Move the Channel), joins Jen Spencer to discuss channel partner incentive programs, intimacy at scale, engaging the middle 60% of your partners and more on the 40th episode of The Allbound Podcast.

Want to listen? Subscribe on iTunes here. 

People talk about incentivizing sales reps, gamifying experiences, incentivizing your channel… How have you seen incentives put to use in the channel?

There are a lot of buzz words out there. It’s tough to know what’s the appropriate strategy when it comes to engaging, not with just your channel partner, right? And I think of the channel partner at the organizational level. And then there’s the channel sales person, the person, the human that works for the partner organization, or the partner sales engineer, or customer support.

Tweet: How can you integrate with the buying experience and help your partners be more effective out there selling? - @MoveTheChannel  How can you integrate with the buying experience and help your partners be more effective out there selling? – @MoveTheChannel

When most people think of incentives, they think of the reward. And don’t get me wrong, the reward is so critical. If you don’t have the right reward, and the reward isn’t motivating, your strategy is dead on arrival. And more than ever, the reward options are more compelling to your target audience. We’re seeing huge trends towards experiences, and sporting events…not just merchandise. You can actually pick out the event, the theater, the summer concert. And don’t stop there but pick the date, the venue, the seat. And what about booking a hotel, and a shuttle to the show. All this online in the incentive program, real time. And it’s really, really cool. But let’s be honest, compelling rewards are the baseline, that’s just the beginning. And I think what’s most exciting that we’re seeing at HMI is how channel incentives are solving big problems… big challenges in the channel. Most people don’t think of incentives like solving challenges.


80% of revenue comes from 20% of partners, or even more. A lot of that goes back to recruitment, and then how you’re engaging, how you’re maintaining mindshare. What are your thoughts on this principle?


There are people out there that just accept it, and the statistics would be tough to argue that. HMI specifically is uniquely positioned to help with this dilemma. It’s way easier to move up an existing customer, a partner, than it is to find and train a new one. Recruitment and finding new partners always needs to be part of your plan. But, if we could just take a look at that middle 60%, and focus on them. There’s a great opportunity to move them up to that next level. And the challenge has between with performance incentives and channel incentives is a lot of companies roll out these blanket reward programs. And when you do that, you have the same 20% hitting those goals and enjoying the rewards, or the president’s club trip to Hawaii.

Tweet: The biggest challenge wasn't finding & signing up the partner. It was how can we engage with that new partner's front line. @MoveTheChannel  The biggest challenge wasn’t finding & signing up the partner. It was how can we engage with that new partner’s front line. @MoveTheChannel

Taking a page out of Allbound’s book here, today, it’s all about personalizing it, and customizing it to each individual person. The technology wasn’t there five years ago. But today, each person that logs in to an HMI system for example, has a completely unique experience. They see their unique goal or threshold, or unique promotion that’s available to them because they sell a certain product or in a certain region, or there’s unique rewards available to them. All depending on their demographics or how we’ve segmented the customer/partner database. Those goals are based on how much they sold from the previous quarter, or how much they sold from the previous year. It’s not this, “You have to sell this for us to get our attention,” it’s, “If you show us progress, we’re gonna invest back in you.” And we call this intimacy at scale.

Where do you see the future of partner programs going?

The strategy used to be “build it and they will come”.   And that included all these resources. And they would build these things and put these libraries in place. And back in the day when there was only a handful of vendors doing that, they actually had a little bit of success. They would actually get their partners to come and use these resources. But today, there is just so much noise. Everybody has these resources that they expect their channel partners to come to and access and use. And it’s not happening, and it’s not gonna happen in the future. It’s not, “build it and they will come”.

Tweet: Those are gonna be the vendors that win. The ones that can integrate into the buying experience. - @MoveTheChannel on The #AllboundPodcast  “Those are gonna be the vendors that win. The ones that can integrate into the buying experience.” – @MoveTheChannel on The #AllboundPodcast

What we’re seeing now is…and where I see the future is, it’s not getting all these assets and resources. It’s how can you integrate with your partner? How can you integrate? And you’ve always tried to integrate your product into theirs. You’ve got to keep doing that. You’ve got to integrate your marketing into theirs. And you’ve got to keep doing it better. But the real advance is gonna be, how can you integrate with the buying experience? And can you help your partners be more effective out there selling, and help them through the journey? We don’t have all the answers there but it’s starting to crystallize. Again, companies like Allbound are doing things in ways that people had never seen before or considered just a few years ago. And those are areas of advancement that are starting to show us the future of channel marketing programs. On the HMI side, five years ago we weren’t having intimacy at scale, and customizing each participant’s experience in the channel incentive program. Today we are. There’s a long way to go, but that’s where it’s heading. Those are gonna be the vendors that win. The ones that can integrate into the buying experience.

To learn more about channel partner incentive programs, intimacy at scale, engaging the middle 60% of your partners, and more tune in to episode 40 of The Allbound Podcast.

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Why an All-World athlete has a Note from me in his Trophy case

TomRunMany of you know, that in addition to being Channel Engagement Innovator at HMI, I’m a past President of Mid-Day Toastmasters. Toastmasters is the best networking and professional development organization I’ve ever experienced. A couple of weeks ago, I attended Columbus OH’s Mid-Day Toastmasters Club 50th Anniversary and Holiday Celebration.  I credit the Mid-Day Club and the people involved with it for much of my advancement in life and for helping me to see the world in a different way. Just as important as the communication and leadership tracks are the people and ideas to which I’ve been exposed. Surely Move the Channel or TribeVest wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Toastmasters platform and Mid-Day mentors and peers like Tracy Austin, Anthony Iannarino, Tommy Costantiello, Mike Rudd, Mike Brickey, Robin Starr, Wayne Harer—and the list goes on and on. Basically, there is nothing quite like the right Toastmasters club.

