It's more than just giving them the marketing and technical support they need.
By Liz Lemarchand, MediaDev
As with most important strategic business decisions, channel partner networks have their advantages and inconveniences. Mostly the benefits outweigh the risks, but it’s important to be aware of them when you’re looking to recruit new ones.
For those of you that need a little background, a channel partner is a company that partners with a software or hardware provider to help market and sell those technologies. (This is usually done through a co-branding relationship). Channel partners may include: value-added resellers (VARs), managed service providers (MSPs), distributors, retailers, consultants, system integrators (SIs) and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). Channel partnerships provide opportunity for companies to promote products or services and in exchange, channel partners receive access to marketing materials, discounts, technical support, co-funded lead generation initiatives and other tools to help them sell.
The right channel partners have important market knowledge, distribution channels, sales expertise and customer relationships that will help increase your company’s sales. But, managing these relationships can be complex and time consuming. Finding ways to improve the collaboration is clearly a necessary factor for success.
Here are some tips to improve your channel partner strategy:
In order for your partners to be successful, you need to be involved with them at all levels, and build relationships that last. Collaboration is critical to ensure that shared goals are met. This can take many forms, but open communication, the sharing of best practices and creating niche marketing content can help them overcome challenges.
When problems arise, it is important for you to engage with your channel partner to solve them; you need the right business processes and technology in place to create a positive environment to encourage them to seek you out for support.
Help them help you
Don’t let your channel partners take on the brunt of selling alone — help them by giving them access to content such as case studies, e-books, white papers and other marketing material that can be used to educate potential end-users.
Co-funded lead generation campaigns to support channel partners with potential business opportunities is a great way to show them that you are engaged and committed to their success. Make sure you align the deliverables with their expectations (and vice-versa) so that there is no confusion. A clear call-to-action and timely follow-up is a must.
Create local presence
The channel eases the pains of having to scale up resources in-house and allows for local presence despite the fact that you may not have a physical office in the countries your partners are targeting. Your channel can provide customers with support locally, and allows them the opportunity to gain a strong understanding of what a customer needs in an ever-changing tech landscape. While it gives you access to markets that were previously unreachable, don’t neglect the fact that local content is a must (especially in EMEA). Providing your channel with resources in local languages will help them have a more personalized outreach in local markets.
Find partners that complement each other
One of the big no-no’s of channel partnerships is (accidentally) putting them in competition with one another. Having too many partners with similar offerings covering the same markets will only lead to frustration and dissatisfaction on both sides of the partnership spectrum. It’s better to segment your channel so that the partners you have complement one another — having channel partners that specialize in certain areas can help add value to the relationship. Targeted partner recruitment is a good way for you to find the exact type of resellers you need to enhance your channel.
Leveraging the channel is the best way for any IT vendor to grow revenue. An effective and efficient interaction between your company and your partners will help you: