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If you follow the trends in partner programs, you may have seen many vendors adding elements to their programs that place a premium on the value a partner brings to them beyond the volume of sales. For example, to keep a premium spot at in the top-tier of your program, you may ask your partners to complete a business plan, or run a certain number of marketing campaigns, or have a specific number of technical resources certified. And while this is a good tool to lead a certain type of partner behavior, it’s important you don’t swing the pendulum too far in any one direction. When adding value elements to your program its important to keep three things in mind:
The whole idea behind value-based programming is to encourage partners to engage in certain behaviors and activities that will help you meet your business goals. You should start with a thorough understanding of the goals within your business. Are you trying to brand your name, have more service resources for your product, dominate a certain market, or introduce a new product? Whatever the goal is, you can craft activities and success metrics within your program to align behavior with these goals.
For example, if you are trying to brand your company, you may require a certain amount and type of marketing from your partners. For this to be successful, you need to make resources available that partners can easily take advantage of, and possibly have incentives to entice partners to act quickly.
Value elements are great – but they are sometimes hard to measure, monitor and report on. As such, you may end up in an operational nightmare; trying so hard to report on one behavior, that you overcomplicate other aspects of your program. If you are going to require something to happen, you need to arm your partners with a roadmap. Continuing with our marketing example, if you are going to have an expectation that partners execute two marketing programs per quarter, then you’ll need to have an easy way to document and give partners credit for programs that are done by you or by the partners themselves.
The challenge can be documenting actions that happen outside of your control. Often this can result in a logistical nightmare. Introducing too many new value items at the same time will stress your operational team and add additional overhead to your partners and channel team. You should make the item something that drives the right behavior, and can be easy information to capture and report on. For example, training and certifications that are done on your portal should be simple to access for partners, simple to report on for your operational team, and simple for a partner to understand the requirements.
No one likes to be the heavy, but once you introduce value-based attributes to your program, be prepared to enforce the consequences. If you have taken the time to properly introduce this to your partner community, then it shouldn’t come as a shock to your partners when any consequence is handed down such as re-leveling or removing access to certain resources. Here is not the time to make exceptions. Otherwise your program will lose total respect in the eyes of your partner.
Value-based programming can be a very effective tool in a program manager’s pocket. Sometimes this means a change in the benefits and resources that a partner has access to. When introducing these elements, be sure to have a complete communication plan in place to let partners know about the changes, the rules, the consequences – for good or for bad. Setting the right expectations, enforcing the rules where you need to, and communicating this effectively are the keys here. If done properly, you will have partners aligning to your business goals, and you will also have the data to show it.
Thinking about adding value-based programming but not sure where to start? Let’s chat! I’m sure we can point you in the right direction. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your free consultation.
Jessica Baker is the Chief Program Executive for Achieve Unite. She is a seasoned Channel expert with over 20 years of experience developing and managing partner programs, partner marketing and partner sales strategies for companies from $15M to over $1B. She has extensive experience in program creation and management, marketing enablement, sales and technical ramp planning, strategic and technical alliances, internal and external communications, and channel sales operations. She is fanatical about cloud, SaaS and everything that means to the channel.
Jessica joins the Achieve team to lead our program development engagements and go-to-market models. Prior to joining the Achieve team, she held leadership positions at Progress Software, Compuware, Signiant and Softek.
Jessica has received many honors from her time in the channel. She was recognized as one of the 2012 People You Don’t Know But Should by The Channel Company’s CRN magazine, as 2011- 2015 Women of the Channel by CRN magazine and awarded a 5- Star Program distinction in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 by CRN magazine. She sits on several channel leadership boards and regularly writes for her blog and other channel content.