Creating an effective channel partner program takes research, planning, and focused execution. Fortunately, a number of technology research firms provide the needed information for the research and development phase. Recently, OneStopClick published two executive summary reports analyzing channel recruitment protocols, along with channel program initiatives.
Vendors in the information technology (IT) field seeking to increase their channel partners should carefully investigate potential partners to find the best candidates for their market. Also, realizing the different nature of partners is important. Tactical partners are those that will meet short-term, first year goals, while strategic partners are those that will maintain growth for the long haul.
Another area that vendors should pay attention to is the different characteristics of distribution partners. Value-added distributors (VADs) have the added skills to offer technical support for intricate sales procedures. Regular distributors are more apt to hand simple sales order processes.
Other data from the OneStopClick reports advise businesses to take advantage of “a team of experienced channel professionals” to market the channel program successfully. These experts have partner and market insights, along with needed connections within the target market. Their reach of potential partners is much broader than the vendor’s in that they have their own contact lists to draw from.
When choosing channel professionals, it’s a good idea to look locally. Local experts will be much more familiar with the cultures of the local market. This type of knowledge will help create an easier transition of the vendor’s merchandise into the focused markets, as well as create and maintain integrity with program partners.
Along with designing an effective channel program, incentive strategies should be established. These incentives need to offer the selected partners motivation to accept, promote, and sell the vendor’s products. Without motivating incentives partners will not be enthused; this may hinder a partner’s willingness to offer a product.
While in some instances the more on board, the better is not necessarily the case with signing on channel partners at the beginning of a program – it may not fulfill the desired objective. The more effective strategy for IT vendors to take is to cautiously choose partners that are motivated and willing to put forth time and effort into the partnership, members that will grow and maintain the partnership through training, marketing, and sales. This is the better ‘program path’ to take for the long haul.
The reports also reveal that vendors should design simple partner programs; this is especially important when initiating a program in a new country or multiple countries. And, members should be afforded numerous opportunities to offer feedback; having regular reviews will help in this area.
Taking professional consulting advice from two firms, along with partner feedback analysis, Dell recently boosted its worldwide PartnerDirect program. Among the enhancements, the firm added two tiers to its program: preferred and premier. The tiers are based on members’ “commitment, training, and certifications.”