Move the Channel: #1 Driver of Customer Loyalty is the . . . Buying Experience throughout the Sale

Loyal CustomerIt has long been understood that if you’re going to increase customer loyalty among your end-users, then your organizations should be building their customer loyalty strategies around three basic drivers:

  • Product and service differential
  • Improving brand impact
  • Improving perceived product value

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Conversely, a study by our friends over at CEB has found that end-user loyalty is not being impacted primarily by these traditional drivers, but rather by one important element: the end-user’s buying experience or what they experience throughout the sale. When we talk about sales experience, it’s more than just delivering on your product and/or company promises; additionally, it includes providing insights and added value to the customer. In other words, a salesperson should be capable of doubling as a trusted advisor—certainly no easy task.
How do these findings impact channel organizations? Well, to be frank, this discovery makes many of us VERY uncomfortable. For the most part we are in full control of executing our strategy when it’s based around the traditional pillars of product and service differential, improving our brand impact and improving our perceived product value. In fact, we have very talented people in our marketing teams working on these areas every single day.

But when it comes to controlling our channel partners’ salespeople and sales engineers, to ensuring they are providing a good end-user buying experience for our product, our confidence is a lot less assured. Without having our hands physically in the mix, it can be hard for us to trust that due diligence is being exercised. So I can totally understand why this is prospect might be, shall we say, scary to certain Channel organizations. But I’m here to reassure you that the end-user’ buying experience is actually not out of our hands; in fact, we can exert some measure of control.

For starters, there’s been significant innovation in the area of how to better influence and train our channel partners’ sales people. Arming them with the right content at the right time is one area where we’ve seen a big impact, with companies like SproutLoud and Allbound leading the way. But perhaps the best levers to pull when it comes to this challenge may also be the most obvious: incentivizing them to do the things that make them stronger, more trusted advisors to your end-customer.quize

For example, HMI Performance Incentives helps companies reward these important influencers for 1.)  Completing training quizzes so that they become more informed, more confident and comfortable, and ultimately more influential during the sales experience. Other methods include rewarding your partners’ salespeople for 2.)  Getting your team involved in the sale early on, 3.)  Rewarding for new account introductions, 4.)  Early deal registration, or 5.)  Setting up professional Demo or placing POC (Proof of Concept).

So, just because the territory is unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s impossible to navigate. Don’t you feel better now? I sure do.

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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Do THIS, before you Launch a Channel Partner Acquisition Campaign

Which Partner do I target?On Thursday I had a stimulating conversation with two fellow Channel Movers whom I had met in the  Move the Channel Group. Jill & Sean head up the North American channel programs for an exciting company looking to aggressively grow through an enhanced partner strategy.  She had reached out to me to see if I might serve as a sounding board for her regarding an important partner acquisition initiative her technology company was tackling. Of course, being the channel nerd that I am, I enthusiastically accepted her invite for this exciting brainstorming session.

During our talk, I came to realize that it’s a great time to be at Jill’s organization. They’ve established many best practices with their channel partner program that are opening up huge opportunities both in their current ecosystem and among new markets. Based on their recent increased activity among their current partners, they are looking to make new channel partner acquisition a measurable goal for the upcoming year, and currently have their sights set on attracting two distinct types of partners:

1) Traditional VAR Partner (more transactional)

2) Strategic Alliances, or what is referred to as a Strategic VAR or System Integrator (S/I).

Now, this organization has a high standard and requirement for both partner types.  They are definitely looking for established and respected partners with the proper focus and infrastructure to deliver and represent their product. Wisely, they also require that their partners possess a minimum number of focused salespeople and sales engineers. In other words, competence and quality is a requisite for them.

So, during our brainstorming the first thing we did was articulate the differences in approach depending on the type of partner we were seeking. The typical strategy to acquire a strategic alliance partner is vastly different than the strategy to bring on a traditional channel VAR partner. One major distinction is the basic profile of the two:

  • Traditional VAR is a specialist in 1.) Their solution,
  • Strategic Alliance Partner is a specialist in 1.) Their solution AND has 2.) a laser focus on their industry.

The result of this distinction is that while we can have MANY traditional VARs as partners, it only makes sense to have 1 or 2 strategic alliance partners per industry. As you can imagine, each group needs their own tweaked or configured channel program that appeals to their unique motivators, and thus the subsequent acquisition plans can vary greatly.

