March Madness: Your Channel needs more Coaches, Not Discounts

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


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

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

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

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

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

Move the Channel,

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


One of my favorite things to do is travel. I try not to make it a goal, but a way of life. Maybe that’s why I cherry-picked the performance incentive field for my career. When crafting performance incentive solution many of the programs I design are group trips to exotic destinations. And yes, I do usually try to join my client on the trip—one of the best perks to the business. J

As part of my job I subscribe to numerous travel magazines, and I love reading about destinations that I haven’t visited yet. This past week, Travel + Leisure Magazine published their annual “World’s Best Awards for 2014.” Looking at these lists of top hotels, cities, islands, and cruise lines, I realized that there is actually a huge contrast between what is considered “tops” for individual (vacation) travel as opposed to a larger group of high-performing sales reps or channel partners.

With individual travel, it seems that people are looking for the best beaches or sunsets when they choose their destination. The natural geography and beauty alone is often more than enough for the individual traveler. However, when it comes to selecting for larger groups there are much different metrics that should be considered before you crown a destination “best.” I call these metrics the “3 A’s,” as in:

  1. Accessibility — Is there a relatively large airport nearby? Or would you need to take a less convenient mode of transport (e.g. prop plane, sail boat, etc.) in order to reach the destination? Also, how far is the destination from your departure country? For example, Bali is a wonderful location for a group trip, except that it typically takes close to 24 hours by plane just to get there from the US east coast.
  2. Activities — If it’s only you or your family on a trip, choosing activities is a relatively easy task (although some families might disagree!). But for large groups, you may be asked to accommodate hundreds of different personalities and interests all in one location. Obviously, this can be a bit of a challenge. For example, Virgin Gouda is a wonderful destination—if everyone in your group wants to experience the laid back life of a boater. Often times, there just aren’t enough activities available in a single spot to entertain a large group for more than a couple of days.
  3. Accommodations — Does the destination have a property that can comfortably handle a large number of guests who may want to be grouped relatively close to each other? For example, Exumas, Bahamas only has one resort that can accommodate a large group, so you better reserve well in advance!


The following is Travel & Leisure’s list of the Top 10 Island Destinations.   I’ve added some additional commentary on whether these places could also function as successful group travel destinations:

images1.)                  Santorini, Greece – We agree this is a premier vacation destination in the world, but it’s not necessarily one that’s appropriate for a large group (100+). However, we’ve organized many Mediterranean Cruise Channel Programs “stop” on the island for wonderful events, but you probably wouldn’t want your large group staying there for more than 24 hours. So although it is a main attraction for a group travel incentive program, it usually isn’t the main destination.

2.)                  Maui, HI – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

3.)                  Kauai,HI – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

4.)                  Hawaii, the Big Island – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

5.)                  Bali, Indonesia – Excellent group travel destination. However, it requires a long flight and only offers one or two locations for suitable group accommodations.

6.)                  Oahu, HI – Excellent group incentive trip island. However, it requires a higher incentive budget, and requires a longer flying time from the Eastern U.S.

7.)                  Galapagos, Ecuador – Very difficult to access. The Galapagos would essentially be impossible for a large group, but they could serve as a great “Executive Retreat.”

8.)                  Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands – Only accessible by boat or prop plane. Virgin Gorda would be an excellent destination “stop” on a cruise but would not be ideal as a main destination for a large group.

9.)                  Vancouver Island, Canada – Weather is a concern.

10.)               San Juan Islands, WA – Weather is a concern.


If you’re looking for the perfect destination to send your high-achieving sales reps or channel partners to, it’s important to remember that what works for one person might not work for many. surfThis may seem like simple logic, but you’d be surprised by how many people tend to overlook these logistical details. Which is just one of the many reasons why employing a third party performance improvement company to manage your channel sales incentive program—and the group trip that is often the major reward—can prove to be extremely valuable in the long run.


Move the Channel,


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Channel Partner Incentives: The Ultimate Reward for your Channel Partner

Ultimate RewardAs many of you know, I have been in the business of recommending, designing, implementing, and managing channel incentive strategies for my clients for a long time now. Over the years, this experience has enabled me to recognize some of the most critical components of a successful channel incentive program, including identifying the behaviors you want to drive, developing the right rule structure, targeting the right “player” in the channel, and executing a sticky and engaging communications. However, I’ve also noticed that one component that can sometimes get lost amidst all of these program nuances is the actual incentive reward you choose to offer in order to MOVE YOUR CHANNEL. Hiding in plain sight, the most obvious and central element of your channel incentive program—the incentive itself—can become secondary in importance if you’re not vigilant about it. Take it from me, your program can have the best rules structure, the snazziest incentive portal, and all of the right engagement bells and whistles, but if you don’t have a reward that truly motivates the participant, it will all be for naught.

In my experience, there are two important factors to consider when providing a great incentive reward:

1.) The value, or the “perceived value” of the reward. Is the reward enough to engage and change behavior? Making sure that the actions you are requesting are worthwhile for the program participants is obviously vital to the success of achievement of those actions. When the participant asks “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM)…..   the answer needs to be something exciting, desirable, & clear.

