For vendors new to the market, the first two years of building a successful channel are the most difficult. It is likely you already have some established competitors with an established channel and a ‘partner program’ being executed with varying levels of success, all have shiny incentives to grab channel attention. If you’re the new kids on the block and you want to attract and retain new partners, you need to stand out from the crowd.
Our advice is don’t run before you can walk. Take time to build your strategy, value proposition and support network before you start recruiting partners, this way you ensure your initial investment in channel development provides a return.
Using our experience of working with leading Global IT vendors, we’ve developed our own recipe to channel success. This article outlines the building blocks you should think about before you even start a conversation with a channel partner.
It’s all about profile. Knowing the profile of partner that you want to target and how you can attract their attention will focus your marketing efforts on the right people (we advise quality here, not quantity). Don’t fall into the trap of simply buddying up with the biggest names, spend time understanding who is best suited to your business; it could be the ones you least expect!
Have a plan. I know, it sounds simple but so many people forget it! Having a clearly defined marketing plan aligned with sales goals is the first step on the road to sustainable revenue for both you and your channel partners.
Structure. Be clear on what your channel engagement looks like. That includes knowing how you’re going to work with your distributors as well as understanding what type, and how many, partners you need to join forces with to deliver your strategy.
Be attractive. What makes your proposition valuable? Ensure you have a well-defined process for articulating and delivering value to your channel. This could be through a programmatic engagement or a range of benefits delivered via joint marketing arrangements. You can have the best program in the world but unless you communicate product and solution value and offer your channel an opportunity you’ll struggle to grab your partners attention.
Support. Establish your support mechanism from the get go. This includes the tools, processes and people you’ll need to manage your channel relationships as well as any training and certification required to sell and support your products. Consider language requirements and how you will support joint marketing initiatives, lead gen activities and market development funds. In the early days, successful vendors support partners with joint marketing planning and campaigns; until you’ve got an established channel it’s a more effective than giving them marketing funds.
Easy does it. In a competitive market partners are going to work with vendors who are easy to do business with and ones who make it easy for them to grow their own revenue. Make the onboarding as simple as possible for partners, with plenty of onboarding milestones and clear lines of communication back into your organisation. Partners have access to several different vendor portals so make yours simple with clear training modules and fund management tools that allow partners to track their success and download sales and marketing support materials.