Let’s look at the VAR that specializes in their solution, not their industry.  With these partners they are extremely competent at the products and all the parts associated solution.  As a manufacture, our product(s) is usually an important part of their offering.

What does a strategic alliance partner look like?   Well they have all the attributes of a traditional VAR but have four major elements that make them “strategic” in the partner world.  First, they usually provide core enterprise solutions.  Second, their core solution is mission critical to their customers’ operations. Third, 80%+ of their core product is owned and built in-house; in other words, they will sell their partners’ products, but only as an enhancement or add-on to their core. Lastly, they are usually laser-focused on a certain industry and therefor a leader in market share.

After identifying the distinct profiles of the two partner types, the question Jill, Sean, and I attempted to answer was: How can Jill’s & Sean’s organization cut through the noise and all the other competing options (other vendors trying to partner too), while avoiding the status quo?

The answer, we decided, was to understand what’s important to each partner type.We Understand Your Needs

To start, we discussed how an organization like Jill & Sean’s could help the Traditional VAR achieve their objectives:

  • Profitable Business – A VAR usually has 3 buckets of product categories:Low-margin products – if your products falls in this bucket, you want get ANY interests
    1. Decent-margin products
    2. High-margin products.
  • Reoccurring Business – does your product offer opportunities for reoccurring revenue?
  • Sales and Marketing Integration – Does your channel program give them access to external people and tools that will make them successful and help leverage best practices?
  • Exclusive Club – Does your program make them feel special through with public recognition?
  • Clear goals and expectations – Does your partner onboarding help the new partner set obtainable and clear goals for the partnership to be considered a success?
  • Performance Incentives – If the above goals are achieved, is there something extra offered? Does your channel incentive program shine a light on “good behavior” and reward for Key Performance Indicators like training modules, account introductions, and deal registration at the partner’s sales and sales engineer level? We call your partner’s Sales and Sales Engineer the channel point of influence or POI.


As for the Strategic Alliance Partner, a partner might help them realize their goals through:

  • Profitable Business – Your product must fall in the high-margin bucket! This might be achieved by giving them the ability to own the installation, offering 1st line of support, and/or customization opportunities.
  • Reoccurring Business – Your product must fit their business model and be a good source of reoccurring revenue.
  • Stickiness – There might be an opportunity to partner even at a lower margin, but only if your product offers stickiness. In other words, does it enable them to become more integrated with their customer, thereby increasing “switching cost”.
  • Sales and Marketing Integration – Your standard product material won’t work. The Strategic Alliance Partner expects their partners to help their marketing team develop marketing strategies specific to their core products & solution.
  • Exclusive Club – In many cases a Strategic Alliance Partner might ask for the ability to “white label” your products. They certainly don’t want you working with their competition.
  • Clear goals and expectations – Does your partner onboarding program help the new partner set obtainable and clear goals for the partnership to be considered a success?
  • Performance Incentives – If the above goals are achieved, is there something extra offered? Your performance incentive platform must have the flexibility built in to target and reward the strategic alliance partner’s sales team (POI).


In retrospect, this was a timely conversation for me because I had spent my entire career working in the more traditional VAR channel, holding positions along the way with Manufacturers, Distributors, and Resellers. Most recently, I spent two years designing and implementing Strategic Alliances & Strategies for a world-class multibillion-dollar software company.   It is great to be back at HMI Performance Incentives helping other tech channel organization enhance their channel programs through engagement and incentive strategies.

I hope sharing this brainstorm session with you helps you Move YOUR Channel!  To join the conversation please come to the Move the Channel Group on LinkedIn!

Thanks to Jill and Sean for a rip-roaring good time! Let’s connect soon and chat some more!

Move the Channel,


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Transforming your Channel?  Here’s the Secret. 

change tranformThe Secret to change is to focus ALL of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.   – Socrates

This is certainly true when it comes to transforming your channel.

I’ve had many 2015 planning sessions with clients the last few weeks.  The overlying theme from these meetings and Channel Chiefs seems to be “how do I Transform my channel.”  This week alone I’ve met with two senior executives of industry-leading organizations who both suggested that transformation of their channel has become a priority.  Although this is not a new idea, most of my channel initiatives in the previous years had involved trying to inspire MORE of an existing behavior within the channel. But transforming the channel is about “Building the New”.  And it’s not just about a tweak here and a turn there. These executives want to fundamentally change how their channel partners and partner salespeople do two things: a) How their partners interact with their company, and b) How their partners Engage and sell to the end-user.

