Is it Time to Refresh and Optimize your Channel Partner Programs?
Because of 2020’s challenges to businesses and economies, 2021 may be the year you decide to take a long, hard look at your channel partner programs. By utilizing automated partner profiling tools, vendors can ensure partner programs maintain alignment to refreshed business strategies, portfolio strategies and competitive market conditions.
Even during times of relative market stability, channel partner programs can be in a fairly stable state of evolution, as vendors constantly assess:
– What is the right mix of benefits and requirements for our programs?
– What improvements do we need to make to create a world class program?
– What are the right level of investment in marketing, sales, technical and operational support?
– On what group of partners should we focus our program design. Where is the “sweet spot” for maximum program return?
Tools To Utilize to Ensure the Best Channel Partner Programs
Competitive analysis coupled with industry association ranking have historically been the primary tools available to vendors who want to benchmark industry program effectiveness against their own partner program. In addition to providing an overview of competitors’ program benefits and requirements, this type of analysis can include:
– Firstly, how important each component is to partners
– Secondly, how well each vendor performs on each component
– And lastly, is there any value in exceeding industry norms? For example, does a vendor get any additional business or mind share etc. if they deliver two days faster?
This analysis gives an accurate picture of the competitive landscape and helps vendors distinguish between what the channel program “must have” in order to be competitive. In addition, it will highlight what may be “nice to have” from the partners’ perspective. However, it rarely give vendors insight into real opportunities for differentiation. Rather, its major benefit is that it will help to identify areas where a specific vendor is “out of alignment” with the industry.
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Today, thanks to automated channel management tools, real-time partner performance metrics provide more granular insights into program optimization. For example, vendors can assess the program’s effectiveness on multiple variables that include:
- Revenue attainment against projections
- Number and types of certifications
- Return on MDF
- Return on deal registration
- Lead follow-up and close rates
- Incentive program participations rates
This means metrics that fall below specified threshold levels can be flagged early for further investigation into program component design and/or individual partner issues. Therefore, components can be fine-tuned easily, giving vendors a significant information and timing advantage in their markets.
Questions concerning which partners should be the central focus of channel program design often go unanswered. As a result, programs can skew to benefit the large, “self-sufficient” partners who are very vocal and have a lot of influence. On the other hand, programs can be designed for the “complacent”, lowest-performing partners in the hopes that enough investment will move them out of their complacency.
However, both of these practices overlook the true program “sweet spot” – the group of non complacent partners who lack the internal resources and self-sufficiency to grow to their full potential. But who are these partners? And how do you identify them?
Using an automated partner profiling tool, such as the Channel Mechanics’ ProfileIT Program, vendors create a custom Readiness for Growth profile that identifies partners most likely to grow with them. This can be achieved by examining their strengths and weaknesses on two key dimensions. Firstly Business Readiness. And secondly Skills Readiness. Here’s an example of what these dimensions might include:
Readiness for Growth Profile
1. Business Readiness
– Strong in-house financial expertise
– Automated financial management systems
– Proficiency in vendor management
– Articulated growth strategy for vendor
– Openness to vendor influence and advice
2. Skills Readiness
– Investment in technical resources
– Types and numbers of current certifications
– Low sales force turnover
– Proven success in solution selling
– Consistent and effective marketing initiatives
– History of partnering with other companies to create end-to-end solutions
As with all applications of an automated partner profiling program, vendors can choose the variables they want to measure and assign importance weights to them. Therefore, channel managers can score each partner on each dimension to develop a picture which will look like the matrix below.
To conclude, depending on the results of this partner profiling exercise, vendors can adjust both program content and investment levels for their specific partner ecosystem readiness – a true win/win for all!