Move the Channel Blog: Do your partners’ people deserve Championship rings?

cavaliers-championship-rings_16s9qt158vwl41mtw2vn9haop6Last night my 8-year-old son participated in the Cleveland Cavaliers Academy clinic.  At the end of the clinic, the kids got to ask the Cavs’ players and coaches questions.  The best question?  “Where’s LeBron?”!

My Son at Cavs Jr AccadamyOct 2016 Cavs Jr AccademyFun was had by all and great job by my long time family friend, Seth Roberts, and the team pulling off a great event.

Being around the team brought me back to June, when my Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the best regular season team in NBA history, ultimately winning their first World Championship in dramatic fashion. To all those who witnessed these games, it was obvious that the coaches and players’ lifetime of hard work, dedication, determination all contributed to their victory in the 2016 NBA Finals. If ever there was a team that deserved to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy and receive championship rings, it was this team. But what was less visible to those watching were the incredible efforts of the people behind the scenes.

Before the regular season, the Cavs organization came up with a slogan for the team and the city that stood behind it: “All in.” Now, I’d bet that most of us sports fans have participated in a neighborhood Texas Hold-Em game amongst friends, so we all know that moment. You know,  the moment that’s made the game so popular, the point where you decide that your best chance to win is, well, right now. Wait too long, and you might lose your momentum—and your advantage. So instead, being confident in your hand, you look at the opponent across the table from you and you say, “I’m all in.” At that point, whether you win or lose the game, you still feel fulfilled because you trusted yourself and went “all in” on your own terms.

But credit the Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert @cavsdan and his talented marketing staff, for not just a witty season slogan, he embraced it and made it the theme of his organization.  I suspect this isn’t a new thing for his many many companies.

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22: Majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers Dan Gilbert waves to the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH – JUNE 22: Majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers Dan Gilbert waves to the fans during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Dan Gilbert, the Cavs owner, recognized that in order to increase the odds and be the best team in the world, you needed more than a great team and great coaches. You needed to have your entire organization, and the entire business ecosystem that surrounds it, to go “all in” with you. That meant setting the bar high and demanding the most out of everyone involved. In a business setting, hitting that high goal might mean a bonus—if you’re lucky enough to be a valued employee who happens to have variable compensation role.

But what about the non-variable compensation employees?  You know, the ones who, without their behind-the-scenes efforts, nothing would work.  Or worse, what about your partners in your ecosystem, those who aren’t direct employees but are an important part of delivering and distributing your services every day?   The partner or vendor employees include janitors, hot dog vendors, ushers, and even policemen!

To his credit, Dan Gilbert didn’t think the non-variable commissioned employees, nor his partner’s employees (like the hot dog and beer guys) there to “work” for the Cavs. In his heart, he believed they were critical to the success of the entire organization.

The genius—and the magic—of this mindset is that the entire ecosystem of people involved in the business believed it too.  If they hadn’t before, they did now. During this one magical season, they all decided to go “all in” with the Cavs.

Next week, Dan is rewarding over 1000 full-time & part-time employees as well as many the Cavs’ business partners’ employees and contributors, with their very own championship rings.  Some of those people include the ushers, janitors, hot dog vendors, and even policemen involved with the team

Of course, I think LeBron James @KingJames is a true modern-day hero for what he does off the court  I also continue to hear stories like this one about Dan Gilbert and I am impressed with his judgment. I know that Dan and LeBron have had a somewhat rocky relationship over the years, but I can’t help but think winning championships might just be the baseline for what these two can accomplish together. . . .

The point here is that, in my opinion, no one has ever succeeded on his or her own, and if only we could see and appreciate all of the minor contributions that are made to our collective pursuits, the sky’s the limit for what we can achieve. And as much as anywhere, this holds true within the channel.

  • Do you look at each person in your distribution channels and ecosystem as critical to your success? Or are they partners just “doing their job”?
  • More importantly, do they feel like they are valued and have the impression that you view them as “critical?” If not, you probably aren’t maximizing your odds of winning the ‘ship.
  • Sure, you probably won’t go around distributing thousands of championship rings—but have you thought about an engagement program that rewards them for their time and energy commitment that they’ve made to your organization? Have they gone “all in” with your business by completing training modules, studying your products, learning to position them, engaging with your business development people, etc.?  If so, maybe it’s time you rewarded them; because after all, if it can turn a basketball player into a King, imagine what it could do for your business. . . .

As always, send me a note if you’d like to discuss or talk through some of these ideas together. And feel free to join in on this conversation at Move the Channel Group, your exclusive destination for Channel insights and innovation.

Move the Channel,


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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.