Part of the art of channel marketing is being able to influence key stakeholders in the channel without having the most powerful tool of compensation. Our channel stakeholders aren’t employees and therefore we don’t control our channel partner’s compensation plans. That being said, we do have significant control at the partner firm-level, and therefore we have the ability to adjust pricing discounts, offer rebates, and create MDF thresholds, all of which can encourage the partner to take their channel in a new transformative direction. If we want to change our business-as-usual approach to the channel, we must not be afraid to use every tool in our toolbox.

Another powerful instrument that can be used to transform your channel strategy is a wisely crafted channel incentive program. We’ve already talked about levers you have that can impact your partner at firm-levelBut what about motivating the Point Of Influence (POI) of our sale? The POI typically identifies the partner’s sales people or Sales Engineers that interface with the end-user/end-buyer and own the relationship. The question is: How do we reach and engage these important channel influencers?

With a well-designed channel incentive program we can focus on building the new and accelerating the transformation of our channel. Some transforming behaviors we can start to influence?

  • Building the New — Training. There are many different degrees of training. There is everything from “Readiness” lessons and quizzes to full-blown Accreditation programs. Of course while any readiness initiative can be rolled out in weeks, a more significant accreditation program will usually take significant time & effort. Also, we know if Partner Salespeople (POI) invest their time in these training initiatives—whether its 15 minutes or 15 hours—this mindshare WILL ultimately translate into market share.  Readiness initiatives should be hosted in your Channel incentive or engagement portals that target the POI audience.  transformational-chess-pieces
  • A New Partnership — Transformation of the channel isn’t just about how our channel goes to market but how the channel partner works and interacts with us (the manufacture or distributor). This may be asking our channel partners and channel partner salespeople to change how they engage, where they engage, and what they engage at our organization. For example, for years manufactures and distributors have been investing in various partner resources including partner portals, partner marketing automation, etc. Although these “portals” are certainly still valuable resource centers, most organizations have started to realize that the “Do it yourself” approach makes it difficult to measure the effectiveness.
  • A New message for the End Buyer — As mentioned above, the DIY approaches haven’t worked as planned. There’s a concrete need to guide our channel partners especially at the POI to market and communicate the New…. products, services, and approach.  When and how end-buyer communications are executive is often a trackable behavior and therefore one that can be incentivized in your channel engagement portal.
  • Selling to a New Stakeholder . . . the Decision Maker — It’s not only what we’re selling that is New: it’s who we’re selling to. Setting up meetings with the right people or the New decision makers is something else we can influence. With a decent CRM setting meetings with right people is a trackable behavior and therefore one that can be incentivized in your channel engagement portal.

These are just some examples of trackable and rewardable behaviors that can help you transform your channel. Remember, the Secret is to focus ALL of your energy on building the new, or what will transform your channel. A well-designed and properly managed channel incentive program can help you do that.

Have you been tasked with transforming your channel? Are you reaching the partner firm-level as well as at the Point of Influence (POI)?

As always, send me an email with questions, comments, or to set up a call.
Move the Channel,


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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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What the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has taught Channel Marketing?

Ever heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Sure you have. It’s been one of the most successful viral campaigns in the history of social media. For me, this particular movement is rather close to my heart, because not only is it an amazing cause—bringing awareness to a terrible disease and raising money for research that will hopefully lead to a cure soon—but also my friend and high school classmate is currently battling ALS with unbelievable courage and grace.

As it stands, this social media campaign has been remarkably successful, raising $15.6 million thus far as a result of the challenge. That’s more than nine times the amount of money that’s normally donated to the major ALS organizations in the same time frame.

Beyond the obvious implications of this amazing human-interest story, what else can we learn from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

1.) Everyone and their parents are on social media, and those who were heretofore uncomfortable using social media are becoming more comfortable with it.  At this point, if you aren’t using social media in some form, you’re probably missing some important conversations that are taking place within, around, and about your channel. This includes dialogue between your channel partners and their employees.

chick ice bucket

2.) Social media can be an extremely personal—and thereby effective—form of communication. For starters, you can comment directly to an individual customer, employee, or partner. Also, when you write on someone’s page or comment on a conversation they’ve started, you are giving them a vote of confidence. Essentially you’re saying, I’m not afraid to be seen with you in public! When working with your channel, the best social media campaigns are usually managed in a secure, Facebook-like module in the Channel Incentive Portal.