2.) The type of reward. This is often the main driver of significant gains in these channel incentive programs. Depending on the demographics of your program audience, there are many appealing rewards options. Most of the programs I recommend and manage allow the channel partner to choose what reward motivates them the most. By promoting this sense of autonomy, I’ve found that partners assume an added sense of ownership over their programs, which ultimately drives performance. They earn program currency (points) by achieving their goals or increasing certain sales driven activates (Steps-to-the-Sale). This award system is very effective and gives the participant the choice of endless merchandise, real-time travel options, online event tickets, a plethora of experience awards, and a personalized concierge service.flowating

So what’s the best type of reward? Is there a “best?” Without question, I’ve found that the undisputed champion of Channel Partner Rewards or Incentive is Group Travel Incentives. If your channel incentive program rewards its top-performing sales and channel partners with an incentive program then you know there is no greater form of recognition than achieving “President’s Club” status and taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to an exotic destination. Typically, these trips are more than just your average vacation; to be sure, they afford unique opportunities for fun, relaxation, and adventure, however they also provide the perfect networking opportunities in which to mingle with other high-achieving coworkers, peers, partners, and executive management. The memories and personal connections that these types of programs offer can very often lead to a lifetime of loyalty and lasting friendships.

Does your Channel Marketing Program Include and Group Travel Incentive Component?

Move the Channel,


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Channel Conduit: Culture eats strategy for Breakfast

Culture BreakfastOver the last couple of weeks we have spent time discussing and debating the importance of developing a strategy and sharing the playbook with your channel partners. In this same vein, it’s also imperative for your organization to focus its sights internally in order to evaluate the special dynamics of its culture. Is your company culture a differentiator for you in the market? If so, it could be one of your biggest assets when it comes to creating a loyal partner network and Champions of your brand.

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

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

Please shoot me a note with ideas and questions.  I always enjoy the channel community’s feedback and thoughts!

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 


“Several Shades of Grey” – The Potential Dark Side of Channel Incentive Programs Part I

shades of greyAt this year’s Incentive Leadership Forum in Punta Cana, HMI/MMI included a prominent academic team of researchers from leading universities in the fields of channel performance and loyalty engineering. Almost all of the world-class companies that participated in the Forum agreed that research is the lifeblood of a successful reward and recognition program and the key to revealing the changing landscape and behaviors of the channel.

One of the best sessions of the event was called “Several Shades of Grey: The Potential Dark Side of Programs.” We learned a lesson in behavior when Dr. Ko de Ruyter of Maastricht University asked the audience who had read the popular book “50 Shades of Grey”. Let’s just say this small audience’s response didn’t quite align with the global statistics of this wildly popular book. But the session did provide some buzz to the Forum, and Dr. Ko de Ruyter certainly had everyone’s attention.

The witty play on the popular book’s title was appropriate as the workshop focused on how to avoid the “darkest” aspects of loyalty program behavior.   Earlier this year, Gartner shined a light on these negative traits in a report that they published. However, unlike Gartner’s report, which focused on the criminal challenges of programs, the forum focused on strategic challenges that could actually be controlled by program architects.

Jan (Ya-wn) Pelser of Maastricht University shared some studies relating to the topic, “What Motivates Your Audience? Gratitude vs. Indebtedness.” The question is when you reward your channel does your incentive program show gratitude and appreciation?  Or does it make the participant after receiving an award feel like they owe you something?  One amazing point I took from this session was that even though gratitude would seem to obviously be a more motivating influence, nonetheless a significant number of program designs actually lean toward indebtedness.  Jan shared some of his fascinating case studies that showed that, while both strategies can be initially effective, gratitude ultimately yields much higher rewards when it comes to long-term loyalty. On the darker side, indebtedness, in many cases, provides an inferior preliminary lift, and can also even have negative effects in the long term. While you might sway a partner’s business today, with an approach based on indebtedness you are risking pushing your partner away in the future.

Finally, although the session focused on how to show more gratitude in your program’s rule design and strategy, another opportunity to express gratitude could be found in the awards themselves. Studies have shown that participants are much more likely to feel indebted when they receive cash rewards. On the other hand, when they redeem for a “trip of a lifetime” or “concert tickets to see their favorite band,” they felt much appreciated and on the gratitude-end of the continuum. Over the course of the studies, participants were much more engaged and enthusiastic when they had gratitude toward the reward. You may have heard me reference this phenomenon before, as something I like to call ROE (Return on Experience).

Many people think that long-term loyalty is hard to measure—and usually they’re right. But the incredibly smart people who develop loyalty laboratories have proven that, in fact, there are concrete ways to achieve measureable results. This has been something of a revelation for me.

In part II of “Several Shades” I’ll share how Dr. Debbie Keeling from Loughborouch University tackled “Complacency in Relationships – Can You Beat it?”

Contact me if you would like to hear more about these studies, or would like to be introduced to these amazing resources and wonderful people.
Move the Channel,

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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