5 Principles for a Channel-Committed Company (Living the Five)

father-and-son-fishing-at-sunset-aaron-bakerWhen I was a young boy my Dad taught my brothers and me that with the 5 “C’s” we could accomplish anything we set our minds to. These 5 “C’s” were courage, conviction, concentration, consistency, and moral conscious (but of course, when he saw a teaching moment he’d often work in other “C’s” from time to time too!)

The 5 C’s remind me of 5 principles that are key for manufacturers to accomplish what they’ve set their mind to.   Many sales organizations struggle with going “all in” with a Channel go-to-market strategy. Instead, they often like to keep their options open and see if the direct model is going to be this quarter’s big winner. Unfortunately, that approach can only last so long—it rarely ever succeeds as a long-term solution. The fact is, if you are ever hoping to expect more from your channel partners, then they need to know that their partner is going to be “all in” with them.

Now, I don’t claim to be my Dad, but I’d like to take a page out of his playbook and offer my own set of principles for channel partner success. So, if you can try and LIVE these 5 principles, you and your partner will both know that one another is “all in” when it comes to your partnership. These 5 principles came to me in church when I learned about the book “Living the Five” by Jim and Jennifer Cowart.

  1. You can’t reach your company’s full potential Alone
  2. Growing partners challenge and change your organization (for the better). How can we help our partner grow?
  3. Successful growing partners embrace sharing in a channel community (Create a healthy ecosystem)
  4. Winning manufacturers serve their partners first, then there is potential for win-win
  5. Being a Channel-Committed Company is more than just a business decision—it’s a lifestyle or company culture

As always, send me a note if you’d like to discuss or talk through some of these ideas together. And feel free to join in on this conversation at Move the Channel Group, your exclusive destination for Channel insights and innovation.

Move the Channel,


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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.

Don’t just fill your channel partner’s pail…

beautiful-jungle-waterfall-nature-wallpaper-beautiful-759063643This past weekend my wife graduated from The Ohio State University with her PhD.  She is now embarking on her new career as an education professor working with and preparing future teachers.  Her expertise is in science education, and she cares deeply about improving science education experiences, teaching and learning for all children.

In her dissertation dedication she references one of her favorite quotes by Yeats, and one she applies in her teaching,

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the igniting of a flame.”

As always, when I hear such a powerful and moving statement I try to see how that statement might be applied to moving the channel.

All too often we fill our partners pails with discounts, co-marketing programs, trainings, and everything else that may be on our partner program checklist with hopes that this ‘pail filling’ will be the ignition we are seeking.  To take a step back and examine the pail, have we drenched the partner to the point of stifling the partnership?  Don’t get me wrong, filling the pail with a well-designed partner program is the foundation for a successful and fruitful partnership.  But a foundation is just the beginning.

Lets deliver and communicate a world-class channel program and benefits, but then turn our efforts to understanding our partner’s needs, challenges, opportunities, and passions.  If we can get to know our partner and what drives them we can “ignite” the partnership into a greater business opportunity than ever imagined.Don't just fill your partner's pail

Are you only filling your partners pail?  Where is the source of ignition with your partner?  How do you “ignite” your partnership into growth and profits?

As always, send me a note with your thoughts and feedback.

Move the Channel,

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A Christmas Lesson for Channel Marketers

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

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

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

Gift Giving

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

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

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

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Channel-Movers!

Move the Channel,


PS Thanks for sharing this video with me Anthony

One Amazingly Simple Step toward Channel Partner Tranquility

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?


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,


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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,


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,


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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,


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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,



The Worst thing you can do for your Channel Partners

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Move the Channel,



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Move the Channel,


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,

The first 45 KPIs or indicators of a good Channel Partner according to… YOU.

Last week I asked you to list your Top 3 Channel KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) “here”.  I asked this question throughout the various LinkedIn groups and our very own Move the Channel Community.   And YOU delivered, with countless KPIs ideas.  Here are the first 45.

These are only first 45.  It’s interesting to pick out the unique KPIs like “employee turnover”.  And to point out the most popular KPI, “training/enablement investment”.  Training and Enablement is the clear winner with 17% of the first 45 KPIs mentioned.

I will be providing commentary and analysis on these submissions, but wanted to provide the initial feedback ASAP.

Click here to participate in the discussion.    HERE


Move the Channel,

Here are the first 45 in YOUR own words.