3.) If you “challenge” the individual, the masses will follow. As far as I can tell, communications to a mass audience doesn’t work very well. On the other hand, if you engage or “challenge” an individual with a call-to-action, the effectiveness of this contact will greatly increase. The fact is, unless you have a friendly relationship with someone, you probably aren’t going to contact him/her on Facebook, LinkedIn, or via text message. My point is, if you are reaching out through these mediums directly, then it could help you make the jump from business partner to business friend.

4.) Fun, public “call-outs” work with people you already are friendly with. Yes, the ALS challenge is intended to support an incredibly good cause, so most people are excited to help and participate in it. But a good social media campaign doesn’t have to be in the name of a charity or fighting for a cure in order to be effective. As long as there is good will between the “challenger” and the “challenged,” people will see it as simply as a fun way to engage and connect.

Here are some silly, yet very successful marketing campaigns I have designed, witnessed, or participated in, that have all utilized the power of social media in some way:

1.)    Concrete Chicken Tour — This concrete (yes, a heavy concrete) chicken named “Albert” was hand-delivered to the partner salesperson who happened to close the biggest deal that month. This lucky individual held onto—i.e. showed off—their trophy for an entire week, and was asked to “take care” of Albert and to take pictures of him throughout the week. In the office, in a meeting, with a client—even at home at the dinner table—there was Albert. You can image how much chatter amongst the channel partners this created. Of course, each of Albert’s “caretakers” kept upping the ante with their pictures, which were posted in a communal social media module inside their Global Channel Incentive Program Portal.

computer-skip2.)    Crush the Competition — One particular manufacturer ran a program called “Crush the Competition,” which included a social media component that evolved organically from a “conversion” incentive promotion. In their channel incentive program, this partner sales or sales engineer was offering valuable reward points for a sale that replaced any qualifying competitor’s equipment. To get credit for the conversion they had to submit a picture of the equipment they were replacing.  They would submit the picture through their normal claims process in their incentive portal.   It wasn’t long before the pictures became terrific images and even videos of playful destruction. Senior management loved the excitement it generated throughout the channel partner community.

3.)    Life’s a Beach — We all know that the Ultimate Reward for a channel partner is the achievement of the prestigious President’s Club group trip. One of my clients had a great community dialogue going with its channel partner that was hosted in their Channel Incentive Portal. Of course when pictures started being uploaded from the trip, it turned into great motivation for those that didn’t earn into that year’s President’s Club. This resulted in more first-time qualifiers than ever before!

If you haven’t been using social media to engage and “challenge” your channel, the time is now. Please share with me some successful programs you may have run. Or email or call me to brainstorm on some ideas that might work for your unique channel.

Move the Channel,



Lady Gaga, Channel Marketing, and the Importance of Analytics

ladygaga_halloweenRecently, I was reading the blog of one of my favorite influencers, Bernard Marr. In his post, “What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Analytics,” I learned some really interesting—and surprising—things about Lady Gaga and how she leverages analytics to benefit her brand.

For years Lady Gaga has been a leader and trendsetter in the social media arena. Back in 2008, she was one of the first entertainers to take advantage of the vast potential of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Today, she has an astounding 42 million followers on Twitter and over 66 million “Likes” on Facebook; however, along the way Gaga has realized that despite her incredible following, she doesn’t own these databases and can’t fully leverage their power in the distinctively creative ways that she is famous for.

So what did she do? She decided to simply point direct her followers to her own personal website, This is where the real magic of analytics is manifested. On this site that she controls, she’s able to capture her fans’ information and use the resulting data in innovative ways, such as tailoring her concert set lists to the preferences of fans in particular regions. She also has boosted her merchandise sales by 30% by using fan artwork that’s been uploaded to her site on t-shirts and other clothing. Once again, Gaga is leading the way in harnessing the impressive power of analytics, big data, and social media.

“But it’s not just the music industry that can use big data to its advantage,” says Marr. “Any company—or indeed anyone—can, and should use data to make better decisions. And companies who don’t do that will be left behind.”

Mr. Marr, I couldn’t agree more!

 So, what can the channel marketing community learn from Lady Gaga?

1.) Social Media is NOT the source of knowing your Channel Partners and Market Ambassadors. It’s simply a way to build awareness of and drive traffic to your own space/website.

