CEO & President Mark Herbert Provides Tips on Supporting Your B2B Partners Amidst Coronavirus

by: Nichole Gunn April 22, 2020

The B2B Channel is one of the many industries impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Herbert, CEO and President at Incentive Solutions Inc., believes that together, we can overcome.  Encouraging businesses to respond instead of reacting, Mark provides tips on maintaining brand character, encouraging positivity, and keeping your customer at the heart of every decision. For the full message, check out Mark’s video below.

Transcription:

Hello, Mark Herbert here at Incentive Solutions. I hope you’re getting used to this whole “work-from-home” normal we seem to find ourselves in, and that you’re doing well.  Hopefully, you’re celebrating the small successes, like saving time on shaving. 

Anyway, depending on how your business has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the instinct for most companies is to just simply survive.  Budget cuts, spend less on marketing, things like that.  The reality is that all the members of the B2B channel are facing challenges, and while any business can react, why not take this opportunity to respond with a plan that utilizes the strength of your channel partners in an effort to overcome.  

The old adage of securing your own oxygen mask before you help others plays well today too. You need to make sure that your marketing team is able to support your B2B partners at this time.  Make sure they’re armed with the necessary tools to continue business remotely and have access to frequent updates about any business changes that may affect you and your business partners. This is most important at this time.   

One of the very first things in your plan should be to figure out how to maintain transparency and communications.  Honesty and transparency are a valuable form of currency in these times. Begin by pinpointing exactly how the pandemic is affecting your business strategy and communicate this to your partners as quickly as you can.  This will help set expectations and minimize disruptions. 

Make space for your partners to be able to communicate their issues to you, and ask where you can be of help.  By understanding the hardships of your channel partners, you will be better equipped to find solutions that benefit both of you. People remember those who help them in times of hardship, so remember that. 

We have to find a way to embrace time, technology, and finding alternate routes to communicating with each other. Canceled conferences and in-person meetings have major implications for manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors at this time.  They rely on these types of events as major parts of their sales and marketing strategy.  

In the article by Luke that was posted on our blog on April 9th, he refers to a 2020 survey from Demand Gen Report that states 53% of US B2B Marketers consider in-person events and trade shows as an effective channel for driving sales and generating leads. However, in our current state, you should consider how to repurpose your events by livestreaming or recording your material that you would usually present either in-person or at those events, and let your business 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 shows that can potentially reach a larger audience. 

You can also use this time to engage your channel partners in education material regarding your product.  Consider seeking out digital education platforms that provide trivia or online quizzes to keep your brand top of mind and spark some joy in all of this craziness.  

As part of your plan, you may need to figure out ways to offer additional value adds that can help your business partners in meaningful ways. You need to remain sensitive to the fact that your partner’s priorities might have shifted, and they might not be as productive right now. This is especially important if you run a channel incentive or loyalty program.  If you can find ways to stimulate the channel. It will have a positive impact on all parties.  

Think about structuring a sales promotion around products that are in higher demand right now, or provide rewards based on referrals, or exchanging of sales data. 

Try not to be too focused on short-term profitability of each of these. A margin of loss is unavoidable in these circumstances, but the margin for potential gain is exponential when it comes to the power of stronger partner relationships and brand loyalty long term.  

 Invest in the use of your loyalty program to boost partner morale in this time of economic uncertainty. Sometimes changing a reward option, like debit card rewards or gift card rewards, are great ways to lessen financial stress for your partners at this point and can enhance your program’s value proposition. Alternatively, if you offer points-based merchandise rewards, consider promoting items in your merchandise catalog that promote practical items, as well as home or family entertainment options that might enhance the remote living experience.  

To boil it down, a true connection is tough to achieve in remote settings- we all know that. But by providing rewarding opportunities when so much is currently restricted creates a personalized emotional impact that your partners will remember.  

All of this is to help set your brand up to be one that your B2B partners can count on. By strategically using your marketing spend when others are actively limiting expenditure, you have the chance to capture market share and set yourself up for long term success. 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. We are stronger together. 

Thanks, and stay safe. 


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.