  1. Money they spent (out of their own pocket) in promoting my portfolio to their customers
  2. Deal registrations and corresponding conversion rate
  3. Enablement investments (time, money) for their sales and sales engineering teams.
  4. Pipeline growth and velocity
  5. Strategic opportunities. For instance, I may have a partner with a small volume of opportunities, yet they are all sourced from a key vertical or market segment we are trying to penetrate.
  6. Unique IP jointly developed by our respective organizations
  7. Certifications in product or technical support
  8. Customer complaints or redos (how often do they get it right the first time)
  9. Employee turnover
  10. Share of wallet
  11. Certification investment
  12. Portfolio breadth
  13. Tenure
  14. Transaction frequency
  15. Sales skills,
  16. Market knowledge,
  17. Loyalty
  18. Number of dedicated Head counts.
  19. A clear business plan
  20. Integration with its other line of business
  21. Marketing Know-how – simple branding, or social media or in-person events.
  22. Take interest in talking 1X p/month about the business, their needs and future direction
  23. Proactively prepare for all discussions and include the right members of their team
  24. Solicit vendor input on their business ideas, offerings and go to market strategies
  25. Accept constructive feedback and feel empowered to deliver it
  26. Utilize the training, marketing and sales tools we’re providing
  27. Number of specialists / engineers that have been “trained”
  28. QoQ or YoY pipeline growth from those people
  29. Number of new sales appointments set (IMPORTANT)
  30. Learning investment with our products / solutions.
  31. Exclusivity (Are we their sole product for the application?)
  32. Partners who willingly participate in quarterly business planning sessions with the Vendor and jointly establish measurable goals and activities to achieve same
  33. Partners that are committed to real growth as opposed to just maintaining their current profit levels, pre-retirement
  34. Partners that view hardware and technology as enablement platforms for longer-term, solutions-based selling, rather than a sales goal in and of itself
  35. Have the ability to market/attract new customers
  36. Have knowledge of your product and where it’s a fit
  37. Have knowledge of the industry
  38. The reps get “enough” (simpler than alternatives, more margin, etc.) benefit from selling your product
  39. Present our products FIRST on their line card
  40. Engage us in training, strategy and ramping to market
  41. Stay engaged in active prospecting and business planning.
  42. Which partners are actively executing programs?
  43. What topics are driving customer interest?
  44. Which partners are leading customer engagement?
  45. Which media channels are delivering results?
  46. competitive affinity (how closely is the partner aligned to my competitors)
  47. social/external behavior in response to a specific program
  48. Quarterly Growth (People/Revenue) of the partner



Channel Conduit: Why the most innovative, brightest companies rely on 3rd parties for Incentive Marketing Programs

Experience vs knowledgeThe agency I work with is lucky enough to work with many of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies in the world.  Why on earth would they need a 3rd party to do anything?  Well, they are very smart.  Although they have more knowledge of their channel and how to engage them, they don’t have the experience of actually running award-winning channel performance incentive programs.  Also like in their own industries, things move quickly.  If you are not living and breathing channel performance incentive marketing, you are delivering a stale program.

It’s not that your team isn’t bright and capable.   In fact they are probably superstars!  Let them work with a 3rd Party with experience and watch an amazing solution and results happen.

What channel marketing efforts are you trying to manage internally?  Are you saving money or missing opportunity?

Move the Channel,

Your channel engagement program is only as strong as your weakest link

weakest link gameshowFirst to be clear, when I refer to the “weakest link” I am not talking about channel stakeholder but the communication to or engagement of that channel participant.

I recently had a great conversation in the DMR – Channel Professional Network group in LinkedIn regarding my “Several Shades of Grey” post I made last month. It was a friendly, healthy exchange between two people that have extremely different views on what elements are needed and not needed to deliver the most effective engagement in a channel marketing program.

This conversation occurred over a number of weeks, and although I disagreed with much of what my challenger was expounding, I will admit that he did have some great points along the way. In fact, one point in particular even inspired me to write about it.

The individual argued that if “you missed one ‘link’ in the chain of a program, the entire program could fail.”

It always amazes me how many programs fail to recognize the importance of each “link,” or tier, in their channel when designing performance improvement programs. Almost all of the programs I work on attempt to engage their channel at the various POIs (Point of Influence). I coined the term POI as a way to identify the people in the channel who wield the greatest influence over a sale. They usually are the VAR or Dealer’s Sales Person or Sales Engineer. Indeed, this is where 70% of the effort, design, and investment of channel incentives should be focused.Weakest Link Host

Although the Points of Influence are the primary target, they are also traditionally the group that the manufacture or distributor are least connected to. So it is important to strengthen the links (secondary targets) that connect you to this group of individuals. For example, below I have listed some potential POIs and secondary targets within the channel, and proposed some different ways to strengthen your “link” to them:

