Challenge: Motivating and training channel partners
Channel partners can be essential to a company’s sales growth. However, the company must have realistic expectations from their channel partners and a consistent commitment to their success. Vendors must invest in programs that scale to meet the needs of their partners and understands both their strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, and all too often, companies under-invest in their channel partners, set unrealistic expectations and take steps that frequently undermine the relationship.
Channel partners survive in relatively thin margins (typically under 30%) and therefore usually do not have a deep bench of marketing talent nor the time to focus on specific products since they carry a broad array of solutions. What resellers need are products that have a relatively simple sales process and sales programs that can be implemented quickly without substantial time or money. The most effective programs require simple steps – such as uploading an email list and modifying existing email content to send a traceable email blast to their existing customer base. Another great example is co-funding local events hosted by the channel partner with onsite support by the vendor. I like to describe these programs as ‘Just Add Water’ – they only need resources that the reseller readily has on hand. The vendor will typically have much more sophisticated web and automation systems – so extending these programs to their partners often creates a win-win situation.
In the end, the company must be completely committed to the success of its partners and therefore assign marketing personnel and funds to create these programs. Dedicated headcount is necessary to develop and deliver these programs, train resellers on how to use them and then continue to optimize them over time. Even great programs that are simple to implement will require an evangelist to get partners to utilize these tools. The vendor is well advised to invest in creating a limited set of effective programs where the partners know they will succeed with their limited funds and staff.
Lesson: Simplify the marketing process to empower channel partners to create their own success and add to yours.