Archives for January 2014

Channel Conduit: Why the most innovative, brightest companies rely on 3rd parties for Incentive Marketing Programs

Experience vs knowledgeThe agency I work with is lucky enough to work with many of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies in the world.  Why on earth would they need a 3rd party to do anything?  Well, they are very smart.  Although they have more knowledge of their channel and how to engage them, they don’t have the experience of actually running award-winning channel performance incentive programs.  Also like in their own industries, things move quickly.  If you are not living and breathing channel performance incentive marketing, you are delivering a stale program.

It’s not that your team isn’t bright and capable.   In fact they are probably superstars!  Let them work with a 3rd Party with experience and watch an amazing solution and results happen.

What channel marketing efforts are you trying to manage internally?  Are you saving money or missing opportunity?

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,

4 things your distribution channel partners will expect in 2014

2014 Channel ExpectationsI am fresh back from a terrific family vacation in Southern California. I have a huge wonderful family in Pasadena and many friends from our years living in Dana Point. In addition to my many client visits throughout the year, I try to bring the family once a year to hang with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the many cousins. This trip was filled with non-stop activities like the Rose Bowl, the Rose Parade, Disneyland, LEGOLAND, the BCS National Championship Game, and even surf lessons for my 6-year-old.  Oh my! It’s definitely been a blast, but let’s just say I’m ready to get back to my “normal” schedule again. Now, down to business!

Let’s talk about what your Channel will expect from you in 2014.

1.)    Simplicity — Your Channel Partners don’t want a partner program that looks like a Smith or Griswold family vacation (reference above or National Lampoon’s Vacation). They want a program that clearly states what is expected from them and what resources will be available to help them deliver solution to the market.  Design an engagement and reward portal that gives them easy access to the handful of the most important components and tools available.

Here is great guide to make sure you aren’t over complicating things:

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

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2.)    Clear Expectations — Yes, they Channel Partners need to know what your expectations are so they can build those expectations into their company goals for 2014. By integrating benefits like soft benefits into your channel incentive program you can deliver a personal touch that leads to deeper, stronger relationships with your partners.

3.)    More Efficient Communication — Notice I did not say “MORE” communication. This year you should try to be more deliberate and concise with your message and how you deliver it. The channel has more “noise” than ever before, and how you communicate with your partners will help determine your success this year.

4.)    Be A Part Of Something Great — Your channel partners don’t want to be chess piece in your overall company strategy—they want to feel as important as the first chair in a world-class symphony. Share with them in a meeting what the goals will be for the entire channel ecosystem, and why their role is so critical to the channel’s overall success. There is a reason why Martin Luther King said “I have a Dream”, and not “I have a Plan”.   This is where most organizations tend to fall short. The companies that are able to do this well tend to have the best and most loyal channels.
It sure is great to be back. As always, send me an email or give me a ring with some of your ideas and questions. I couldn’t be more excited about moving the channel in 2014!

Hope you are enjoying Martin Luther King Day!

Move the Channel,

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