Improving Channel Performance
In part one of this blog series on Channel Data, we took a broad look at the need for a Channel Data Strategy along with POS Data – what it is, how to collect it and what to do with it! This third chapter looks at how a channel data strategy can bring a dramatic improvement to your channel performance. Discover how the measurements and analytics gained provide a consistent, focused and data-driven basis upon which you can fine-tune your channel tactics. Therefore you can synchronize tactics to the reaction of your channel. This is described below by 7 tips that will add fuel to your channel growth engine and improve channel performance.
7 Tips to Improve Channel Performance
1. Sort Out The Long Tail from the Wagging Ones!
There is much discussion about culling partners who do not consistently perform (the “long tail” channel partners), but I am against this. With the right data strategy, alongside the channel tools and technology, you can differentiate long tail partners. Knowing which partners are doing what business enables you to attribute levels and adjust your incentives accordingly, without black balling those who may be small, niche, or specialist. But those who may well play an important part in your partner ecosystem.
2. Reward Next Steps
As partners respond to your channel program and promotions, can you reward them in real-time? If so, this can be a powerful performance driver. Partners that see they are moving from Silver to Gold and reaching a new level of discounts and rewards, are happy partners. Fast and accurate POS data that is reconciled and validated against relevant rebate programs to ensure quick and correct payments, will simply win partners over.
Current channel discussions advise that partner types are changing. In essence, from resellers to influencers, and that this somehow negates the need for incentives and promotions. But why? Rewarding sales achievement is a basic function of being in sales. Qualifying for a technical certification is a valued accreditation for the technical team and achieving marketing campaign metrics is a fulfilment of marketing commitments. These achievements could and should elevate a partner and the individuals within. Therefore the value they bestow should not be underestimated. Even a reward for a referral deal. When different incentives for different activities build into tangible benefits that are visible to partner teams, it drives further engagement and further channel performance.
3. CSAT, Customer Retention and Renewals.
This should feature as a layer of accreditation in your partner program. Increasingly so with SaaS solutions, where ARR (annual recurring revenue) is a key performance metric. But this is often too difficult to track through the channel and so not included. A good channel data strategy needs to incorporate these important metrics into the partner dashboard (for partners and their PAMs). This will help to see the bigger picture – not just seeing a partner who brings in new deals, but also gives visibility into those who consistently retain their customers, have low attrition and regular renewals.
4. Slice and Dice to Target More Effectively
If you enable partners to self-select the content relevant to them, not just functionally (sales, marketing, technical) but by vertical and SMB, or enterprise, or even down to the relevant content required for a specific sales scenario against a competitor. This becomes a powerful and relevant audience specific way to target partners. In addition, it guarantees an increase in partner engagement.
Too many portals offer large buckets of content labelled “Sales” “Marketing” and “Technical”. The result is partners having to wade through voluminous layers of content to find what is current and relevant. Providing role-specific, user-defined content saves partners time. And time is money. Not to mention loyalty! OK so this may not strictly be part of the channel data strategy, but it contributes to the data points you then have on partners. This in turn enables you to identify and spot gaps (no-one is downloading that new case study on Healthcare – maybe we need a new vertically focused partner in that Geo?).
5. Be a Swan
Ease of doing business comes out on top, time and again, in partner surveys and discussions as the main reason why partners work repeatedly with a vendor. Assuming of course the product is good . However, in these digital times this takes on a new meaning as easy to work with also incorporates transparency and visibility of the transactional relationship, as well as ease of access to enablement content. Therefore, vendors needs to invest in infrastructure to support this.
You will need channel technology that displays partner specific information and content as well as a data strategy that automates the collection and analysis of that information. Nothing will aggravate a partner more than tardy reimbursements on rebates due or cumbersome paperwork to receive MDF and marketing funds. Manual collection of data into spreadsheets is fraught with errors; missed promotions, incorrect invoices not spotted or wrong product IDs. Whereas safely sharing sales, account and prospect data in a timely way creates immense value to both parties. Thus unlocking a world of possibilities. Being slick and swan-like requires investment in automation tools and processes that simply work, for you and your partners, so everyone can focus on the business of promoting and selling the combined proposition.
6. Don’t Recruit
Rather than spending time, effort and money recruiting new partners, invest in making your existing partners more successful. Then you can recruit more, as and when you understand the complex matrix and value of what you have. Landing and expanding within your customers is a classic sales tactic. But unfortunately not one frequently adopted in the way vendors manage their channel. Vendors rely on partners to weave themselves into the customer’s technical journey but far too often they do not use the same tried and tested methodology within their own partners.
The effective use of real-time channel data will improve your understanding of the channel and how each partner is working. This in turn will help you make them more effective and increase performance. You will be able to make adjustments that drive results, reduce errors and faults that come with human data manipulation. This will increase ROI and streamline programs as budget gets spent on what works.
7. The Partner Experience
Technology vendors focus effort on providing a great UI and customer experience. This in turn needs to be reflected in the partner journey. Afterall, they are your customers too. But how does a data strategy help with this? Enabling partners to see where they sit on your partner program, at what level, with what deals in pipeline and which rewards they are due from incentives, empower and impress. Dashboards that show not just the past, but a look at current rebates and rewards, building alongside future opportunities, demonstrates how much you value them and their contribution to the combined business.
Defining a comprehensive channel data strategy that captures data from external sources (such as distribution POS) and integrates it to your own CRM and ERP, that aligns to your partner program will enable you, as a vendor, to be proactive in the way you manage your channel towards growth and increasing channel performance. By providing this visibility and transparency to your partners, you will gain loyalty and true partnerships.
I will add that it’s not all about the data. You need to add some interaction and the personal touch to the core data strategy. We are all Zoomed out right now. We realize only too well how much we miss a coffee and chat. So, when we are allowed, adding a regular catch up to a great channel data strategy will make all the difference.