The Channel Meet Up 2018 – what we learned

Posted by Dan Kelly

This October’s UK Channel Meet Up event opened with an intro from all the sponsors in which we all conveyed a common goal: to help vendors better engage with partners.

The thing that unifies companies like us is that we all want to help businesses to increase engagement, grow their pipeline, optimise market development fund (MDF) spending and, ultimately, track and deliver ROI.

The biannual event, now in its third year, is for channel marketers who want a fresh perspective on business-to-business-to-business processes. As well as us, CR Worldwide, the October event heard from companies Twogether, Impartner, E2Open, and new sponsor Channeliser, on how our tools are enabling, simplifying and enhancing vendors and partners to do better business both in the UK and globally.

Discussing channel marketing tools

During the event, we discussed, in roundtables, some vendor approaches to the challenges of engaging partners. Whether they are distributors or resellers, we thought about what works, what can be improved upon and what needs to change to succeed.

Despite our mutual synergies, in the most part, we talked about our solutions in isolation. These included:

  • Marketing concierge – a service that utilises MDF to help partners access collateral and demand generation activities
  • Partner portal – a hub that enables vendors to on-board partners quickly and easily. This provides them with product and service information comms, and lets them log opportunities and track sales
  • End-to-end MDF and rebate management – automated, secure and trackable business level incentive programmes
  • Social integration – an add-on to your existing solution, bringing social selling and live comms into your offering
  • Channel incentive platforms – easy to implement, use and mange. Rewards, performance tracking and incentive goal setting, and sales enablement, all in one dashboard that integrates with your other partner platforms

We are CR Worldwide

Brands of all types trust us with their Channel Incentives

See how our incentive programmes can help your business

Considering a new view: business rewards

On our tables, we also talked about integrating business rewards into incentive offerings and the future of incentive programmes.

Business rewards are a way of offering acknowledgement to partners through more professionally focused ‘prizes’. This could include new office furniture, training, branded merchandise, or team-building days.

But why would you do this rather than give exciting tech, holidays and cash rewards to sales people?

It’s a question that our table participants were more than keen to debate and discuss. The idea to discuss the topic of replacing traditional sales targeted rewards with business-focussed ones came off the back of a recent meeting with one of the Channel Meet Up long-standing attendees.

The ever-constant background of compliance, increased control over access to sales people, and the dreaded benefits in kind tax requirements are often throwing dark clouds of concern over incentive programmes. There is an argument for aiming all incentive programmes at a partner rather than their sales team individuals. Partners usually receive incentives via cash rebates and marketing funds, like MDF, so cash is pretty much covered in the normal partner-vendor-contractual relationship.

With this in mind, why not offer them something over and above that will help their business grow and, in turn, help your business grow?

There was definitely a feeling that this approach may indeed work at a Tier 1 level partner, especially if the partner is seeking to restrict access to their sales teams in order to control their own business objectives. However, I think that the consensus from vendors and partners was that the real benefit of an incentive programme investment can, on the whole, only be seen when you engage directly with the sales people. This is where sales are won and lost and where driving the right behaviours is most important.

Talking about best practice incentive programmes

The discussions continued onto the best practice methods for incentive and reward programmes, and how they are evolving to match future needs of the vendor through a partner ecosystem – a system of record that displays all the partnerships a company has created.

We discussed the need for automation, clear tracking and compliance requirements and, most importantly, being aligned to the partner business goals – building a plan together that has mutual benefit.

Seven of the highlights our table participants felt are most important included:

  1. Ask the partner what they want – how, when and to whom should an incentive be targeted.
  1. Align and agree a mutually beneficial incentive plan – document it and sign it off, so roles, responsibilities and expected outcomes are clear. If there’s a clear business benefit to the partner, they will find a way to make it happen.
  1. Partners want incentives – but they want control and input into how and when they happen.
  1. Business-focussed rewards work – in some cases, especially for Tier 1 level partners.
  1. Sales target incentives are the most impactful – but choose rewards that are either personalised, offer the recipient choice, or that are ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences.
  1. Fail to plan, plan to fail – incentives fail when they are created as a knee-jerk reaction. Short turn-arounds and just ‘chucking cash at a problem’ doesn’t work. Agree a clear definitive plan, focussed on what you and your partner want the results to be. Give yourself time to communicate to the target audience effectively, get sign off on T&C’s, build in an element of fun, and agree a rewards mechanic that motivates the audience. Then ensure you can track the data, build in some product enablement, and remember to keep communicating if you want to gain that mindshare.
  2. Successful incentive programmes create loyal ambassadors – within the partner sales community, which are critical to future growth. Ensure you keep your brand’s value front of mind with these powerful influencers.

Leaving the meet up feeling enthused

Thinking about that one common goal – to help channel vendors to better engage with partners – considering all the great discussion and sponsor offerings, I left The Channel Meet Up feeling enthused. The gap between vendors and partners is not that big after all. Everyone wants the same thing:

  • Sustainable profitable growth delivered through trust
  • Understanding and focussed partnerships.

Automation and digital transformation are key to managing and executing these joint marketing efforts and delivering mutual benefit.

As sponsors, we are a group of like-minded solution providers with integrated technology platforms. Our approaches can also develop channel sales and partner engagement tools so that they offer a one-stop-shop solution. What if vendors and partners had a system which meant one log-in to a portal? One that enabled you to offer:

  • Opportunity management and deal registration linked to your PRM and CRM
  • Marketing communications/sales collateral
  • Concierge marketing services
  • Social media
  • Sales enablement and learning
  • Personalised incentives and rewards for your partners’ businesses, teams and sales agents
  • MDF and rebate management

It doesn’t feel as though we are a million miles away from making this happen. Perhaps it’s time for us to start optimising our offering by integrating with our partners and enabling our customers to maximise the potential of their reseller and distributor offering?

Helping your channel sales to better engage with your partners

As the discussions at this year’s Channel Meet Up suggest, finding a channels sales incentive scheme that works for you and your partners is important to get the most out of your teams.

Incentive schemes are the perfect way to improve engagement with your brand and drive a consistent level of high performance, not only internally but with your channel sales partners too. The right channel incentive can reap major rewards for your business – keeping your brand front of mind and encouraging your sales channel teams to prioritise your products and services above others.

At Corporate Rewards, we can quickly design, launch and optimise effective channel incentive programmes that drive increased sales for your business. Our incentive schemes are:

Easy to implement — Our turnkey MyRewards platform can be tailored to suit your business requirements, meaning you can be ready to implement an incentive scheme quickly.

Easy to use — Our platforms are made to be quick to launch and easy to understand, so your sales channel teams can meet their targets, view potential rewards, and chart their progress.

Easy to manage — Our programmes offer real-time reporting in participation with ROI and budget management. This makes managing, organising, tracking performance and assessing the value of your channel incentive schemes simple.

We’d love to excite, engage and inspire your sales channel partners with our channel incentive schemes. To speak to a member of our award-winning team:

As a founding partner of CR Worldwide in 2002, Dan helped develop the company from a start-up business into the multi-million global brand it is today.