Many B2B and B2B/B2C companies selling through multiple routes to market (RTMs) utilize “channel” programs as one of these routes, especially when trying to accelerate growth into new segments and new geographies.
Channel programs take a significant amount of time, effort and resources to implement effectively however and can easily disappoint and frustrate you, especially if “channel” isn’t in your DNA and isn’t your only route-to-market.
Resellers, VARs (value-added resellers), distributors, system integrators, managed service providers (MSPs), contract research organizations (CROs) and other types of channel partners each require a unique set of business, sales, services and marketing strategies to be successful for a vendor. The investment and commitment a vendor has to make with a channel partner, and vice versa, are also quite high for the partnership to have a chance to be successful. The soundness of these strategies, the level of ongoing commitment, and the ability to adapt over time determine the performance (or underperformance) of your channel/s.
Many companies that add one or more channels to their RTM plan stumble or outright fail initially, many others start well and channel performance and revenue growth degrades over time. This underperformance can be efficiently fixed and prevented from happening for new channels.
Initially when a channel partner program is proposed the onus is on the vendor to define the parameters of the agreement. This agreement of course should include an understanding of what is expected from all parties, what will be delivered, over what period of time, how different types of support are provided, etc. It is important to understand what other types of partner agreements exist in your industry as you need to offer and maintain a program which is both competitive and valuable to the channel partner. This needs to be reevaluated regularly with a combination of efficient scientific and artistic methods to understand changing conditions and needs, enable tuning and ultimately prevent performance degradation.
When a partner program is going to be marketed (or remarketed) to prospective channel partners it is important to use a process adapted from the best B2B marketing process, this means you must be able to clearly articulate the value of the business program and what problem it solves for the prospective partner, from their perspective. Next, you need to drill into exactly who most needs this business program (e.g. which companies and roles/titles), and exactly how these people would want to be part of or “opt-in” to this type of business program. This is very similar to the types of questions you would need to answer when launching any new B2B product, and doing it well will have a similar impact on the success of the program. This specialized insight and targeting drill both focuses your efforts on only the “sweet spot” and it informs all future messaging, content, and training for Marketing and Sales.
From a business point of view it is important to understand exactly how you are going to deliver all of the elements required for the launch, maintenance, and ongoing reevaluation and tuning of the program, now and as it quickly grows over time. We’ve found it valuable to utilize a small number of current and prospective partners as advisory group and to actually ask these partners what they would like to see included in this program (and exactly why). Translating the best of these insights and suggestions into program elements and a resourcing plan is critical to the success of the program and as you likely already know, it is impractical to try and launch a massive program without the requisites in terms of resources, staff and time.
Rebuilding and relaunching underperforming partner programs are projects that B2B³ is passionate about and expert in delivering. We have worked with companies ranging from F500 through to privately held mid-sized and hyper-growth stage to help them build, rebuild, and reinvigorate their channel reseller and other partner programs. If you would like to engage with B2B³ to help with your channel or other partner program please call us today.