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 #24

Culture eats strategy for Breakfast

Culture BreakfastOver the last couple of weeks we have spent time discussing and debating the importance of developing a strategy and sharing the playbook with your channel partners. In this same vein, it’s also imperative for your organization to focus its sights internally in order to evaluate the special dynamics of its culture. Is your company culture a differentiator for you in the market? If so, it could be one of your biggest assets when it comes to creating a loyal partner network and Champions of your brand.

Just as many companies fail to include their partners in their channel strategies, so do they also neglect to share their organization’s principles & values with their channel.   Invite your channel partners’ executive management to a usually internal team building event or a remote brainstorming sessions.  Make sure to spend time not just on X’s & O’s but philosophy and various viewpoints.  ROE (Return on Experience) is often achieved when you host your top performing channel partners to a group incentive trip to a desirable destination.

While your competition can adjust their strategy, pricing, and partner programs to look like yours, what they cannot so easily emulate is the unique culture of your organization. If your company has a winning culture, it is critical for you promote it, export it, and include your channel partners in the process. All else being equal, the right company culture can often make the difference between a reseller of product and a true champion of your brand.  

Please shoot me a note with ideas and questions.  I always enjoy the channel community’s feedback and thoughts!

Channel Conduit #23

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?

Channel Conduit #22

What 28 Million People Learned About Giving Gifts from this Video

I love Westjet. We have a couple of clients and developers based in Toronto, and Westjet is always our favorite carrier that flies there. Why? Take a look at this must-watch holiday video about gift-giving that Westjet put together, and maybe you’ll understand:

When Santa asked people what they wanted for Christmas, what did they say? Big-screen TVs, cameras, toys, etc.

Why didn’t they say cash?  Because when Santa asks, it’s magic, and if there is magic involved, why not ask for something you normally couldn’t afford or wouldn’t splurge on? You’re not spending your own family’s money—apparently this is goodwill currency & equity you’ve built up all year from being “good”. You and your family have earned it. Live it up!

Gift Giving


Can you imagine Santa giving out cash? Where is the joy, the fun in that? What type of experience would the receiver of the cash have had while everyone else was opening their gifts?

Happy Holidays, Channel-Movers!  When rewarding your channel partners for being “good” all year, make sure you don’t flop by giving them cash. Give them something that builds loyalty and goodwill toward your brand.


Channel Conduit #21

Correct Way to Respond to “Thanks”

How to respond to Thanks
How to respond to Thanks

I know as channel professionals we feel like we don’t hear the phrase “thank you” enough from our partners. So when we do receive gratitude for our efforts, it’s important to respond in a way that really strengthens our partnership.

I just read a wonderful and very appropriate post from my friend at influencePEOPLE. Brian Ahearn is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer and, through his blog, trainings, and workshops, he helps people influence others. If you want to hear your clients, friends, and family say “yes” more often, you should definitely subscribe to his blog.

In his Thanksgiving-week blog, “Correct Ways to respond to ‘Thanks!’” he points out how most people typically respond to the phrase “thank you”:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

In the words of Ahearn, people need to “strike each of these responses from their vocabulary!”

I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to engaging with your channel partners, it’s important to take advantage of any and every opportunity that’s available. Here are some suggestions for how to respond next time your channel partner offers their appreciation to you:

  • “You’re one of our most important channel partners, so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you, your business, and our continued partnership.”
  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (Some people will appreciate the humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (and your business).”

During this holiday season, it is so important to count our blessings and give thanks. But equally as significant is how you respond to those that take the time to say “thank you” to you.  Whether you are around the dinner table or the boardroom table, don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to deepen your relationships with those around you.

Channel Conduit #20

Partner Recruitment

Partner RecruitimentDo you have a few channel partners, but still aren’t sure whether to commit to a distribution channel Go-To-Market Strategy? When I talk to executives whose companies are at this point I often hear things like, “We know it’s time to commit to a channel strategy, but how do we recruit enough of the right partner?”

This is an excellent question, and the key words here are “enough” and “right.”

Here is a high level Channel Partner Recruiting Strategy for early channel adopters.

