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.

Should we Embrace what’s ‘Strange’ about our Best Channel Partners?

strange (adj)

1. unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.

·       Children have some strange ideas.

2. not previously visited, seen, or encountered; unfamiliar or alien.

When we hear or say something is “strange,” it usually comes with a negative connotation. After all, some of the synonyms for the word “strange” include “odd,” “peculiar,” “bizarre,” “unaccountable,” “weird,” and even “freakish.”

But didn’t our parents also tell us that what’s “strange” about us also happens to be what makes us great? Personally, I’m of the opinion that there’s a very fine line between what one might consider odd and what people might call a gift. The key, according to this school of thought, is to identify your uniqueness, embrace it—and leverage it. At this point of intersection, your flaw then becomes your inherent gift.

With that in mind, there are some other synonyms for the word “strange” that are more in line with this philosophy— words like “curious,” “uncanny,” “unexpected,” and “extraordinary.” I love Apple’s “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” 1997 marketing campaign and TV Ad.

Which group of words describes your organization? Very likely you have some “strange” people working for your company or within your channel. But isn’t it that strangeness that differentiates you from your competition? Steve Jobs of Apple always encouraged us to “Think Different.” In other words, embrace your organization’s strangeness and the people who make it unique. At the same time, don’t expect everyone outside of your organization to immediately recognize and understand this uniqueness as the gift that it is. These things take time.

And herein lies the opportunity to help your channel partners who might be considered “strange.” Like you and your organization, your channel partners most certainly possess some unique qualities and ideas. But you probably know better than most that their unique style and leadership aren’t necessarily negative things. Their “strangeness” is an essential part of who they are and probably one of the main reasons for their success. So, when behaviors among our partners that seem “strange,” we have two basic choices: we can try and help fix these behaviors (strangeness as a problem), OR we can celebrate it, embrace it, and help them leverage it (strangeness as a tool). If you show your channel partners that you truly appreciate what’s “strange” about them, you’ll gain a loyal partner for life—and a very productive one at that!

Do you embrace the strange in your channel partners?

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,


email me

About the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a business improvement 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.

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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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,


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 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,


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



Super Bowl Edition: Share your playbook with your channel

superbowl-trophy-hed-2013I started my Super Sunday evening the same way I start every Sunday evening.   I read my good friend Anthony Iannarino’s weekly Newsletter.  Beyond being a good friend, Anthony is an author, professional speaker/trainer, and writes daily at The Sales Blog.   If you want your sales organization to have an edge and become a “Level 4 Value Creator”, you need make Anthony apart of your Sunday too.

Anthony starts today’s newsletter reminding us when a team acquires a new player, that player is given a playbook. Inside that playbook is every play the team runs and the player is expected to memorize the book and its plays, cover-to-cover. He or she is expected to know how to execute his/her role so that the play—and team—succeeds.

A good playbook integrates all of their product knowledge, their sales process, their buyer’s roles, the necessary sales dialogues, and competitive information in some format the salesperson can actually use. Anthony goes on to point out the challenges facing sales organization who do not have a playbook or are not fully utilizing their current playbook.  He presses further on the importance of the playbook issue by sharing ideas for developing a playbook.

But WE go-to-market through a Channel.  Our channel partners are the ones that execute the plays in the field.   This is where most channel organizations fall short.  If you don’t share your playbook with your channel partners you will not make it to, let alone win the Super Bowl.  Share with them the playbook that got you to be a leader in the industry.  In a meeting, share the goals for the entire channel ecosystem, and why their role is so critical to the channel’s overall success. The companies that are able to do this well tend to have the best and most loyal channels.playbook-ipad-chalkboard

A great way to share the playbook with the channel through a Channel Incentive Program that rewards for Steps-to-the-Sale behavior.  Reward for knowing the playbook and executing plays that win new business.

Similar to a new NFL player and coach, do you share your playbook when you acquire a new partner?

Let’s make it a great week moving the channel!

Move the Channel,


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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,

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 Incentive Programs: Are You Implementing Soft Benefits?

Hotel and airline rewards programs undoubtedly have their issues. For one, their currency is so diluted these days that it takes over a year to earn a single reward. With that being said, there are certain things that they are doing well. For starters, they do a terrific job of offering “soft benefits” to their customers. These are the little extra bonuses that keep us talking and always keep us coming back.

fisrt class

These soft benefits come in the form of First-Class upgrades, complementary luggage allowances, priority boarding privileges, free access to their VIP lounge, or maybe even a chance to fly the plane! Okay, so they aren’t exactly letting us fly the plane…yet, but you get my point.

I mean think about it–what keeps you engaged with your preferred airline carrier or hotel chain of choice? Great prices, sure, but what else? It’s the soft benefits! We are always encouraging our clients to

incorporate these soft benefits into their channel incentive programs, and the strategy is continuing to pay gigantic dividends.

So what are some examples of these benefits as they pertain to channel incentives? Let’s take a look at a few that can have a huge perceived value to your potential program participants:

  • Platinum Customer Service
  • Invitation to a Leadership Roundtable
  • Participation in Beta product builds & testing
  • Partner locator privileges
  • Hotline to the CEO or CTO
  • Penthouse Upgrade at a Partner Conference
  • Dinner with the CEO
  • Priority-status for low availability Rewards like a Rolling Stones concert in London!

fine diningBy integrating soft benefits into your channel incentive program you can distinguish your business from the competition and deliver a personal touch that leads to deeper, stronger relationships with your partners. Not all soft benefits are published or explicit, but even these can still act as qualifiers for which partner deserves the reward. One way to ensure this is to create Partner Tiers (Platinum, Gold, Silver) for your program, which can help you easily determine which partners qualify for which soft benefits. Regardless of the method, it’s important to have a system in place that selects the partners who especially deserve the high-value rewards. By establishing this system as a prime component of your channel incentive program, you will be able to acknowledge these exceptional partners with minimum hassle.


Here is a good tool or checklist to compare your current soft benefits:

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

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RIMES Chart – Origin Story

Since last week’s release of Move The Channel’s Channel Marketing & Sales Guide 1.0, I’ve been inundated with emails and phone calls asking me, “Travis, what is RIMES and how did you come up with it?”

RIMES PicSo here’s the short story: In collaboration with the Move The Channel community (LinkedIn Group and www.movethechannel.com), we discussed what the most important components of a successful channel marketing campaign might be. While organizing all of the ideas and best practices, different categories started to become clear, and we determined that in fact the most effective way to present each would be together, as a five-pronged holistic methodology which we’d refer to as “RIMES.” We deemed these to be the 5 major “pillars” of any successful channel marketing program, and our goal was to highlight each as it relates to the greater whole. For those who don’t know, RIMES stands for:

  •  Relationships
  •   Information Technology (As in the channel professionals have access to and can use to better support their goals)
  •   Marketing & Communications (although sometimes we also refer to this pillar as “Management” – as in Channel Management)
  •  Enablement and Education
  •   Selling   – pushing product/solutions THROUGH the channel

In addition to RIMES being the pillars of a channel marking program, it is also the foundation of this living, breathing eBook, which we have called 1.0. It has been designed and structured from an outside-in perspective, so that in future versions we may start to drill down and examine all of the various sub-categories. Each pillar is a potential gold mine of information and insight regarding channel best practices, and it will be our job at Move The Channel to harvest these nuggets one step at a time. So in this way, you might even think of 1.0 as the origins of a future Channel Wiki…

Please send me your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions on where to go during the next stage of Move the Channel’s Marketing Guide.


2.0 awaits . . .

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 movetheChannel.com.

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 movethechannel.com

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 (http://movethechannel.com/?p=292) 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.

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