7 Smart Ways to Use Channel Incentives in B2B Marketing

by: Nichole Gunn November 19, 2018

There are many ways to use channel incentives in B2B marketing. Especially if you want to build better relationships with your distributors, you can start with a channel partner incentive program. When done well, channel incentives go hand-in-hand with your channel sales goals and set you apart from your competition. Channel incentives help you build brand loyalty with your channel partners.

Here are seven ways to use channel incentives in B2B marketing strategies.

1. Offer channel incentives to your B2B market collective.

In The B2B Executive Playbook, author Sean Geehan talks about the importance of your market collective. Market collectives are defined as close-knit group of companies or customers with the most influence over your B2B sales. Every member of your market collective should be treated as a VIP channel customer. Why? Because if you're like most B2B companies, you can't afford to lose them.

The traditional ways of keeping your market collective engaged and loyal still work: sharing market insights, supporting their product knowledge, and more. But many companies, including your competitors, have adopted that route. To stand out from the crowd, add extraordinary loyalty rewards to the mix. Loyalty rewards or incentives sweeten the deal between you and your channel partners.

2. Create a customer loyalty program coalition.

There's a world of businesses out there selling products that supplement yours. Partner with them using a customer loyalty program. Doing so has many advantages:

  • You get to split the bill on loyalty program costs.

    Show affiliates what's in it for them, and they may be willing to pitch in on your loyalty program costs.

  • You can sweeten your program's value proposition.

    When it comes to loyalty programs, the more the merrier. Multiple program sponsors mean more opportunities to earn rewards, increasing the program's value.

  • You improve your customer retention rate

    When you partner with companies who already offer value or convenience to your customers, you send the message that you care about making their lives a little easier. As value of your program increases, the more your participants trust and value it.

  • You boost customer acquisition.

    As your build your network of affiliates, you could acquire more business from your coalition’s customer base.

A coalition loyalty program solidifies your reputation with your market-base and adds value for your customers. This earns trust and brand loyalty, which ultimately has a much bigger impact on your success.

3. Promote personal values with your brand values.

Your partners' and customers' values should align with your brand values. A CEB study found that only 14% of B2B customers notice differences between their suppliers’ offerings. In the same study, researchers uncovered something shocking: B2B buyers don't care much about business values. In fact, 42% make business decisions based on personal values such as career advancement, social, emotional and self-image benefits. Only 21% say their decisions are based on business values like the functional benefits of your product.

How can channel incentives help you show your partners and customers your worth? One effective strategy is to promote your brand values in your channel incentive program. But don't stop there. Let the type of incentive rewards you offer reflect your brand values, too. Here are a few examples:

  • Feature charities in your rewards catalog.

    For the do-gooders in your market collective, give them an opportunity to spend digital loyalty reward points on causes they care about.

  • Promote environmental protection.

    Run sales promotions on energy-efficient products and services.

  • Address channel partners directly.

    When you interact with channel partners through your channel incentive or loyalty program, show that you’re all about them. It's simpler than it seems! Use “you” in the program marketing and communications is easy and effective. For example: "Rewards for you", "You’ve almost reached your goal!", or "Here’s what you accomplished today."

It's difficult to be of personal value to channel partners when they don't know what your values are. A channel incentive program is a great addition to your channel marketing strategy. It's a great way to show them what your brand really stands for.

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4. Travel with channel partners on group incentive trips.

What's one of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with channel partners? An incentive trip! Out of all the incentive rewards customers can earn, incentive trips have the most lasting effect. Usually, incentive trips come in two forms: an event or meeting. Either way, you can host a summit in an exotic location exclusive for top partners or customers. During these incentive travel trips, you have the power to forge an experience that’s both fun and educational for everyone. In The B2B Executive Playbook, Sean Geehan recommends all B2B companies host summits with decision-makers in their sales channel:

The payback in terms of driving awareness, positioning the company, building trusting relationships, and boosting sales is substantial. When done correctly, summits deliver benefits for everyone who attends and transform target companies into prospects and prospects into customers.

An Aberdeen Research study backs up Geehan's theory. In their study, researchers at Aberdeen found that 100% of Best in Class companies offered group travel. Even more, 100% also offered company-sponsored events to recognize year-end sales success. Simply put, Best in Class companies engage their customers. Another study, this time by Oxford Economics USA, found that "incentive travel investments yield an ROI of more than $4:$1.," along with increased cash flow and profit.

5. Use incentive rewards to boost sales motivation and high-margin sales.

This is an easy one. When sales reps or your sales channel partners promote your high-margin products, reward them! Offer them debit or gift card rewards for short-term SPIFFs. Doing so turbocharges sales motivation, increasing product sales.

6. Tie warranties, registrations and aftermarket services into your incentive program.

Offer incentive rewards to partners who add on or extend warranties and other similar products when with the end-customer. When you incentivize the process of registering and protecting products, you make supplemental services a normal part of the sale. This also helps your customer. If anything were to ever break or malfunction with their purchase, your brand is there for them.

7. Train channel sales reps on your products.

B2B markets are constantly changing. It's critical to keep sales channel partners aware of new product knowledge, certifications, and safety policies. While it's essential to train channel partners, it's important to train end-customers, too.  The best way to ensure your end-customers are well-educated is to train channel sales reps. Keeping your channel partners and end-customers up-to-date on product knowledge has proven benefits. Namely, benefits in terms of repeat business, increased brand loyalty, and decreased business costs.

In fact, according to a recent Accenture survey, 92% of executives found that effective customer training won them repeat business.

If training is so important, how can you tie in training with channel incentives? Get an incentive program capable of digitizing the training process. Set up online quizzes, surveys and certifications all through your incentive program website, and offer participants reward points for their participation. Trading training for digital reward points motivates channel sales reps to keep learning. This way, they become the product experts you need to educate your end-customers.

Training incentives help you develop agile marketing strategies using their valuable insights and data. But incentive rewards aren’t the only way to draw more channel sales reps to educate themselves. You can also gamify information you want sales reps to learn using leaderboards and games of chance. This gives them a sense of triumph only winning can offer!

With these ways to use channel incentives in B2B marketing, you can engage your partners and end-customers. After all, when they're motivated to learn more and do more with your products, they help set you apart from the competition.

Long gone are the days of trivial rewards masquerading as true channel incentives. Today's channel incentive programs combine creativity, strategic thinking, and cutting-edge channel incentive technology. You can create a powerful B2B sales and marketing tool that meets your unique channel needs.


About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.