The Right Partners:

A.)     Profiling the perfect partner (2-3 different profiles):

  1. Of your current partners, which ones do you consider best? Chances are you have a few partners who might justify acquiring more.

i.      What core or supplementary products do they sell?  It is likely that those other products already go through a more mature channel.  If you have success stories with one or more of those partners, probabilities are the rest of the channel would be willing to listen.

ii.      Do these partners specialize in a certain industry?

iii.      How big of an organization are they? How many sales reps and technical people do they employ? You might be tempted to chase bigger, sexier partners, but it’s usually a good idea to stick with what you know, and more importantly what you can support.

2.  Talk to some of your happy end-user customers. Of all the products that bump up against yours, which ones do they consider world-class products, and what do they think of the organizations that stand behind them?  (This is also a nice introduction from a fortune 500 client which always gets resellers’ attention)

Closing Enough Partners:

B.)    Developing A Partner Recruitment Strategy

  1. Target your perfect partner. Accumulate a list of potentials that fit this profile, and start to pursue them. (If you can’t build a list from your perfect profile, you might need want to reconsider your standards)

i.      Target the other core or supplementary product’s channel partners discussed above  (Chances are their reseller network is published and easy to obtain)

ii.      Most industries have an organization in which channel partners are/can be members. This could be a good tool to use for when you compile your list. You should think about joining the organization if you haven’t already. NEAD is an example in the electrical space.

C.)    Executing a Partner Recruitment Strategy

  1. Closing the deal with new partners

i.      Web Conference Pitch — Get as many to attend as possible and make sure your pitch is a good one. Why would they invest their time and money, and allocate their resources to your company? Give them a reason they can’t ignore.

ii.      Sponsor and Participate at other core or supplementing product company conferences.  — In the tech space this might be EMC World or IBM PartherWorld or Oracle Open World.  This is a great chance to meet face-to-face with many target partners.

iii.      Good Ole Fashion Selling — Train your sales team & future channel managers to identify potential partners, pitch your channel marketing program and its benefits, and talk about the success stories of other similar companies.

Certainly this post just scratches the surface of what it takes to achieve.  To dive deeper please download the Move the Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart or shoot me an email to discuss how I might help.



Channel Conduit #19

Member “Initiation” events … they build immediate Loyalty

Just about every channel leader I talk to these days has partner recruitment as a top priority. But how do you initiate these partners once you have effectively recruited them?  Most companies have developed their own “onboarding” processes for new partners. More often than not, I’ve found that these processes are checklists and not really timelines that have checkpoints mapped out over, say, a 24-month period.  In a later blog, I will cover how to develop a partner “onboarding” timeline; but for now, I want to share with you an idea that has proven to be a great way to create immediate partner loyalty. This is the idea of an initiation.

Since the beginning of time, initiations have been an effective way to welcome new members into the fold while building immediate solidarity. Perhaps you’ve been a part of one over the years, whether it was being “welcomed” to a high school sports team by the team’s seniority, or a new sorority or fraternity, or a community or social club, etc. Chances are you still remember those initiations vividly, right? No matter how long ago or how removed you are from those organizations, don’t you still feel a sense of inclusion and loyalty to the group?
So, maybe that means something. Maybe there are ways to make sure your new channel partners understand that they are not just participating in an exciting new business, but more importantly that they are about to be welcomed into an exclusive, “members-only” club. You want your partners to feel like everyone wants to be in this club, but only a lucky few get invited. And instead of rituals or juvenile hazing, maybe you offer them a membership card that has their log-in information to their partner portal and rewards program; or a communication that welcomes them into the program and shows their projected path to Platinum Status. Finally, another terrific opportunity to initiate new partners can be had at your partner conference. At some point you could introduce all of the new partners publicly on stage and brag about your high expectations for this new brand of partner. Among other benefits, this has the potential to light a spark for your more mature partners!


Channel Conduit #18

“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.

Channel Conduit #17

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!

Channel Conduit #16

Growing Partner Sales with Team Incentive Programs

Andy BernardI recently watched the rerun of the “incentive” episode of the“The Office” on NBC.  Goodness, I’m going to miss that show!

