Maximising Partner Loyalty
An organisation’s channel marketing is only ever as effective as its partner ecosystem. As a result, channel marketers need to constantly be looking for ways to get partners successfully selling their products and services. However, partner organisations often sell a wide variety of products and in many instances will sell competing products simultaneously.
So, if you are responsible for channel or partner marketing for your organisation, how do you maximise that most highly valued commodity: partner loyalty? Here are our top 4 tips for boosting loyalty in your partner network and boosting sales of your products via the channel:
- Be easy to do business with
You’re in a partnership, so be a good partner. I learnt at an early age that successful business is all about relationships, yet it still astounds me how much this fact gets either forgotten or ignored in the rapid pace of everyday business life. Simple things like human communication, making it easy for partners to find out information and having robust business processes are essential. While many organisations might think they have this under control, the rapid pace of change and relentless development of technology could be putting stress on your partner relationships without you knowing. This could be frustrating your partners so it is important to keep an eye on things.
- Have a robust product strategy
It might seem like stating the obvious but in order for partners to sell your products, they need to be wowed by them. This is even more important if your partner also sells your competitors’ products. Time for another obvious statement: partners are businesses just like yours. They are focused on the same priorities that your business is – revenue growth, cost control, market share and profit margin; you can bet their sales strategy will be to focus on the products that are going to deliver on this. So, think about your products in this way and ensure their lifecycle plans keeps customers, and therefore partners, interested.
- Give them adequate marketing support
Partners are either an integral part of or, potentially, your only front line into customers, so make sure your marketing strategy supports them. Partners come in all sizes and will have varying levels of marketing expertise, so you need to allow for this and set up a marketing process that delivers everything from product knowledge and sales support right through to full blown “campaigns in a box” that maximise the reach of your message with minimal effort on behalf of the partner. A good agency who understands channel marketing can make this process simple and effective.
- Run the right incentive programmes
Incentives are a BIG part of channel marketing. Of course, you already know this, and are probably running all sorts of programmes right now. But how successful are they? Are you getting the sort of partner engagement you want? This question might yield some hard truths, but face them, deal with them (perhaps by asking your network what they currently aren’t getting from you) and the insight you gain will help you plan better, more effective incentives. The tried and tested marketing development fund (MDF) is an excellent win-win way to incentivise – the partner outperforms to win marketing budget which is then used to further your product and brand.
It’s not just about recruiting partners – you’ve got to work out how to keep them. Since 2008 many partner organisations in a broad range of industries have disappeared. This has shifted power to the partners where before it was with the vendors. Follow the tips above and make sure your partner network doesn’t consider using that power to either ignore you or, worse, leave you.