Archives for March 2013

IBM Loves Its Channel–And It Shows

Sports FansEarlier this week I talked about how companies that have continued to invest in their channel despite the down economy have wisely adopted a big-picture attitude in the face of potential cost-cutting decisions. I’d like to point to IBM as one example of a company who has evolved into a leader of channel dynamics, the very same dynamics that are promoted daily here at Move The Channel.

A recent article published by Larry Walsh in the portal Channelnomics discusses how IBM has begun to establish itself as a forerunner of holistic channel behavior. Despite its stature in the tech world, the company felt it could maximize its value in the channel more completely as a component player rather than as a one-stop solution. As Walsh remarks, “IBM sees value in driving business to solution providers who won’t necessary lead with the IBM brand.” He continues, “As the theory goes, IBM will gain sales if it [is] providing marketing support, lead generation and technical solutions to business partners who develop solutions based on IBM’s technologies.”  This all-for-one, one-for-all channel strategy has allowed IBM to establish valuable, intrinsic bonds with its partners, and helped contribute to the overall evolution of the business.  It must be tough as a leading innovator to accept the fact that conventional technology and cloud services will quickly become a commodity.  Since its products are a component, they have wisely found partners that specialize, overlap, and provide complimentary solutions built on an IBM platform. And with this approach they have added new incentives, certifications, technologies and marketing programs that continue to enable their partners to grow their businesses, to the benefit of all. As Walsh concludes, “the more business partners grow, the more they’ll consume IBM products.”

This is the new foundation for IBM’s channel strategy, along with its more than 130,000 business partners worldwide. Think they might be onto something?

Investing in your Channel in Tough Economic Times is Smart Business

Channel Conduit 2

In a down economy, a company’s first instinct is to cut back. And the “soft side” of business – including channel incentive programs – is often the first to be slashed.

But when you cut your incentive programs, you are sacrificing your future and missing a HUGE opportunity.

The fact is in a tough economy there is an amazing opportunity to build immense loyalty with the channel.  Profits aren’t where they were three years ago for anyone.  But your channel marketing rebate and marketing Development funds have helped your channel partners stay afloat.  (And it’s why they’ll still be devoted when things improve.)  Your partner’s sales people’s compensation is down about 20%.  (Think how much more those rewards means to them today)

That’s why more and more companies are choosing to step up channel incentive strategies in the tough times, rather than stepping away from it.  The ones that stepped up their channel incentive programs 5 years ago have taken market share and increased loyalty.  I’m not saying it’s too late.  It’s never too late to invest in your channel wisely.

Remember channel incentive aren’t soft, they’re smart.

About Travis

New Zealand  South Island Fishing Trip

New Zealand South Island Fishing Trip

I love to move the needle!  There is nothing quite like guiding your business partner to achieving new heights while triumphing record highs for your own organization.  Sure it’s great to hit your bonus and impress the company’s shareholders but helping your partner organizations, hundreds of them, do the same is whole new level of fulfillment.

Over the past 15 years, I have specialized in Channel Incentive Programs and multi-tier distribution business strategies. My many experiences working with manufacturers, distributors, and resellers have given me a unique perspective and understanding of what drives and motivates channel partners. Through these experiences I’ve developed a passion for moving products and services through distribution channels and helping clients design, implement, and administer B2B customer loyalty/growth strategies.

I started the Move The Channel group back in April 2010 in order to find others who shared my excitement about channel marketing and sales. During this time I have realized that, through innovation and the sharing of resources, we can really move the needle and transform the way business is done in the channel. My vision with MTC is to cultivate just such a community, composed of passionate channel chiefs and industry leaders who, like me, are always looking for ways to get the most out of their channel partnerships.  I have found home and spent the last three years designing channel incentive programs for HMI Inc., a Performance Improvement Company based out of Norwood, MA.

When I’m not designing channel incentive programs for my clients or blogging on, I’m maximizing time with my Wife and two boys.  I still get on the hardwood twice a week and love planning fishing trips with my 4 brothers.

Thanks for being a part of Move the Channel!

My Very Best,


Channel Conduit of the Week: Tell your Channel Partner What is Important (other than sales)

Channel Conduit of the Week

  • 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

Channel Conduit  1

Channel Incentives must be focused on the right behaviors.

Our partners want to make us happy and to be recognized for being an import piece our strategies.  Yes we do a good job of telling them what their yearly growth goal is or what it’s going to take for them to achieve “Gold” status.  Don’t get me wrong these are important behavior to define and recognize.

But there are other behaviors that should be recognized too.  And almost always these other behaviors lead to more sales.  Make sure they know what behaviors are valued and then make sure to recognize for them.  Here are some key behaviors that are often included in a Channel Incentive Program:

  • Deal Registrations
  • Early introductions into the sales cycle
  • Sales and technical certification or accreditations
  • Customer service – End User tells brags about the support from the partner
  • On-time delivery
  • Integrity
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Case Study worthy clients

Take some time today to identify your company’s key values and communicate them to your partner.  Then use those values as the foundation of your channel incentive efforts.

Here are the Top Reward Redemptions for Channel Incentive Programs


After many years in the Channel incentives industry, I still get asked the same questions over and over. Though I could fill many pages with those questions and their answers, two of the most fundamental questions are: 1). Which rewards are the most motivating? and 2). Which rewards are the most popular? The first question has a range of responses and varies based on target audience, length of program, etc. and is far too complicated for a blog post (although if you’re interested in the cash vs. non-cash awards debate click here to read a blog post by my colleague Matt Slane).

The second question, however, changes by season and is prone to trends in other industries. After taking a look at our redemptions across all programs, here are the latest trends we are seeing:

Merchandise (out of tens of thousands of items available on our website): 

#1 – Electronics – 12% of program participants choose electronics, and Apple products are leading the way.

#2 – Housewares – 11% of program participants are choosing housewares, with Alclad pots and pans at the top of the list.

#3 – Toys & Games – these pick up even further around the holidays, but about 8% of redemptions are for toys and games.

Travel and Events (including airfare, concert or event tickets, hotels, etc.):

#1 – Real-Time Hotel Bookings – Orlando, San Diego, and New York are the top domestic destinations.

#2 – Travel Packages and Vacations – particularly all-inclusive trips to destinations like the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii.

#3 – Sporting Events – though summer is a great time for things like baseball games, this summer there is a rise in not only travel to London, but requests for tickets to Olympic events.

#4 – Concerts – many participants are redeeming tickets for Justin Bieber, Bruce Springsteen, and more.

Many of my clients want to select the “hot” product and build a promotion around the reward. Themes featuring certain products can be very successful, but they do have a shelf life.  Remember, even the most popular category (electronics) only accounts for 12% of redemptions.  My advice is you can feature certain products, but don’t try and guess what motivates your customers.  Let them make that decision!

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