While I was watching, I couldn’t help but notice another great lesson from the episode.  Yes, everyone was inspired to win the grand prize.  The Grand Prize was Andy Bernard (the manager) agreeing to tattoo himself with something regrettable, but what really got the office going was the fact that only as a TEAM could they achieve this goal.

As many of you know, I specialize in channel incentive programs and work with around many world-class channel organizations around the Globe.  We have seen a recent trend and request to offer the functionality for teams or business partners to pool their points to earn rewards as a team.   There are number of reasons for this request:

1.)     The business partner principal wants to have control or visibility into what the vendors are offering their employees.

2.)    The sale is complex and takes a team to identify, qualify, spec, present, and implement, and therefore it takes a team to close.  In the tech world we see a lot of VAR sales and sales engineers working together for a joint sales effort.

3.)    A cultural norm dictates that individual rewards are not feasible. In a number of our programs in countries like Japan it is not appropriate to reward one person for a clear group effort.  In this case the manager would pool the team’s points.

Our client’s teams don’t have the option of tattooing their boss, but we are seeing teams redeem for a group incentive travel event, ping pong tables for the office, loge suites at an NFL game, or group experiences like Richard Petty Driving Camp or an afternoon with a golf pro.  Not only are these rewards memorable, but they continue to build a team atmosphere for the company and help to foster relationships beyond the workplace that have been shown to positively impact productivity.

As usual, send me a note with your experience or thought on team incentives!

Channel Conduit #15

Bring The Meal To Them!

  • In-n-Out TruckWant to give your partners something they’ll always appreciate, and never expect? Try sending a food truck right to their office. I’m serious. The great thing about this type of reward is that it benefits the entire company. While the company principal and sales people are usually the sole targets of incentive programs, with a food truck you can treat the whole partner company to a fun and delicious 90-minute food experience. Why not say “Thanks” to the technical and customer service folks that play a huge role in representing your company and products?What’s more, you’re not just limited to tacos these days. The mobile foodie explosion now offers internationally inspired street cuisine. These vehicles of sustenance offer everything from burgers and hot dogs to foie gras and caviar.Food trucks are more than just an attraction – while their primary function is to prepare and serve food, they are also great props and uniquely entertaining.We recently coordinated such a partner event. At lunchtime, the mobile kitchens of The Varsity, offering their famous chili, slaw dogs, fries, onion rings, and fried peach pies visited attendees. The experience was punctuated by lively cooks offering their trademark “What’ll ya have?” It was a fun way to present lunch and an unforgettable experience for our attendees who had hit some key growth goals. If you are fortunate enough to live in In-n-Out country, you can even order an IN-N-OUT Truck to show up! Talk about making an impression!

Channel Conduit #14

The Altruism of Sharing.  It’s “like” a Pat on the Back.

Pat on the backWhy do we “Share” ideas, video, blogs, articles, and press releases with our network? Usually, when we press the “Share” button on any of our social media sites, its because we’ve come across information that we think might be valuable to our network. But that’s not all. It also acts as a digital “Pat on the Back” to the original poster. So in this sense, “sharing” an item is doubly altruistic, and this is one of the most important components of these social networks. Pat on the BackWhile past studies have shown that the most effective kind of recognition is public recognition, we still have yet to see substantial research regarding the impact of Social Network recognition. But whether or not we have the data to back it up, I think we can all agree that “sharing” information is becoming an essential part of the way we do business online.

If you are a channel account manager and you see that your channel partner is in the news or has recently disseminated a press release, why not give it a tweet linking to the article or that person’s twitter account? Or if mange the entire channel marketing program and have access to your companies LinkedIn Company Page, give it a share & a tweet!

But the power of sharing can go even further. Are you rewarding or incentivizing when you partner tweets about you and your company? You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to track what people are saying about you on LinkedIn and Twitter. So, go ahead and retweet, share, or better yet, include these altruistic gestures in your next Channel Incentive Program.

Happy Sharing!


