Do you deserve a big present from Santa this year?

06 December 2016 Ian Hutchieson Global Director, Channel Strategy

He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice … but are you even on it?

Every channel director dreams about that one giant order from a partner. Like Santa Claus, it may only come once a year. But when it does come it’s the main event – the Big One – the order that has the finance director dancing around in a holiday jumper.

Whether this big order is on its way or not depends on how good you were with your channel strategy this year. What did you do to nurture your channel partners so they chose you above all your competitors?

If your partners are anything like Santa, they are invisible for a lot of the year; they often don’t read your emails, fail to answer the phone or open your direct mail. Then you see them at a trade show, or they download some of your content, and you think they are ready to talk, but they disappear again. It is difficult to establish a continuous conversation or even understand what’s going to interest them in the first place.

Are your channel partners like Santa?

Understandably you back off – you stop calling them and leaving them messages – because it feels like you are wasting your time. Then suddenly, they place the biggest order of your year. What happened? Why them? Why now? What did you do to deserve it? Who gets the credit for winning this one – sales or marketing?

The truth is, unless you understand their movements throughout the year, you will never know the answer, which makes it very difficult to replicate the success. The best way to ensure Santa Claus does come to town is to gain a really clear picture of their behaviour, and develop a targeting strategy around it.

To ensure Santa Claus partners do come at least once a year – and potentially more often - you need to:

Analyse every interaction with each channel partner decision maker, so you can start to see how they are plotting their buying journey. You may be surprised by what you discover – a common perception of a Santa Claus partner is that they sleep all year, but further analysis usually reveals that they interact more often than you think.

Look at your promotions effectiveness to determine where to invest more profitably, based on which activities generate engagement. While a Santa Claus partner may interact with more communications than initially perceived, they will be more selective in what they view compared to some of your other channel partners. Therefore, the communications they do see really need to count.

Review your incentives schemes based on this insight so you can start to divide investment more profitably between cherry pickers and loyal customers. Match the incentive to the partner’s expectation; Santa Claus partners give big, so they want big rewards in return.

Review your communications channels to ensure that your overarching strategy is built around meeting your partner’s needs, and not operating in silos. You may find that embracing new communications methods such as gamifying, social media and apps will have more impact in your communications than more traditional techniques.

We’ve talked about the Santa Claus channel partner type here, but there are lots more personas your business will be dealing with, and you need to understand them in just as great a depth.

To help you on this journey, we have built a model to enable you to profile your own channel for revenue growth and higher profits. And we have talked to more than 50 channel directors, to create a comprehensive set of channel partner personas and their key behaviour traits, to get you started. You might just recognise their characteristics from your favourite childhood fairytales!

We will be releasing the full set of personas in a brand new report – Channel Success is no Fairytale – in January. Keep an eye out for further communications, or email if you would like to receive a copy as soon as it’s released.



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