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,



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,


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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,

#1 Reason For Implementing Channel Reward Programs: Partner and End-User Data Insight

On TargetWhat is the main reason channel organizations are implementing Channel Incentive Programs?

To motivate the channel?  To engage partners?  To reward for incremental growth or proven Steps-to-the-Sale (STTS)?  Surely it must be to gain loyalty by impacting future buying behaviors?

Nope. All of these used to be leading drivers of investment in channel rewards programs, but in today’s channel ecosystem they have become merely residual benefits.

Manufacturers and distributors have started to realize that in order to more effectively achieve all of these residual benefits, they need to design custom messaging and communications to the channel members who are responsible for buying or selling their solutions. And to accomplish this, or to do so successfully, they need to take advantage of the vast troves of end-user data that have become accessible in our digitized world.

Here, then, might be the evolving function of channel rewards programs. By utilizing a channel program to discover and target the right partner salespeople and sales engineers, channel pros (or “Channeleers,” as I like to call them) can get right up next to the sale and end-user. The nestling can be achieved through a well thought out claims process.   A claims solution creates an opportunity to gather key information about the sale and end-user, and, armed with this information, a channeleer can put custom messages directly into their audiences’ hands (in the case of mobile, literally).

As always, please feel free to share your challenges with communicating to your channel partner employees or the end-user. I look forward to the dialogue.

Move the Channel,

LinkedIn Group collaborates to deliver a very unique Channel Marketing Guides& RIMES Chart.

It wasn’t easy to organize hundreds of ideas from a network of thousands of people from all over the world. But we did it. Move The Channel’s unique Channel Marketing & Sales 1.0 eBook is now available for you to download exclusively on

MTC 1.0 CoverWhat makes 1.0 the first of its kind? As most of you know, this project started over a year ago as a simple discussion in the Move The Channel LinkedIn group. It grew from there to an all-out deluge of ideas from all across the Move The Channel community.

As we began organizing all of the different ideas and channel best practices that were coming our way, distinct categories started to become clear.  These categories are what we now refer to as “RIMES” — Relationships, IT, Marketing & Communications, Enablement, and Sales — and they are what we at Move The Channel consider to be the pillars of any successful channel marketing campaign.

Our goal is to begin to create a line of literature that can be referenced as a valuable tool in the planning and implementation of any channel marketing program. We hope you find this guide to be useful and informative. You can download it right here at

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

Name: Email:

Please provide feedback so we can continue to enhance the Guide & Chart. MoveTheChannel 1.0 is the first step in an ongoing line of literature about channel marketing and sales. Our plan with 1.0 is to throw a net around a wide range of industries and promote the basic tools that have been proven to generate success across multiple access points within the channel. Enjoy!
Move the Channel,

Channel Conduit of the Week #12: Raise the Bar

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

In a current Mazda6 TV commercial, the spirit of “Raising the Bar” is captured both literally and figuratively. It also happens to be my favorite commercial on television right now, because it’s got everything you could possibly ask for in an advertisement: an obscure, yet important event in sports history (the reinvention of the high jump); an inspiring cliché (just because we haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done); and of course, a great song by one of my all-time favorite bands, The Who!

When U.S.A.’s Dick Fosbury won gold in the 1968 Olympics, he changed the sport of high jumping forever. Innovative and daring, Fosbury invented a technique (known as the Fosbury Flop) that revolutionized the way track-and-field athletes competed. He broke the Olympic and U.S. high jumping records in 1968, and ever since then the “bar” has been raised. Just like this visionary, your channel partners are always looking for new and creative ways to rise to the occasion and surpass their goals.  Because of this, it’s important for you to clearly communicate to participants the goals of your channel incentive program. Make sure you are always raising the bar by offering higher levels of achievement for your partners to reach. Just like Dick Fosbury, they might surprise you with an unprecedented way of getting things done.

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

The iPhone 4#1:  Everyone has a smartphone today.  Almost all of your channel partners, channel partner sales, and their sales engineers—basically EVERYONE you want to engage—have a smartphone.  According to a report by NBC News last week, 56% of US adults are using smartphones, up from 35% two years ago.  What’s more, when we segment high-earning professionals like our channel partner’s sales and sales engineers, that number goes even higher.

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

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

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

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


The biggest question in terms of going mobile: Where do I get started?  To develop a simple iPhone or Android App starts at around $45,000 and goes up from there. If you are working on a partner platform it is a much smaller investment for Mobile Apps features.  For example we will soon be offering a “Starter App” for our client’s channel incentive reward program that starts at around $10,000.

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

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


5 Simple & Shocking Ways to Increase Loyalty with Your Channel

These five simple yet shocking tips will help to increase loyalty and better engage your channel partners.

shocked!  Home Alone1.)     Don’t ask them what they want…  or need!   By being the manufacture or distributor you have the insight and best practices of your most successful partners.  Share with the Silver partners how Platinum Partners became platinum.

2.)    Reward them more for non-revenue activities.  This may not make much sense on the surface, but it works.  Remember those best practices of your platinum partner from the first point?  If you know that the partners with the most training sell more and are less maintenance, reward everyone in the channel for training completions.  If X number of deal registrations or demos equal an increase of Y in sales, reward for registration or demo goal achievement.   Almost all of my clients’ Reward Programs include STTS (Steps to the Sale) components.

