Episode 10 - Automating and Upgrading Your Channel Program
Convey Channel MicroCast
Automating and Upgrading Your Channel Program
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.
Because Convey lives in the world of automation and digital experiences, we are going to overview several key areas that providers and master agents can execute in an efficient and automated way to distinguish their channel programs in order to attract more partners and keep them engaged. In subsequent MicroCast sessions, we’ll take each individual segment and devote our podcast to the steps you can take to turn one of these concepts into reality using technology as the backbone to execute the strategy.
Technology companies should use technology to make it convenient for partners to get product information, to learn how to sell services, to see real life examples of success, and to understand how they fit into your strategy. If partners find it hard to get information or think it’s difficult to sell your solutions, they will switch to selling other solutions that are easier.
Digital strategy #1 is to automate how you find, deliver and manage sales leads for partners.
Ask any master agent what partners would like most and most of them will answer, “a good old-fashioned sales lead”. But providers struggle with the time and expense of finding the lead, the best way to distribute those leads to partners, and how to make sure that the leads they deliver are not wasted.
When it comes to finding the lead, you have many options rooted in technology. Your organization can engage in content marketing, social media outreach, or an activity called data scraping. Freelancers have technology that scours the web to generate leads based on your criteria that will generate a custom lead list that is at a fraction of the cost and much higher quality than most lead lists you might purchase.
When it comes to distributing and managing those leads, Convey has options inside its partner relationship management system to add prospects to a sales partner’s dashboard, set the rules around how they accept the lead and a feedback loop to ensure they are following up.
Digital strategy number 2 is to use technology to stay top of mindshare by continually engaging partners.
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.
You might still print those 4-color marketing slicks, but partners would rather get your information online. If you don’t have a LinkedIn page or up-to-date profiles for your people, you look unprofessional and disorganized. And if you’re using your corporate website to distribute information to both partners and customers, then partners are missing valuable things they need to do business.
Digital strategy number 3 is provide tools for your partners that automate how they engage and market to their prospects and customers.
One of the biggest challenges in providing tools to your partners is that partners have all levels of marketing expertise. Some partners may be better at marketing than their vendors, but most have limited capabilities, and some have none at all. Most partners have a deep desire to do good marketing, even if they don’t know how, have the time and lack the infrastructure to do it. That’s where technology proves most valuable for vendors to control the message, automate how they get tools in partner’s hands, and track if those tools are effective.
As an example, Convey built two tools for partner marketing, one simple and one robust that use automation to help partners market. Add content in one of our catalogs or on partner portals and allow partners to share by email. When they touch the button, their email client automatically opens with a link to a landing page to view the content. The more complex tool, built into partner portals, lets marketing create a multi-email campaign, deliver it to partner dashboards and has enough automation so that all partners need to do is add their list and hit the go button.
Digital strategy number 4 is to use automation to onboard, train and manage partners.
If you want partners to affiliate with you, the thing that will slow your program to a crawl is the manual processes you might engage in to have them sign up, understand the partner agreement terms, be trained on services, know the right contacts, and be managed on an-ongoing basis. Although I’m biased, any program that wants to grow and thrive that does not have a partner portal is condemning itself to use staff to do administrative things that technology can manage better vs. spending time bringing partners or revenue in the door.
Portals let partners automatically apply to affiliate with you, collect their information and add it to a CRM that keep track of them. They can hold partner agreements and keep them available for the partner to review at any time. Training should be on demand and online with modules that include videos, courses, or product information. Training webinars should be recorded and posted for anyone who missed the live event. Portals can automate delivery of commission statements, sales leads or important messages and notifications. And partners should be able to update their information online so you can learn more about them.
One of the most dangerous phrases in business, and in the channel, is “But we’ve always done it that way!”. Even if the current tactics you are using to engage partners is working, it doesn’t mean that it always will work or that you shouldn’t attempt to evolve and stay current. There are so many examples where businesses fail to see how their landscape was changing putting them at risk. What about Kodak? Technology replaced the 35mm camera film. Or how about answering machines replaced by voice mail and hosted voice?
In the next 4 episodes of our MicroCast focused on creating a digital strategy for your channel, we’ll give you some ideas of how to use technology to find, manage and distribute sales leads to partners, to keep partners engaged and you top of mindshare, to provide automated marketing tools to help partners sell and to automate processes to onboard and manage partners.