Channel Conduit #13

Text with your Channel Partners

TextingWe text with our spouse, our kids, our parents, our best friends, and everyone we care about, right?  What about our channel partners? Just by sending simple texts, we can connect with our channel partners and really make an impression. Think about when you get a text from a friend that says, “Thx for having us for dinner. We had a blast and can’t wait til next time!” Even though it might seem silly, or inconsequential, that little message actually can have a big effect on our thoughts and feelings in relation to the person who sent it.

Now let’s be honest: If that same message were to come to us in an email, it would still serve as a nice gesture; but I think we can all agree, there is a BIG difference between receiving an email (in an inbox of 3000 or more messages) versus receiving a personal text right to our phone.

If you follow my Move The Channel blog (and if you’re reading this now, I assume that you do), then you know that my personal preference, when it comes to methods of appreciation, is a hand written note. But if you’re writing a hand written note more than a couple of times a year to the same person, it might start to get a little creepy. . . .


A text, on the other hand, can be a great, quick, and easy way to say “Thanks,” maybe for opening up a new door, or maybe for doing a great job on a recent sales presentation. Another perfect occasion for a thoughtful text message would be as a follow-up to something you recently discussed with them, such as “hope you had great time at the NASCAR event. How was it?”

Try and connect in a new way with channel partner customers. If you’ve used text messages to connect with your channel partner in the past, send me a note and let me know about it. Or just text me.

Channel Conduit #12

Raise the Bar

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.

Channel Conduit #11

Reward a Good Showing with a Big Show

Rock ShowIf your channel partner achieves a set goal or went above and beyond the partnership obligations, think about sending them to a sporting event, concert, or theater.  The key here is to let them choose the event, venue, and even their tickets.

There are turnkey event ticket solutions out there that make this easy to do.   The memory of the event will set you apart from the rest.

Have you made event tickets part of your channel incentive solution?  What are the most common events redeemed?

Channel Conduit #10

When Should We Recognize Each Of Our Channel Partners?  Early & Often!
Even though studies have shown that consistent praise and recognition are important keys to building loyalty and motivating your partners, I still sometimes get the question, “but if we give too much recognition, won’t it become watered down and dilute the meaning?” To be fair, I used to ask this question myself from time to time. However, I know more now than I once did, and so today when I hear this question, I quickly come back by asking “how often do you tell your loved ones that you love them? “  Here, their answers usually range from “often” to “every day.”   You’ll notice that none of them say twice a year!

Obviously, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek, and I know it’s easier said than done to give praise and recognition consistently when we are talking about hundreds or even thousands of partners.  But while the handwritten note, personal email, or individual phone call are all great quarterly or semi-annual methods of recognition, the leading channel incentive platforms (I am most familiar with have begun to incorporate additional features that make it quick and easy to offer consistent ad hoc praise and thanks to your valuable channel partners.  These include gifting modules and team communication features.  With that being said, if you think your competitors are offering gestures of gratitude to their partners, do you really want to be the one that seems unappreciative? What other ideas do you have for consistent channel partner recognition?

Channel Conduit 9

Book it!

Believe it or not, the most motivating rewards I’ve ever received have been handwritten notes.  For whatever reason, I’ve always appreciated the time and thought that goes into putting pen to paper. It’s a personal gesture that feels far more meaningful than, say, an email. Of those notes that I still cherish and read often, most have been written on the inside of a book. I have a library full of business and leadership books, but the ones that have a special place on the shelf are those with personal messages written in them by a boss, business partner, or person I just greatly respect.

Is there a book that your leadership is reading that could apply to any business? Is there a personal favorite book that has shaped your personality and how you do business? Have you written your own book? One of the better ways to align your channel distribution partner with you and your organization is to have them read the same book as you. You can encourage this process by sending them a title with a personal message inside. It’s a terrific gesture of respect and inclusion in your go-to-market strategy.

What book would you give to an important business partner?


