For the vendor this means greater mindshare and share of wallet but also looking at strategic indicators, such as partners who are early advocates of new technology for example.
For the partner it’s the totality of everything a vendor can do to help a partner be successful – things like product range, brand strength, support, ease of doing business, channel commitment and incentives.
Partner value is a constantly moving target because with new technologies, partner types and business models, partner value means different things to different people. It’s no surprise that there is no silver bullet. It’s not one thing but a combination of everything you’re doing today in your partner programme. If partner value is the end goal then getting there is more likely when everyone knows the goal up front and everyone on your team and other teams are working together and aligned.
We have outlined 7 key B2B relationship marketing best practices for channel partner programmes to drive incremental behaviours and generate long term partner engagement.
1) Embed partner data at the centre of your strategy
If ‘relationship’ is the overarching goal then embedding partner data at the centre of your strategy is a must.
If you work in the channel on a day-to-day basis, you know how difficult and challenging this is to achieve; because there is so much data generated in the channel, because it resides in so many places and because it doesn’t always map back to the right partner.
Whilst this does require a lot of effort to make a reality, there are positive benefits to be had:
- Uncover opportunities to positively influence behaviour
- Identify who are profitable partners and what drives them
- Deliver relevant communications that drive engagement
- Test & learn methodology
- Deliver targeted campaigns that deliver ROI.
2) Build a holistic stakeholder engagement framework
One of the core strategy elements are your internal stakeholders – and ensuring they’re bought in to your end goals. Not achieving key stakeholder buy-in can be potentially detrimental to future success. For example;
- Finance want to understand the return on investment and can be a great advocate when they understand the detail and potential success of the programme
- Corporate Marketing hold the digital marketing resource and ensures alignment and consistency for all communications and web experience
- It’s key for Field Sales teams to understand the programme and how it affects their partners, so they are armed with the right information to talk to their partner contacts, whether that is the latest earning points promotion or help with decisions about point redemption
- Keeping close to Competitor activity enables a deeper understanding of what is happening and evolving in the marketplace to benchmark, and spot any future opportunities.
3) Introducing a rewards currency to your programme
Introducing a points currency earning at the lower tiers of a programme enables a vendon>r to drive behaviours, beyond just sales; the non-transactional behaviours that are equally as important and have potential to be profitable – whether that is engaging in training sessions, webinars, reading emails etc.
Equally on the redemption side, it’s important to make it valuable for the partner to use those points in a way that is meaningful to their business – mixing both business and personal rewards, which will be of differing value to different partner types.
4) Create an easy, consumer-like redemption experience
Using clear, simple messaging is key to cut through the clutter of both partner programme and distributor communications to the partner audience.
Using simple visuals of currency icons to quickly grab a partner’s attention whilst making the redemption process as easy as possible. Incorporating promotional aspects to encourage spending on specific items that can only be done with the points currency, not cash allows the vendor to influence behaviours. Making the process as familiar as a consumer process with an ecart experience ensures it’s an intuitive user experience.
5) Using partner data effectively to create highly targeted and relevant communications
Once data is at the centre and you’re generating insight, communications can be used to start building your brand, with awareness and ultimately advocacy. Taking the time and effort to create highly segmented communications with the insight you have will ensure relevancy and drive higher engagement.
There are many aspects within relationship development to engage with partners and help drive them through tiers and lifecycle.
Sales are key driver for communication to make partners aware of new products and technology, so they are fully informed of what is available to them.
6) Understand how your partners want to engage: embrace mobile for the most relevant programme components
The rapid increase in smartphone technology and usage is obvious – but the channel has been fairly slow on the uptake for taking partner programme functionality and making it usable within a mobile environment.
Whilst website and emails are response driven, is there an opportunity for a mobile designed website or mobile app? This allows a vendor to focus on the key areas that partners want to access when they’re on the move.
This could include real time support, contact information, quick reference products guides and training information.
7) Introduce test and learn mechanics to constantly improve programme effectiveness
Through testing you can learn what works or doesn’t work for your audience – using small test groups before rolling out to a wider audience. That may be testing in your email communications or making tweaks to the programme structure.
Build in measurement tools and resource to regularly assess programme success from the outset and don’t be afraid to look and learn outside of the channel for fresh, new ideas.
If you wish to read more about channel loyalty, why not check out these resources below?