Archives for September 2013

Channel Conduit of the Week: “The only failures are communication failures” – A lesson from the NICU

operating-roomOn Sunday I ran into my next-door neighbor, who is a doctor in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The hospital is consistently ranked as one of the world’s best and their NICU has over a 90% survival rate of all babies (under 27 weeks) that come into the unit. They are truly doing incredible things.

During our conversation my neighbor told me the mantra with which all the doctors & nurses at the hospital operate and by which they keep themselves accountable:

“The only failures are communication failures.”  

By now most of you know how passionate I am about Channel Marketing. While I’m not suggesting our business is as high-stakes as the NICU, I still believe we can take a lesson from an organization that has 0% tolerance for communication breakdowns, and is doing great things as a result.

If our people, our channel partners, and our programs are sound and capable, could it be that the shortcomings our strategies suffer from are the result of poor communication? We often get so focused on the details of our program (rightfully so) that we lose sight of our need to communicate consistently.  Let’s face it, we might cook up the best channel marketing and incentive program in the industry, but if it’s not properly announced, launched, and communicated, it’s all for naught.

Move the Channel,

Are your Partners Missing the Beauty of your Channel Marketing Program?

This weekend my 5-year-old son and I tagged along with my wife to a conference she was attending in West Virginia. As a leader in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Education, she’s frequently invited to conferences such as this one, and typically they take her to magnificent coastal or historic locations all over the world.

Which brings us to . . . West Virginia? Well, of course it appealed to me—in addition to my passion for channel marketing and business interests, I’m also an outdoorsmen at heart, and am always in search of the next great adventure.


Needless to say, the prospect of visiting the great Mountaineer State definitely got me excited. But, upon mentioning the trip to friends,

colleagues, heck, even total strangers, and highlighting my excitement about it, I began to sense that I was in the minority. What I mean is, it seemed to me that some people tend to think of West Virginia as a place in economic hardship, rather than one filled with pristine natural beauty.

Here’s my theory:  If West Virginia can take control of their message, and

start to more actively steer their communication and marketing strategies in the right direction, they could bolster their tourism and boost their economy. Tourism is already their largest industry, but with all it has to offer it could be so much more. A booming industry such as tourism could only have positive effects on the overall economy of the state. One need only observe a state like Michigan, with it’s “Pure Michigan” campaign, to see the effects such strategies can have on a region’s general perception. Of course, one of the world leaders in terms of managing their “brand” and marketing their positive qualities has to be New Zealand’s South Island, the “Adventure Capital of the World.”

Many of the more mature Channel Marketing Programs face a similar challenge. Your channel partners (and even the media) are so focused on a perceived problem with your channel program or a past misstep, that they aren’t able to see the “wild and wonderful” qualities that make your channel program great.


It’s time to start taking control of your message to the channel.  Start a campaign that shines a light on all the amazing benefits and uniqueness of your program. For example, did you know that 60% of the United States population lives within 500 miles of West Virginia? Or that 75% of the state is comprised of beautiful, breathtaking wilderness? Why not highlight your spectacular mountains, endless trails, or unmatched rivers? Why not promote your strong, proud work ethic, and remind people that “A Mountaineer is Always Free!”

Are you adequately marketing your Channel Reward Program, Deal Registration Program, and all the resources you have worked so hard to put in place? Or are you letting your channel marketing be defined by others or previous challenges?

Move the Channel,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Move the Channel,

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 Conduit of the Week: 1 in 3 Babies…will Live to 100

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Leave The Lindo Wing With Their Newborn Son

Yesterday I was driving a prospective client back to Boston Logan airport after a terrific meeting. Coming into the downtown area, I saw a billboard that caught my eye.  “1 in 3 Babies…” it read, and obviously at that point, as a father of two, it had my full attention.   I thought for sure it was going to be an important health awareness message like those that we are used to seeing. Curious to read on, I saw that the entire message was “1 in 3 Babies will Live to 100” (the billboard is right on the Mass Pike if someone can send me a picture of it that would be great)

As I was wondering exactly how one might go about measuring this long-term prediction, I was struck by a story I had heard earlier that day. The meeting we were coming from had to do with a channel incentive trip and the potential strategies that could be deployed for it.  At the end of the meeting our very impressive client told us a story about how a participant on an incentive trip he had run SIX YEARS AGO was still commenting today on how much of an effect the trip had had on him and his business.  I found it incredible that not only had this particular program yielded a 700% Return On Investment (ROI), netting over $75 million in incremental revenue; it had also continued to impact business on a long-term basis.  Don’t get me wrong, the immediate ROI figures were remarkable, and I know how important it is to show this analysis in order to justify the budget for such a program.  But the fact that customers still continued to be affected by the trip six years later got me thinking about how we might possibly measure this impact. Ultimately, this is something I like to call Return On Experience (ROE), a statistic that is difficult to calculate but strategically vital.  After seeing the billboard, I wondered if this client and his business would have seen the same ROE if he’d given his customers a cash-equivalent bonus instead of the trip of a lifetime.

Please send your experience where you were a participant or delivering such an incentive trip.  Send you comment or thoughts on Return on Experience ROE direct to my email!

Move the Channel,

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