Does Your Channel Program Meet Partners' Needs?

By Howard M. Cohen  |  Print this article Print
partner program, customer needs

ANALYSIS: You know what you need from your channel partners, but do you really know what they need from you? Does your channel program fill those needs?

Controlling Channel Conflict

Vendors who also sell directly to customers have varying approaches to managing channel conflict. In some cases, the direct representative receives equal or even superior compensation if they work with a partner. This makes it preferable for them to do so, which is well-received by the channel.

To control conflict between partners, some vendors introduce "deal registration" programs with varying success. Partners may inform the vendor that they are working with a specific customer and enjoy some period of some level of exclusivity in support, pricing or other benefits from the vendor.  These programs vary widely as do channel partner reactions to them.

What Today's Channel Partners Need Most

One channel marketer recounts a conversation with a very large vendor who asked why their channel partners were not using the marketing materials they provided. After interviewing many partners, he reported back to them, explaining, "The channel partners almost unanimously agreed that they didn't use your materials because they're all about you."

To clarify, this marketer explained that the channel partners interviewed all complained that they didn't want to be sending out the same information that their competitors were using and this vendor, like many, didn't allow for much customization. When asked why they felt they needed more customization, the response was consistent.

Today's channel partner is more about what they can do for a customer than what they can sell them—and more about their services than about products. They seek marketing support that helps them market beyond what the products are; they want to market what they can help their customers do with the products, as well as how they can improve efficiency and productivity, how they can reduce costs and increase revenues and how they can implement the vendor's products innovatively to achieve more.

Channel vendors who recognize this realize the most important element of being a partner—that it's a two-way street. If they help their channel partners increase the sale of their own services related to the products they want them to sell, everybody wins. The customer gets improved profitability, the partner gets increased sales of their services and more profitability, and the vendor's products get sold, which increases their profitability. A successful channel program is one that is mutually profitable for all involved.

Howard M. Cohen is a 30-plus-year IT industry veteran who continues his commitment to the channel as a columnist and consultant.