Has your Channel Data Strategy Got You Driving in the Dark?
How comprehensive is your Channel Data Strategy? Capturing data from a downstream channel and sharing that data appropriately with partners has its challenges. From disparate data held in separate systems, to security and GDPR compliance along with the simple cultural complexity of “sharing”. Added to that, most vendors are at least one, if not two steps away from their customers when selling through distribution and channel partners. So how does a vendor gain access to timely data on who sold what, when, and to whom?
The Impact of Driving in the Dark (Without a Channel Data Strategy)
– Failure to recognize the relative value of different partners
– Not recognizing the relative value of different marketing tactics
– Spending time on building complex spreadsheets to understand what is going on
– Missing cross and upsell opportunities or timely renewals
– Overpaying, or worse, underpaying partners
– Failure to react to either good or bad incentives
– Failure to reward partners by elevating their tier in a timely manner
– Letting a partner loose their certification to sell your solution
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Quite simply, vendors need to know the full picture when a partner makes a sale. The Point of Sale Data (POS Data). And yet products and services are sold through multiple distributors, each with their own systems and data formats. Not to mention different prices based on particular promotions and incentives.
Solving this dilemma is one of the biggest frustrations for channel sales managers. This is because both vendor and partners grapple with cooperating when it comes to sharing data. However, with the right channel data, vendors can understand:
– Whether a partner knows where they sit in the partner program today?
– What could they do this month to qualify to become Gold and access rewards or discounts?
– What inventory is in the field?
– Which partners are consistently performing ?
– Which back-end rebates are successfully driving behaviors?
The Channel Data Strategy
The more complex your partner program and the larger your channel, the harder it is to obtain the answer to all these questions, without a solid channel data strategy in place. This defines the data to be collected and from whom. A channel data strategy should therefore aim to level the playing field in terms of data formats and put the right processes in place to define when and how the data is to be captured and managed. Luckily, formatting is considerably easier these days with more standardized API’s.
This Channel Data Strategy is frequently referred to as the 360-degree view of your channel data and relationships. Couple this with a strong data governance procedure which defines the controls, checks and balances in order to ensure data integrity, consistency and security. Now you are beginning to make progress.
Who’s Responsible for a Channel Data Strategy?
Most channel businesses will have a partner team covering the key aspects of working with partners. However “data” sometimes falls through the gaps between the partner team and the technology team. I have seen time and again the yoyo effect of this hot potato being batted between the partner and technical teams.
1. Partner Program Manager
Most mature vendors will have a well-established partner program that has evolved over time and managed by the Partner Program Manager. Often this individual has responsibility for the PRM (Partner Relationship Management) system to enable partners to access content from marketing and to showcase the proposition, products and programs to partners. However, rarely does this tech responsibility extend to Channel Data Strategy.
2. Partner/Channel Account Manager
There will be a team of partner facing roles such as Partner Account Managers or Channel Account Managers who are sales focused with revenue responsibility. These PAMs/CAMs have a remit to drive sales through their respective partners and ensure they support larger deals to close. The PAM/CAM should also oversee the “relationship” to ensure that business plans are aligned and that this fits with the rhythm of the respective businesses. This team have the responsibility of capturing pipeline data, adding deals to the PRM or ensuring their managed partners complete deal registrations.
While pipeline and revenue data is helpful to run QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews) with partners, they need more data to be effective. They need to know more (more varied data points), collected and assimilated under the channel data strategy, to give them greater insight into their partners’ relative performance. They need this data, but it is not necessarily within their remit to manage the channel data strategy.
3. Channel Marketing
The channel marketing team generate content for partners to help promote products and solutions and “market” to their own customers and target audiences. Larger vendors will separate marketing by “To-Partner” and “Through-Partner” marketing. Thereby helping to keep partners engaged, informed and educated on products, while also providing the collaterals they need to generate campaigns with the right pieces of collateral for every step of the sales cycle. In terms of technology, this team will most likely run marketing automation tools. However, these rarely have the depth of data needed to contrast and compare respective campaigns and sales incentives in real-time. Although when there is a strong marketing lead, they will drive the channel data strategy.
The Partner Lead, Channel Chief, or Channel Evangelist is invariably hard-pressed and over-stretched. Firstly, they will have revenue responsibility which takes them into numerous internal sales meetings, “war rooms” and into customer sales engagement (with partners). Secondly, their time will be stretched across departments to ensure the organization is fully “Partner-ready” (to support partners in sales initiatives). Furthermore, there’s meetings with partners to endorse and enhance the relationships with their PAMs/CAMs. They tend to meet with partners who are “doing deals” and performing. Therefore rarely getting to meet enough of the “rest” on a daily, weekly, monthly, or even quarterly basis. And with current restrictions, this can be exacerbated and may distort the true picture of market, economy, competition, and performance without true channel data.
So the responsibility, in my opinion, lies with the Partner Lead. This person may take any number of titles, depending on the organization structure. But they need to be able to see the big picture. This means ensuring their team has access to and can see the details of their partners’ performance, their campaigns’ success, and their programs effectiveness. This individual is responsible for evangelizing the needs and desires of partners internally and they need to ensure the right technology is in place to support their team and the partners so that insightful decisions can be made.
In short, if you don’t know what you don’t know, how can you drive true partner success?