Be the Support Your Customers Need: Investing in Your B2B Partners Amidst Coronavirus

by: Mark Herbert March 25, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused uncertainty across all sales channels. Whether products have skyrocketed into high demand or production has begun to slow, each of your B2B partners is feeling the disruptive effects. In seasons of hardship, nature shows that we are stronger together. Eventually, the storm passes.

Times of uncertainty are when its most important to invest in your B2B partnerships – not only to help each other through, but to propel each other to even greater success when the sun comes out again.

Invest in Your B2B Partners by Taking Care of Your Employees

Before you can be an asset to your B2B partners, you have to make sure you are focusing on the safety and well-being of your own staff. Afterall, they are a major part of the value proposition you offer to your partners. As many companies have begun working remote, it’s important to keep employees motivated, engaged, and informed. Finding new ways to communicate online – both internally and with your channel – helps keep your partners’ interests front and center.

Maintaining Transparency and Keeping Up Communication

Right now, your partners are dealing with logistical challenges and issues that require their immediate attention. Understanding your partners’ hardships is essential to providing what they need. Remain sensitive to their pain-points, while keeping communication channels open. Specify exactly what you are doing to prioritize their well-being, and ask where you can be of help.

Be honest about your own logistical challenges and manage expectations well in advance of possible delays. Doing so will help minimize disruptions and help you support your B2B partners in overcoming these challenges.

Embracing Technology and Moving Meetings Online

In-person meetings are the foundation of many B2B sales. However, right now that’s just not possible. Now is the time to explore using digital channels to communicate with your B2B partners, from video conferences to chat. Chances are, you’ll find that these communication platforms will improve efficiency and partner relationships even after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Opening new channels for instant, face-to-face communication with your partners improves your ability to make personal connections and share information – even if it’s through a screen.

Find Ways to Replace Tradeshows and Conferences

Cancelled conferences and tradeshow events not only inhibit the promotion of your products, it leaves your B2B partners with a little more time on their hands. Consider repurposing this time by live-streaming or recording your trade show material and letting your B2B partners access it on their own time. This could be as simple as inviting your partners to a Facebook livestream, or you can create elaborate virtual tradeshows through companies like 6Connex and Communique Conferencing.

You can also repackage your training or product information into online quizzes or trivia, so that your brand stays top-of-mind and your partners have the knowledge they need to perform their role. Digital education platforms are an effective way to simultaneously feature your products and provide your B2B partners with an engaging (and welcome!) distraction.

Adjust KPIs and Structure Sales Promotions Around What Your B2B Partners Need

Coronavirus has drastically shifted our priorities. Be sensitive to the fact that some of your partners won’t be able to be as productive right now. If you run a channel incentive or B2B partner loyalty program, make sure to restructure your KPIs so that your partners are able to stay invested in your program and won’t be unfairly penalized for factors beyond their control.

For instance, if you typically reward your B2B partners based on purchase volume, you might want to lower your thresholds or shift to rewarding them based on providing referrals or exchanging sales data. Give your partners a chance to succeed and, chances are, they will.

Additionally, try to find ways to structure your sales promotions around what your B2B partners need. For instance, offer rebates or bonus points on the products they buy or sell most often, in order to relieve financial strain and create brand preference.

While this type of strategy might limit your short-term profitability, think of it as a calculated investment that will pay dividends down the road. Being there for your B2B partners now, and showing them that you’re empathetic to their challenges, will build brand loyalty that can last a lifetime and open up opportunities for massive growth when the economy stabilizes.

Offer Value-Adds That Will Help your B2B Partners in Meaningful Ways

Likewise, you’ll want to make sure that you tailor your partner rewards to include items that will help your B2B partners in meaningful ways. During times of economic uncertainty, debit card rewards or gift card incentives are a great way to lessen financial stress for your partners and enhance your program’s value proposition.  Or, if you offer points-based merchandise rewards, make sure your catalog includes an array of both practical items, as well as entertainment items. Both of these categories will be important to your participants’ lifestyle in the coming months.

Additionally, with the majority of transactions occurring remotely, rewards create a personalized, emotional impact that can be tough to achieve in these circumstances.

Don’t Cancel, Reschedule

If your business uses an incentive travel program, you are forfeiting both your financial investment and relational investment in your channel partners by simply canceling. Honoring your promises to people who have earned that reward shows brand character and gives your B2B partners something to look forward to once things settle down. If you need help re-negotiating your contract or brainstorming alternative reward options, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to help.

Be the Brand Your B2B Partners Can Count On

By strategically using your marketing spend when others are scared and limiting expenditure, you have the chance to capture market share and set yourself up for long-term success. Regardless of what the future holds, investing in your B2B partners when times are bad will pay dividends in the future. The business that provides stability and creative solutions during this disruption will be the brand partners trust and choose to work with when things stabilize.

Through solidarity we achieve stability, and Incentive Solutions wants you to know that we have your back. If you need help reformulating your B2B strategy or overhauling your B2B software platforms, we are offering free consultations. Stay well, and we look forward to hearing from you.

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About Mark Herbert

Mark Herbert is President and CEO of Incentive Solutions. He has more than 30 years of experience overseeing business operations within the incentives industry, helping companies increase channel sales, build customer loyalty, motivate employees, and grow their business.