Channel Conduit 8

Long-term Loyalty is never achieved through Short-term Spiffs  

Years ago I moved into an older neighborhood and bought a house with a lot of “charm” (I think we all know what “charm” really means in the lexicon of home ownership).  One of my many projects and challenges was maintaining a beautiful 60-year-old Ash tree that had become a fixture of our home.  We even had for our Christmas card a picture of the family sitting on a large swing that hung from the tree’s enormous branch.

But during one summer, our region was hit by a particularly destructive breed of insect called the emerald ash borer which devastated a number of trees in the area.  We eventually noticed that our tree was becoming similarly ravaged, so we did what we could to save it. Year after year we threw money at the problem, hoping to cure green with green.

For a while it worked. The tree managed to hang on, to the delight of us all. But finally it became evident that the expensive treatments were not having the desired effect, and I decided that the project I held near and dear to my heart was unfortunately no longer worth the investment.  For all of us it was a difficult experience. We had wanted the tree to flourish so badly, but in spite of our best efforts we simply couldn’t sustain it in the long run.

Throughout my career in performance marketing and sales, I have come across similar emotions from my experiences with channel marketing leaders. Desperate to earn the immediate business of their channel partners, they offer money bonuses, SPIFFS, discounts, or rebates. While these expensive tactics can succeed in the short-term, after the spiff ends, the business always seems to fall back to pre-spiff levels. These professionals want their channel partner business to flourish so badly, they have a hard time realizing that long-term success can rarely be achieved with short-term strategies.
Today, try and take a look at how you are capturing the long-term mindshare and loyalty of your partners. Instead of offering them cash that they’ll spend at the grocery store or bills, why not give them the opportunity to attain a longer-term goal, like earning enough points to finally take their family on the vacation of their dreams? Or perhaps save the life of an old family friend?


Channel Conduit 7  

Get the Reward Right

Q.)  When is a toothbrush an appropriate award for closing big deals and shift share?  A.) When the participant picks that award.

Stick with me here. The first impactful reward program I ever participated in was the Kodak Rewards Program. When I say impactful, I mean it actually made me focus on selling Kodak and caused me to actively recommend Kodak over similar or equal products. As a result I earned many Kodak Points that I could spend on a few hundred different merchandise items. I ordered a few items including an iPod, Canon Camera, and even a TV. But the one that probably left the most lasting impression was a toothbrush. Yes, a toothbrush. I’m probably dating myself now, but this was when Oral B had just come out with the dentist recommended electric toothbrush. I would have eventually gotten around to buying an electric toothbrush regardless, but I certainly wouldn’t have been on the cutting edge of mouth hygiene. The OB Electric Toothbrush changed everything. I remember the enjoyment of brushing my teeth, of looking in the mirror and thinking, “Thank You, Kodak. Thank You, Kodak….”.

If Kodak had given me cash, would I be telling you about the Kodak Reward Program today? Would I even remember what I had spent it on? Would I have spent it on something as cool as a toothbrush? No, I would have probably taken it to the grocery store or something. See, you can pick great rewards for program participants depending on their demographic. Usually a group trip reward or individual experience rewards are can’t-miss, and have both an immediate effect and terrific staying power. But by far the best reward of all is the one that your participants pick for themselves. So give them lots of choices and you will be on the right track.

What are some of your favorite rewards from Rewards Programs?


Channel Conduit 6 

Incentives, Recognition for Tomorrow

You think channel incentives and recognition is centered in the past.  But it’s really all about the future.

It’s all about having your channel partner build equity in your company and your channel programs.  The other week I stayed on the other end of town from my meetings so I could stay at a Marriot.  The kicker is I paid $20 more per night than it would cost me to stay across the street in a newer Hilton.  Why in the World would I do that?   In a word:  “Equity”.     I have 260,000 Marriott points and have my sights on a Disney Vacation for my entire family.

Your channel partners do the same thing.  The more equity they have in your company and program, the more likely they will have positive future behaviors.
Although we are rewarding for last week’s sale, we see our return when they stretch for their goal or Disney Vacation at the end of the quarter.  We reward for a certification completed today, but the yield comes when they can better represent our company and products on the next opportunity.

It’s not about what they did; it’s about what they will do.


