The do’s and don’ts of creating a channel progamme

Kirsty Gilchrist, MD of Twogether, explores the do's and don'ts of creating a channel programme

Let’s start by dispelling a few myths. Technology channel partners aren’t box-shifters. They’re not solely motivated by financial reward. And they’re not just patiently waiting for you to choose them, as if you were picking your football team in the playground. 

Instead, these independent businesses hold the relationship with the end-customer – and, quite possibly, the key to your success or failure in a particular market. They’re looking for vendors with a long-term plan, a clear return on their investment of time and resources, and a programme structured to help them do more and better business. With that in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts about creating a channel programme:

Do spell out how your partners will be profitable: Partners can select their vendors; make it clear why they should work with you.

Don’t delay in establishing critical programme components such as deal registration. The longer you leave it, the more problems it will cause.

Do treat your reseller partners as you treat your own direct sales force: They’re not second-class citizens; they’re your brand ambassadors every time they’re in front of a customer.

Don’t hesitate to give your partners the same aids as your own sales people receive, including sales tools, training, and competitive intelligence. Too many vendors keep the ‘good stuff’ to themselves; it’s bad practice and very short-sighted.

Do open up access to technical, as well as sales training: The better informed the partner, the better the chance of a long, strong customer relationship (and fewer warranty claims).

Don’t expect partners to invest heavily in marketing your solutions: It’s up to you to provide the branding, media and advertising, PR, web and other top-level marketing materials. Social media and social selling should also be well up on your agenda.

Do ensure that your brand guidelines are clearly articulated and easy for your partners to use. Consistency is paramount; you don’t want somebody’s nephew redrawing your logo, or changing your branding colours, because your guidelines were ambiguous. 

Don’t be a one-hit wonder: Communicate with partners on a regular basis about your programmes, offers and incentives. And keep on introducing new approaches and innovations; competition is fierce, and neither you nor your channel can afford to stand still.

Do provide programs and support for partner demand generation: By packaging demand gen programs, you make it make it easy and straightforward for partners to position and market your solutions.

Don’t forget other important programmes such as market development funds (MDF). Where appropriate, you could also give channel partners access to marketing funds to execute on local marketing activities such as events.

Do differentiate your channel programmes and offering to show how your technology solves customers’ business pains. Making it easy for the seller to sell also makes it easy for the buyer to buy.

And finally…

Don’t plough a lonely furrow: Talk to your partners; talk to prospective partners; talk to other vendors. But more importantly, listen.

I’d love to hear your do’s and don’ts. And there’s another post in this series, coming soon.