One of the mentors I mentioned above is Tommy C. Tommy is a highly-respected financial advisor at Consus Wealth Management Group … so it probably comes as no surprise that he also loves to compete at just about everything—including Toastmaster speeches! He’s one of those guys who makes a decision and then sets his mind firmly to it. For example, Tommy had never run more than five miles at a time and didn’t even know how to swim when he made it his goal to compete in Hawaii’s Ironman World Championship. Well, fast-forward 6 years later and Tommy has successfully completed 14 Ironman Finishes, 2015 Ironman All World Athlete, and Ironman World Championship Finisher.  In one year he ran a 50K, 50 miler, 100K, and 100-mile ultra-marathon.

When I first joined the Toastmaster’s club, Tommy agreed to be my mentor and was a big influence on my professional and personal career.  Seeing Tommy at the Mid-Day toastmaster’s 50-year anniversary was a chance to show my gratitude and to share my exciting initiatives that are ongoing at the moment with him (many of which he’s influenced).  But when I finally ran into him at the party he flipped the script! He thanked me for a note that I’d written, and at first, I have to admit, I didn’t remember which note he was talking about. (Believe it or not, I do make a daily habit of writing notes of gratitude to people who have influenced me over the years).

But I responded by telling Tommy that I felt it was important for him to know the impact he’s had on me, and how he’s continued to inspire me over the years. He kindly replied by saying I do the same for him, and then he told me something that shocked me.

Apparently, the note that he was referring to, the one that I sent him a couple of years ago, now sits in his trophy case with other prized items representing his hard work and accomplishments. At first, I thought he was joking, because it hardly seems appropriate that a note that took me 10 minutes to write and less than a dollar to send would be sharing a spot with a trophy that required thousands of hours of training and sacrifice, years of extreme dieting, and ultimately a grueling 15-hour endurance test through rugged mountains. But Tommy assured me that it was there, and that note was a reminder that the time he invested in me as a mentee was as valuable as the time he’d invested in his many other accomplishments. 

It’s always a great feeling when people let me know how much they appreciate my notes.  But this Trophy case story, I thought might motivate others to take the time to write a note to those who have impacted you.

When was the last time you wrote a note to someone who’s impacted your life in a positive way? Does your channel partner deserve a note (a hand-written) of gratitude? Give it a try—you might be surprised at the response.

Oh, and if you’re thinking about checking out a Toastmasters Club in your town, I’d be happy to share my experiences and insight with you. Feel free to give me a call.

Move the Channel,


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About the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a channel engagement, and incentive company focused on Technology Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their domestic and global channel incentive programs.

Correct Ways to respond to “Thanks!”

happy-thanksgiving-pictures1I 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.

A couple of year’s ago 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,

email me

profileAbout the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a channel engagement, and incentive company focused on Technology Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their domestic and global channel incentive programs.

Book it! Share a stirring book with your alliance partner

Little BetsAs I look back, the most memorable and stirring incentives I’ve ever received have come in the form of handwritten notes.  For whatever reason, I’ve always appreciated the time and thought that goes into putting pen to paper. It’s a personal gesture that feels far more meaningful than, say, an email. Of those notes that I still cherish and read often, most have been written on the inside of a book. I have a library full of business and leadership books, but the ones that have a special place on the shelf are those with personal messages written in them by a boss, business partner, or person I just greatly respect.

Is there a book that your leadership is reading that could apply to any business? Is there a personal favorite book that has shaped your personality and how you do business? Have you written your own book? One of the better ways to align your channel distribution partner with you and your organization is to have them read the same book as you. You can encourage this process by sending them a title with aFullSizeRender personal message inside. It’s a terrific gesture of respect and inclusion in your go-to-market strategy.

What books have you read that would be a good one to share with your alliance partners?

If you email me with a book gift idea I’ll make sure to accumulate a list from the responses and share it back.


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Your Channel Partners need more Coaches, Not Discounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Move the Channel,

What the Tough Mudder Taught Me about Channel Partnerships


On Saturday my team (Team AB) completed the Tough Mudder event in Mansfield, OH.  The Tough Mudder is probably the toughest event 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
  • Not 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?

post mudder

About Travis

New Zealand  South Island Fishing Trip

New Zealand South Island Fishing Trip

I love to move the needle!  There is nothing quite like guiding your business partner to achieving new heights while triumphing record highs for your own organization.  Sure it’s great to hit your bonus and impress the company’s shareholders but helping your partner organizations, hundreds of them, do the same is whole new level of fulfillment.

Over the past 15 years, I have specialized in Channel Incentive Programs and multi-tier distribution business strategies. My many experiences working with manufacturers, distributors, and resellers have given me a unique perspective and understanding of what drives and motivates channel partners. Through these experiences I’ve developed a passion for moving products and services through distribution channels and helping clients design, implement, and administer B2B customer loyalty/growth strategies.

I started the Move The Channel group back in April 2010 in order to find others who shared my excitement about channel marketing and sales. During this time I have realized that, through innovation and the sharing of resources, we can really move the needle and transform the way business is done in the channel. My vision with MTC is to cultivate just such a community, composed of passionate channel chiefs and industry leaders who, like me, are always looking for ways to get the most out of their channel partnerships.  I have found home and spent the last three years designing channel incentive programs for HMI Inc., a Performance Improvement Company based out of Norwood, MA.

When I’m not designing channel incentive programs for my clients or blogging on, I’m maximizing time with my Wife and two boys.  I still get on the hardwood twice a week and love planning fishing trips with my 4 brothers.

Thanks for being a part of Move the Channel!

My Very Best,


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