My current mood = Full ‘Grinch’.
December has arrived and Santa’s engagement and communications strategy is really, REALLY grinding my gears. We have another 4 weeks of the same repeated jolly messaging from thousands of retailers advising us what to buy. Telling us the best deals. Inviting us to shop. Providing ‘limited time discounts.’ Suggestions based on purchasing behaviour. Retailers want your money and they are communicating hard to get it. My inbox might as well be singing Christmas carols. It is all a bit overwhelming isn’t it? Welcome to the inbox of a channel partner every single day of the year!
Are you like Christmas? Short term and tactical?
If you are continuously trying to engage partners by incentivising them to buy you are Christmas style spam. Many partner sales reps earn incentives by accident. A customer just happened to choose your technology and the rep just happened to close the deal in your promotion date. Most sell what they want/what the customer asks for and then they check to see if it fits a current vendor offer. Many don’t bother - time spent cross checking means less time selling.
Bottom line - If you are incentivising and not engaging, or are incentivising sales that would have happened anyway, you are delivering the equivalent of a returnable Christmas gift. It is money wasted. You are not changing behaviour.
Or are you long term and strategic?
Because I’m rebelling against Christmas over-communication (and the cold temperatures outside!) let me re-set the engagement scene in a warmer time. Summer. My annual festival escape – in 2016, Benicassim. I had the time of my life. I came away from Benicassim (brand) with a love of new artists (products), and lots of new friends (network). I made promises to my new “Festi-Fam” that we would stay friends and meet up regularly to see the artists again, together. However, life got in the way, we all got busy, priorities shifted, communication tailed off and inevitably the enthusiasm died. Sound familiar vendors? Post partner conference?
I stayed committed to the brand though; I got a ticket to Benicassim 2017 months ago. I did so without the line up being confirmed, without knowing if friends were going, without knowing where I would even be in July 2017. Why commit to unknowns? The brand has an engaging marketing strategy. They engaged me post-event before my suntan and enthusiasm had the chance to fade. They sent a consistent and useful stream of communications spread over the course of a year that enabled me to buy in. They did not spam my inbox only when they wanted me to buy. They engaged me.
Your partner too buys in to your brand based on unknowns. They commit to business plans. They buy in to promises that they don’t actually know will materialise, like a product roadmap (subject to change), MDF benefits (where proof may not be accepted), incentives (which they might not earn), a joint relationship (which might not go anywhere). Are you making your communications interesting enough to not be spam? Are you actually engaging partners?
Check out the high level comms I have received from the Festival and compare it to the channel comms you have sent out recently:
This is the total opposite of the bombardment of marketing and incentive messages normally landing in partner reps’ inboxes. It is a clear, logical structure of communications with enablement information. It doesn’t feel rushed. Content is chunked up and distributed in a teasing manner over the course of a year. Messages are not repeated. It is consistent; I expect an email each month. If you asked me any question on the line up or logistics, I could tell you everything because it has been fed to me bite size month by month. I have absorbed the information gradually.
Incentives are used strategically and only to solicit feedback that helps with the delivery of the event. Or, they create excitement immediately prior to or after the event. There are only 4 months in which incentives are even mentioned. Feedback sought from attendees is incorporated and then used in future comms. At no point through the year have I tuned out, deleted or become sick of receiving emails from this sender. It is once a month communication (except for festival month). It is relevant. It is giving me information. I do not feel like a donkey having a carrot dangled in front of me every time an email pops up in my inbox.
Festivals are an opportunity for artists to get closer to fans, celebrate success, put on a show and create a vibe. They are an amplified version of your annual partner conference, no doubt. I am sure you as a vendor strut your stuff on stage like a rockstar while your fans (partners) chant your value proposition back to you. But you do not get your revenue from one annual interaction and a bunch of sporadic incentives, like artists do not get their annual revenue from festivals. Recurring revenue comes from the ‘after’. It comes from engagement.
Engagement and loyalty is a process, not an event. You will not drive behaviour by spamming your partners with white noise comms and incentives over and over again in the hope that something will stick. You are better than that. If Santa’s boot was on the other foot come the end of the year, would your partners be sending you a lump of coal for filling up their inbox with carrots for the reindeer? Or will they be thanking you for giving them the information they actually need to have informative conversations with their prospects?
Take what you can from the following Dr. Seuss quote and apply it, remember… a Channel Partner is for life, not just for Christmas
If you want to discuss your channel engagement strategy, contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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