Channel Conduit 5  

Trading Spaces

If empathy is the key to good partnerships and sales, then try trading places.  As channel marketing & sales pros, it’s important that we are always trying to put ourselves in our channel partner’s shoes.  This helps us get out of the vendor vacuum and design channel programs that help our partners become more successful.

Let’s take that concept and flip it on its head for a moment: Why not have your partner stand in your shoes for a lunch or dinner meeting?  Too often we ask, “What else can we be doing to help you grow your business?” Don’t get me wrong, we should be asking this question–and often!  But we might be amazed if we also asked:

“If you were me…”

  •        …Which opportunities in the market would you attack?
  •          …What would you use your channel program to be a differentiator and get the mindshare of the channel?
  •          …What gap in the market would you be well positioned to bridge?

Not only will they be honored you asked, but more importantly, you will also learn unexpected valuable lessons.

Channel Conduit 4

Your partner served up their flagship client and introduced your team and solutions.   Maybe you should serve them up too?

If it was the partner’s sales person that went the extra mile to get you in the door, maybe you should serve them up a year’s worth of the “desert of the month” or, my favorite, the salsa of the month.  There are solutions that make this gesture very turnkey.  Send me a note and I will point you in the right direction.

If it was the partner principal’s decision to finally bring us in, let’s serve up her whole team with a Monster Grill.  And then show up with your apron, spatula, and enough fillets to feed the team over lunch.   Maybe the grill doesn’t have a home at the office but the company could give it away to a deserving team member or even make a contest out of it.

While you’re serving up steaks, don’t forget to close the deal that’s been presented on a platter.

Channel Conduit 3

Drop By For Big Events

“Big Events?  I make sure to stop by every year to my annual Partner-Palooza conference, especially when we hold it in Vegas”

No, I’m not talking about your mega annual partner meetings and conference.  In fact I’m not talking about events held by you at all.   I’m talking about the events that are BIG to your channel partner.  These are events that are critical to your channel partners business and in turn important to you.  Most likely, your most successful channel partners are executing marketing strategies that include events that bring many of their end users together to foster new relationships and longer customer retention.  Some events that you might consider dropping in on include:

  • End-User Conferences
  • Customer Appreciation Events
  • End User Advisory Round Tables
  • President’s Club Incentive Travel
  • Company Board Meetings (Or even better sit on the board)
  • The Summer Picnic Event
  • 10 Year Anniversary Celebration
  • The Founder’s Retirement Party

Sure not all of these events are appropriate, but one or some of them should be.  This type of gesture is so rare that it will go a long way in building trust and loyalty at the partner’s executive and sales levels.  The on problem with this type of rare gesture is your partner might not even know you would be interested in receiving an invite to one of these events.

How to get invited to the BIG Event

One way to make it known is to include this as a soft benefit in your channel incentive program.  One of rewards for hitting a certain partner tier might be “Dinner with our CEO”.  This is what we call a “Soft Benefit”.  By integrating soft benefits into your Channel Incentive Program you differentiate from your competition and deliver a personal touch that leads to deep relationships with your partners.  Not all soft benefits are published but act as a qualifier for gestures like the “Drop by for the Big Event” incentive.  You only have so many high profile people at your company and only so many days in the year.  So you want to have system in place that selects the partners that deserve these valued soft benefits.  By making it part of your channel incentive program you identify the right partners.   This gives your channel marketing manager or regional channel managers the opportunity to review your partner’s BIG event calendar and start to schedule with the appropriate person at your organization.  The channel manager then can say, “If appropriate, our Channel Chief or VP of Global Channel Marketing mentioned she would be honored to come and help celebrate your company’s 10 Year Anniversary Party!”

Do you have a success when you wisely did a “drop in for a Big event”?  Are you implementing “Soft Benefits” into your channel incentive programs?

Channel Conduit 2

Investing in your Channel in Tough Economic Times is Smart Business

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.

Channel Conduit 1

Tell Them What is Important (other than sales)

Our partners want to make you 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 those are important behavior to define and recognize.

Bu 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 make sure to recognize for them.

  • 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.


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