Episode 12 - Engaging Partners
Convey Channel MicroCast
Sales partners expect more from their providers these days but as we all know there many complexities to building a successful channel strategy. Providers that are winning the channel game have adopted agile and innovative solutions to control their message, push their sales strategy, and provide the right tools, all while responding to constant change in their business and in the marketplace.
Nowhere is the old phrase, “out of sight, out of mind” more true than in the channel. So many channel programs rely too heavily on face to face encounters at trade shows, regional events or sponsorships, but forget the fact that when the event is over and the partner is on the way home, most of the information they learned is already on its way out the window. Having a digital strategy to reinforce the message and stay in front of partners even when you are not with them is essential to staying top of mindshare.
Mindshare is simply the amount of attention you get from your partner network. When a sales opportunity presents itself, are partners thinking of your company first? Keep in mind that your products aren’t the only ones they’re marketing and selling in our crowded telco and cloud space. Your channel program can only have so much to say about the quality, price, and delivery of the products, but you can separate yourself from the competition by winning the mindshare battle with your partners.
Here are some general best practices that you should follow when you want partners to notice you and be the first thing they think about when they are in front of a customer.
First, be clear about what makes you unique in the marketplace. Is it your market niche? Exceptional service? Highly targeted products and services? Make this value proposition simple and easy to remember. Here is an example in a statement that’s clear, “We provide HIPAA compliant cloud hosting to healthcare.”
Second, keep the messages coming.
A one-time advertising blitz can get your message out quickly to a large number of partners, but staying top of mindshare requires consistent delivery of messaging over time. Keep it coming.
Third, make sure partners know it’s you.
Everything from your customer literature to your e-newsletters should have consistent messaging and similar look and feel. One brand, one message.
Fourth, use a balanced approach.
Stay in front of your audience using multiple channels over time. Awareness is based on repetition.
And last, provide information that is useful.
Frequency doesn’t have to mean being annoying. Partners should perceive you as a provider of useful information rather than an intrusive pest. Communicate frequently but give your partners genuine value each time.
Having a digital strategy that leverages automation allows a channel program to be clear about who they are, have consistent branding, keep the messages coming, and make sure the information is useful. Let’s see how you can accomplish all of those goals using Convey’s technology.
Start by defining the type of partner you want, the type of customer you want them to pursue and use technology to get your point across.
At Convey, we see that many channel programs trying to be all things to all partners. We have over 20,000 sales partners that use our portals to get information on providers but in reality, only a fraction of those partners will affiliate with you. If a program tries to go “wide” they will end up quoting lots of deals, rejecting many of them because they just aren’t viable, and driving the partner away because they become frustrated.
There are digital strategies inside of our Convey programs for providers to define the type of partner they really want to work with and the ideal customer profile they want them to pursue. In our Convey Channel program providers get a portion of a master agent portal called a catalog where content is added on a centralized site to be distributed to over 40 master agents. Or providers can own one of our custom portals and use them to educate partners
Here are some digital strategies that work inside of our portals to define the ideal partner and customer profile:
- Add banners with taglines that clarify your ideal partner or market, then link the partner to a call to action to either learn more, join your program, or refer a deal.
- Create web pages, case studies or success stories that profile vertical markets that you are strongest in and customer wins.
- Consider having an elite partner program and invite partners that meet your criteria to express interest in joining by having an automated application process.
Use the automation in our portals to keep the message coming.
There is no excuse to not keep in constant contact with your partners. Make sure you are keeping them in the loop about current products, training opportunities, changes in prices, upcoming promotions and spiffs, or key events in your business. If you want to leave your channel partner unhappy, just ensure that they’re the last to know about major changes to your services, company or channel program.
Convey’s partner portals make keeping in constant contact easy and automated. Here are some communication strategies and how our portals make them easy:
- Partners need to be reminded to keep coming back to the portal. Our system tracks their login history and reminds them to come back if they’ve been idle too long. Portals automatically notifies partners when they have a lead, a commission statement, or an action they need to take.
- Portals have discussion forums for partners to exchange ideas and ask questions of you and each other. The technology recaps those conversations, sends out a daily discussion digest and invites partners to come back and join the conversation.
- Add new content, a promotion or spiff, or an upcoming webinar and highlight those new developments in an automated newsletter. The system pulls from the newest items, highlights them and links the partner to come back to the portal to take a look.
- Partners can opt in to receive text messages from the portal to remind them about events or other action items. Statistics will tell you that text messages are opened 97% of the time and read within 90 seconds of getting them.
Convey’s portals automate the way you reach out to partners to keep the messages coming and draw them back into the portal for more.
Try different techniques that promote engagement and calls to action
In today’s digital world, you have to assume that people need to see the same message multiple times, presented in different ways that appeal to the way they process information.
- Some people are analytical and like to read, so giving them white papers, case studies and product details will appeal to that type of partner.
- Some partners are visual, so big bold graphics in banners and pages or in our portal home page feature boxes are the shiny object that attracts their attention and motivates them to click and explore
- Some partners learn by experience, so having webinars to let them hear from the experts makes sense. Discussion forums to exchange ideas in real time may be very appealing to an experiential learner.
Use reports in our portal to analyze what partners look at and do more of what’s working and less of what’s not.
Every time a partner logs into our portals, visits one of your content catalogs, views or downloads a post or navigates around your portal, we record that event. You can pull a member activity report to get an overview of the most popular locations and posts or an event report to see who registers for a webinar and then look at a specific partner to see who is the most active and engaged.
We know through our experience that partners visit case studies, battle cards and promotions and spiffs more often than anything else, but your portal will give you all the detail you need to understand what partners really care about.
Being top of mindshare is critical in a crowded channel marketplace. If partners aren’t getting your message consistently, they will undoubtedly think about your competitors. We live in a world of digital engagement that requires constant reinforcement and no channel program can keep up with that type of demand unless they use automation to make it happen. Our portals are designed to help you win the minds and hearts of your partners, do it efficiently with automation and not break the channel budget in the process.