2.) What’s the BEST way to create your OWN website and space that will engage and appeal to your channel partner’s and partner’s sales people? Without question a channel incentive program packs the biggest draw of this audience.

3.) Capturing Partner and Partner Sales People Insight: Once you have designed a convincing Channel Rewards Program, your channel will start to surrender more information than you could hope for. This is more than just finding out who is selling your products—it’s who they are selling to, what complimenting vendors are part of their solution, what % of their sales are yours, what incentives motivate them, and what kind of dream awards are on their “wish list.”

4.) With this new channel insight, the opportunities to improve partner communication, marketing, training—and, well, “partnering”—are endless. In fact, this information may open up a whole new world that you never even knew existed.

Most of us are aware that well designed Channel Incentive Programs can always yield terrific gains when it comes to grabbing channel mind and market share. These results speak for themselves. But it’s also true that the #1 reason that leading companies implement and invest in channel incentive programs is for partner, partner sales people, and end-user information and insight. Why?  Because when you know your partners and partners’ sales people, you know how to talk with them, how to sell with them.  

So far, we have only scratched the surface regarding the powerful potential of data collection during the early parts of channel incentive programs. But think about the sales and training data that can be tracked and harnessed after years 1,2,3, and beyond! What will that data yield as far as insight into how to improve your business and your channel? How valuable will that information be as you make key decisions about the direction of your company? At HMI-MMI, we’ve developed R-Cube, a software-as-a-system (SaaS) that is a lethal combination of technology, process, and research expertise. In a way, companies that invest in this level of data management can become just a bit like Lady Gaga: always on the cutting edge of channel analytics.

Are you using Channel Incentive Programs to capture elusive data?  Are you analyzing that data to make better decisions going forward…. to Move the Channel?

As always, please reach out with questions or comment!

Move the Channel,


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,


Channel Partner Programs don’t matter unless you target your Partner’s Sales People

POI Book CoverI know many of us in the Move the Channel community tend to focus on Channel Partner Programs that deal in Partner-level or firm-level benefits. Now don’t get me wrong, these can certainly act as critical foundations for the formal partnership between you and your supply chain partners. BUT these types of programs don’t always differentiate you from your competitors, and they often don’t move the channel or grow market share as well as you might like. The exception here would be if your Channel Partners are made up of small companies, where the principal also happens to be the salesperson. You see this with many companies that sell through small contractors, dealers, or consultants. In these cases, the firm-level benefits are actually targeting the firm’s salesperson, which, I will argue, is really where you can strike with your program.

What are these important but industry standard firm-level benefits?

  • Quarterly & Annual Rebates
  • Manufacture Development Programs
  • Pricing Discounts Schedules
  • Registration & Demo Programs
  • Training Minimums and Requirements

I know these kinds of benefits are not easy things to design, and they can certainly be a lot of work to manage and articulate. But at the end of the day,

Miguel Carerea POI

Miguel Cabrera POI

90% of your Partner/Firm-Level Programs are actually made of the same components. Sure your discount might be more exciting or your MDF program might be appreciated, but even if your program is superior to your competitor’s, it’s probably only a month or so away from being matched by the competition.

So where do we see real impact?  How do we actually MOVE THE CHANNEL? The biggest impact and most measurable movement can be realized when you effectively target, engage, and incentivize performance at the Point of Impact (POI). Also known as the Point of Influence, the POI is the person in the channel that can best influence the sale—to YOUR END USER. Believe it or not, the POI is almost always your channel partner’s salesperson or sales engineer. It is the individual who interfaces with your end customers, the person with influence who can take advangtage of THEIR relationship with YOUR end customer. Each Industry and every company has its own vernacular for this person, but we at Move the Channel have coined this strategic player the POI.

Behaviors you may want to impact at the POI

  • Increased Deal Registration
  • Training Completions
  • Individual Sales and Goals
  • Target Prospect Engagements
  • Customer Introductions
  • POC or Evaluation Placements

When you design a program and performance incentive strategy around the POI, you are engaging at the most valuable touch point in the channel—the Point of Influence. Programs that can engage and motivate at this level are much more difficult to duplicate, and thus they have a more profound impact on the sale and overall market share.

Make sure your Partner/Firm-Level benefits are top-notch, but also quickly turn your marketing genius and resource to the people in the channel that have the real influence you are looking for . . . the POI.

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,

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