  • Your Regional Manager  (secondary)  Giving them a rollup up and dashboard reporting of their teams’ performances
  • Your Salespeople & SEs  (Secondary)  Providing leaderboards and other gaming elements, and overriding the initial and after-market sales
  • Distributor (secondary or primary)  Discounting for access to detailed POS data
  • Distributor Sales (secondary or primary)  Overriding of Sales
  • VAR/ISV  (primary)  Reward for Sales, KPI, Training, and other behaviors that lead to sales STTP
  • VAR Salespeople and SEs (primary)  Reward for Sales, KPI, Training, and other behaviors that lead to sales STTP

Notice: In order to engage the primary target, it doesn’t necessarily mean allocating a percentage of your incentive budget to the secondary targets.  For example, you can get many of these tiers engaged through reporting, leaderboards, and other unique “gamification” elements.

What are some other creative ways to engage these secondary audiences?

As always, give me a ring or shoot me a note in LinkedIn to discuss!

Move the Channel,

Channel Conduit: What 28 Million People Learned About Giving Gifts from this Video

I love Westjet. We have a couple of clients and developers based in Toronto, and Westjet is always our favorite carrier that flies there. Why? Take a look at this must-watch holiday video about gift-giving that Westjet put together, and maybe you’ll understand:

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

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

Gift Giving


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

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

Move the Channel,


PS Thanks for sharing this video with me Anthony 


Channel Conduit of the Week: “The only failures are communication failures” – A lesson from the NICU

operating-roomOn Sunday I ran into my next-door neighbor, who is a doctor in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The hospital is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best and their NICU has over a 90% survival rate of all babies (under 27 weeks) that come into the unit. They are truly doing incredible things.

During our conversation my neighbor told me the mantra with which all the doctors & nurses at the hospital operate and by which they keep themselves accountable:

“The only failures are communication failures.”  

By now most of you know how passionate I am about Channel Marketing. While I’m not suggesting our business is as high-stakes as the NICU, I still believe we can take a lesson from an organization that has 0% tolerance for communication breakdowns, and is doing great things as a result.

If our people, our channel partners, and our programs are sound and capable, could it be that the shortcomings our strategies suffer from are the result of poor communication? We often get so focused on the details of our program (rightfully so) that we lose sight of our need to communicate consistently.  Let’s face it, we might cook up the best channel marketing and incentive program in the industry, but if it’s not properly announced, launched, and communicated, it’s all for naught.

Move the Channel,

A great reminder to the Channel from Mrs. Disney: “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

walt-disney-florida-mapwalt-disney-with-map-of-florida-olp-travel---news-viewsolp-zzuys1w3On October 1, 1971, five years after the great Walt Disney passed away; Disney World had its grand opening. During the dedication ceremony, someone turned to Mrs. Walt Disney and said, “Isn’t it a shame that Walt didn’t live to see this?” Mrs. Disney replied, “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

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

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

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

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

Channel Conduit of the Week: 1 in 3 Babies…will Live to 100

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Leave The Lindo Wing With Their Newborn Son

Yesterday I was driving a prospective client back to Boston Logan airport after a terrific meeting. Coming into the downtown area, I saw a billboard that caught my eye.  “1 in 3 Babies…” it read, and obviously at that point, as a father of two, it had my full attention.   I thought for sure it was going to be an important health awareness message like those that we are used to seeing. Curious to read on, I saw that the entire message was “1 in 3 Babies will Live to 100” (the billboard is right on the Mass Pike if someone can send me a picture of it that would be great)

As I was wondering exactly how one might go about measuring this long-term prediction, I was struck by a story I had heard earlier that day. The meeting we were coming from had to do with a channel incentive trip and the potential strategies that could be deployed for it.  At the end of the meeting our very impressive client told us a story about how a participant on an incentive trip he had run SIX YEARS AGO was still commenting today on how much of an effect the trip had had on him and his business.  I found it incredible that not only had this particular program yielded a 700% Return On Investment (ROI), netting over $75 million in incremental revenue; it had also continued to impact business on a long-term basis.  Don’t get me wrong, the immediate ROI figures were remarkable, and I know how important it is to show this analysis in order to justify the budget for such a program.  But the fact that customers still continued to be affected by the trip six years later got me thinking about how we might possibly measure this impact. Ultimately, this is something I like to call Return On Experience (ROE), a statistic that is difficult to calculate but strategically vital.  After seeing the billboard, I wondered if this client and his business would have seen the same ROE if he’d given his customers a cash-equivalent bonus instead of the trip of a lifetime.

Please send your experience where you were a participant or delivering such an incentive trip.  Send you comment or thoughts on Return on Experience ROE direct to my email!

Move the Channel,

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