Thriving in the New Abnormal

Posted by Mike Ryan

Let’s face it, there is very little that’s truly normal about doing business in today’s pandemic-dominated world. But should the abnormal conditions we all face alter how we approach channel programs? Or, has COVID-19 instead underscored the importance of focusing on fundamentals?

The answers may surprise you.

During the recently held online series of virtual events, The Channel Meet Up (co-founded by CR Worldwide) smart and perceptive panel—made  up of industry leaders like Kathy Contreras (Forrester), Serge Hoffmann (SAP), Megan Ehrhardt, (HP, Inc.), Lisa Stifleman-Perry, (Splunk) Roelof Holwerda (Dell Technologies), and skillfully facilitated by Peter Thomas (E2open)—suggested  that the new business environment actually demands that our programs emphasize some of the very tactics that should be second nature to us all.

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What is driving that point of view? Among other things, our collective attention spans are overwhelmed as we move from one challenge to another. Add up all the personal and family demands brought on by the virus, and it’s easy to understand why anything new—including programs introduced by channel partners—are competing for mindshare.

It is incumbent that any initiative launched right now (frankly, at any time) must be:
1/ easy to use, 2/ simple and relevant and 3/ aligned with the goals you and your partners both have.

It’s the only way they will be fully embraced and go on to produce the type of profits everyone involved hopes for.

1) Easy to use

Want to frustrate a potential partner and leave money on the table? Then invite them to participate in a sales initiative that is difficult to understand. By making it straightforward and to the point, however, participation rates will skyrocket.

Usability not only translates to better adoption (a stat every sponsor hopes for), it makes programs less expensive to support.  Planners do not need to devote time and energy to explaining how something works.  Instead, they build engaged audiences while lightening their communication and customer service loads.

And when you consider that people tend to be very selective about the subject matter they engage in, having a communication strategy that’s focused on A/ what needs to get done, B/ why its important (including the benefit to both parties) and C/ what the rep or principal will get when they achieve that goal, is definitely the smarter play.

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2) Keeping things simple and relevant

The initial experience you provide channel partners can be the difference between optimizing their ability to contribute profitably or losing their involvement altogether. So, when it comes to creating that ideal formula, keep two things in mind: simplicity and relevance.

It is important to understand your channel partner’s needs, their expectations and their abilities. From that starting point, creating program components that register as “simple” and “about me” can be the by-product of personalizing everything that comes into play. Consider this: When targeted partners see their capabilities in the goals you have set for them then they become more motivated by yours (and not someone else’s) incentive offerings. Put another way: They are more likely to target the revenue hurdles you have asked them to attack—and do so over any other offering—when they feel those levels are both meaningful and within reach.

When performance goals are conveyed in a manner that is specific and relevant, they tend to be more enthusiastically bought-into.  But beyond the motivational impact, there is a business benefit to all of this. A program’s—no call it an investment here because, after all, it is—an investment’s performance becomes more predictable for the participant and more profitable for the sponsor.

Simplicity and personalization should be baked into all incentive initiatives from objective setting; to sales tracking to other forms of data gathering and display. Those two ingredients make everything about your campaign more engaging and more effective and they drive the type of returns that sponsoring companies need while aligning goals along the way.

3) Alignment with mutual goals

Getting partners to do what you need them to do is a direct result of gaining (and keeping) their attention. As you design your programs ask yourself: What does any partner want from their interaction with me? Certainly, they do not want to be bombarded with broad messages. No, if you want to strengthen the partner’s experience (and their alignment) with your brand, you should be taking as much of a partner-by-partner approach as possible.

You also need to ask yourself: What is the perceived value of what I am offering? What is the motivational impact and the supporting structure I bring to the table and how does it all align with the partner’s ability to deliver? How will the goals and measures that I ask them to hit translate into an economic advantage for all involved?

Now that you have strengthened your proposition’s “pull” you will need to think about the resources you will bring to bear. Are they responsive to your design needs? Do they allow you to reach and motivate participants in a personal manner? Is the program you propose intuitive in its navigation and relevant in its purpose? Is the presentation of information clear and timely? And of course, all these factors need to be evaluated against the biggest question of them all: Are you (and by extension the vendor you choose to work with) easy to do business with?

If the answers are “no” you are losing more than potential participants, you are losing opportunity in the form of real profits.  If the answers are “yes” then congratulations, you are well positioned to do the things one needs to do to thrive in the new abnormal.

Join us at the next Channel Meet Up virtual event on July 29th 2020. Visit the CR hosted breakout room: Ready, Steady, SaaS: The secrets to energising and enabling your Partner Sales Teams. Sign up here for your free place.

To discuss how we can help build and implement new channel sales and marketing initiatives within your business, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented reward solutions in these businesses.

A 25 year industry veteran, Mike is responsible for expanding CR Worldwide’s business portfolio in the United States.