3.)    Share their competitive advantages with their peers.  In certain cases, this is not always appropriate, but hear me out…  Instead of just giving an award at the partner conference for most revenue, announce that “this partner also has the most certified engineers of any other VAR”  or  “this partner has engaged our sales team for demonstration more than any other partner.”  Not only will they appreciate the honor, they will also get other Channel Partners thinking about the ways they can be better leaders.  Pat these standouts on the back by putting them on pedestal.

4.)    What are you going to do this year? Sell more!  It amazes me how many companies don’t set goals for their channel partners to achieve.  What an amazing opportunity to have a business meeting with your partner. Tell them why you value them and why you are counting on them to grow their business.  Once you do, let them set the goal… chances are it is much more ambitious than you would have suggested.

5.)    Go fly a kite.  Or maybe a plane. Once your channel partners have achieved their goal (which you decided with them), take them and their spouse on a President’s Club or Group Trip (no, conferences don’t count!).  You asked them to achieve a goal and they worked on it all year, so put your money where your mouth is and reward them for a job well done. These high quality group trips can range from $2000-$5000 per person, but they couldn’t be a better use of funds, and if your channel partners hit the high goals you set for them, the extra revenue from the higher sales will more than pay for the trip.  Think about enjoying a mai tai with your best partners and see how appreciative they will be while mingling with your upper management and executives.  Nothing creates more loyalty than recognition and appreciation through an incentive trip.

The Business of Harmony: Getting Your Sales and Marketing Teams Onto The Same Page

The divide exists in every company.  Marketing thinks Sales is here to execute their strategy.  Sales thinks Marketing exists to support their sales efforts.  You have probably heard thing like “Sales people don’t get big picture” and “Marketing people have no clue about the end-user’s unique needs.” In a way, they’re both right.  But don’t worry—the occasional dissonance between the two branches of your organization is to be expected.  That’s because the sales team is tasked with closing the business right in front of their noses, and the marketing team is challenged with casting a vision that creates future opportunities down the road. Spending time in both departments, I have been on both sides of this dissonance, and what it really is is a matter of long-term planning versus short-term action. Both approaches ultimately work toward the same goals, but they each go about it in very different ways.

Business Harmony

Business Harmony

Today you can see various attempts by organizations to foster better internal harmony.  For example we see both department rolling up to on Sr VP of Sale & Marketing or Channel Chief.    One proven solution I have come across that closes this loop between sales and marketing has to do with your channel incentive or reward program. First off, it should absolutely be designed and communicated by a marketing leader.  A program that casts a wide net throughout the channel ecosystem needs the continuity and foresight of a well-crafted, long-term approach.

But there also needs to be an olive branch. Why not allow the sales leadership to determine what behaviors are rewarded for in the program? The salespeople are clearly the most qualified to identify these behaviors, things like Steps-To-The-Sale (STTS) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).  Chances are your salespeople have been examining and fine-tuning these behaviors over years of an evolving sales process.  They are how management measures the success of individual salespeople outside of a closed deal.

In addition to encouraging synergy within your organization, this approach achieves one of the 5 most important components of a successful incentive program:  the “Sales Buy-in”. Without Sales buy-in your incentive program is dead in the water.  Salespeople are the front line of marketing’s message, and also the most penetrative.  When the sales team has a hand in developing the program rules, the program becomes a sales tool that can help them close more effectively.

I call it the Business of Harmony.

Vendors throw money at the channel, but they don’t know what sticks (ROI)

Last week a Move the Channel member started a discussion in the LNKD Group.  “I am looking for some best practices on measuring the ROI on MDF generated leads. Currently it’s quite a manual job checking it from one system to another. Any suggestions/recommendations?”

Return on InvestmentI’m sure that by asking the leading channel minds at Move the Channel, this member will be offered many good ideas and best practices on how to better track the dollars that are being provided to the channel partners.  Quite honestly, in this economic climate I’m surprised this isn’t a more popular topic amongst our group. 

This has been a challenge for a long time, but now more than ever vendors want the ability to link marketing activity & investment to their product sales.  Because the distributors have a hard time proving the link between monies they spend on marketing, and actual product sales, the Return On Investment is based, more often than not, on educated guess work.   

There is incredible pressure on non-channel marketing to provide an ROI for every penny spent.  We should probably expect the same weighty expectations for the channel pros this year more than ever, if we don’t already. 

So do I have a solution for this inevitable ROI problem?  No, not exactly.  But I can think of a couple of ideas.

1.)   CRM Capabilities: I know that many CRM systems are doing a much better job of tracking channel campaigns and events and linking them to and incorporating them into the sales cycle. is the one I have had experience with.  The key there has been to eliminate the divide between these two business development departments.  It’s why we are seeing more SVP of Channel Sales & Marketing. 

2.)   Implement “Trackable” Initiatives: If you don’t have a refined system in place, one way to improve measurement methods of your channel marketing investment is to include initiatives in your strategy that can be easily tracked.  Introducing and funding Distributor Performance Incentive programs that target the Reseller/Dealer customer can be an easy way to track ROI.  Only “reward” (fund) when key performance indicators (KPIs) are achieved. These KPIs might include incremental sales goals, product sales, training achievements, deal registrations, etc.  All the things that you know turn into revenue and a transaction. 

I know this doesn’t solve all the challenges with tracking marketing monies through the channel (especially end-user campaigns), but it’s a good place to start.  If you can show clear, positive ROI on your Channel Rewards Program, you might find yourself with greater leeway when it comes to your more creative–less “trackable”–initiatives. 

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