Customers today expect more personalized experiences that are highly relevant to their needs. It's no surprise then, that B2B marketers are seeing the channel as the golden path to market in 2022 to sell their products, companies will have to work with partners who can cater to consumers' hyperlocal needs.
In 2019, most companies had 75% of their revenues come through indirect sales. Which has only been increasing. As a channel leader, you probably have goals for how much you want to scale in the coming months – you may even have stretch goals! – and if your growth targets are large enough, achieving them may seem like a huge challenge.
But if you can get your channel ecosystem scale ready, it can be a powerful revenue-generating machine for your company. The good news is that you can leverage your partner ecosystem. So, how can you ensure your channel is ready to take advantage of the momentum from your partners?
Here are five key things you need to focus on if you want to scale your channel.
1. Set a Foundation That Prepares Your Channel for Growth
When the business is small, it’s easy to get away with no documentation. Everyone can just talk to each other and get the information they need to go off and sell. But at a certain point, a company needs infrastructure and standard operating procedures in order to grow quickly and smoothly.
Imagine if you had 3,000 partners and only a thousand of them had contracts. What would happen if the person who brought on the contract-less partners left the company? Would the person taking over know that these partners exist? Are those contract-less partners free to do whatever they wanted with your products?
The lack of structure makes it additionally difficult to manage partners. And if you don’t have standard processes in place, handling each new issue that arises becomes extremely inefficient because the people affected wouldn’t know what’s expected of them, or who to seek help from. This can affect your compliance and audit processes at a later stage too.
This is why it’s so important to have documentation. Setting up a process is one thing, putting it down in writing and ensuring your team has access to it is another. It sounds simple – so simple, that this step is often forgotten – but can be difficult to enforce. Starting with a strong foundation makes it easier for you to progress and make further plans for the channel.
2. Automate Through-Channel Marketing
You may be handling one product or just a few but not your partners. They likely have hundreds of other products to sell – with limited time to do it. If you want them to sell your product, you have to make it simple and easy.
According to Forrester, the next stage in marketing is through-channel marketing automation (TCMA). However, only 50% of tech brands have implemented traditional, organic TCMA and most of them are not fully satisfied with the results.
This isn’t because there’s a problem with TCMA; it’s because the messaging, as well as the processes for developing and distributing this message aren’t simple enough.
Rather than bogging your partners with having to interpret complex product messaging, you can use paid TCMA to create search and advertising campaigns that run for partners automatically. With centralized control, all paid through-channel marketing automation runs with a consistent brand and your partners benefit from hands-free advertising.
3. Plan Your Routes to Market
This can be difficult to do, especially because there are different team members who may oversee different parts of the reselling process. It’s vital that you get everyone on the same page internally.
For example, you may want to OEM one of your products for another company – but as a channel leader, you’ve also got to think about how this might affect your other partners.
How will doing things this way affect your brand? Will this change the pricing model? Will it make it harder for other partners to sell to their customers? You need to ensure that by signing one deal, you’re not potentially undercutting another partner.
There’s a lot to think about and often, what may seem like the fastest route to revenue may not necessarily be the best option in the long run.
Although routes to market can evolve – you don’t have to make every decision immediately and can go back to the drawing board when needed – it’s still something you have to consider to get the most long-term value for your channel.
4. Use Automation to Manage Partner Experience
You’re likely selling your product in different markets worldwide, with different types of partners, who may have very different selling behaviors and practices. Consolidating and managing everything manually is time-consuming and ineffective for your channel program.
It can also be hard to stay consistent if everything is manual, because let’s face it, if there are multiple humans handling all the different processes, it’s going to be hard to standardize things.
The danger with too much flexibility is that your partners can become unsure about how things work and what’s expected of them. Process consistency helps create a better experience for your partners.
But what’s even more valuable is that by automating processes, you free up your channel teams so they can spend their time on higher value work like pushing through deals, helping partners find opportunities and more.
5. Set Expectations and Track Accountability
If you want your channel ecosystem to appeal to partners, you need to communicate clearly with everyone involved like your executives, employees, partners, and vendors. Set clear expectations so your team members and partners know what’s expected of them, as well as what you and your executives will bring to the table in return.
Once these expectations are set – and if they have been spelled out clearly – you can hold the relevant parties, including yourself, accountable.
This could mean ensuring that your team is sending out consistent information and messaging, as well as delivering a positive experience to partners. At the same time, it also allows you to ensure that partners are doing what they are supposed to do.
Because you are tracking accountability, you can see when a partner is doing well. This allows you to celebrate their success and in doing so, incentivize them to be a part of your channel program.
Scaling Your Channel Ecosystem Should Be Easy
Starting with these five steps can get your channel ecosystem ready to scale, but it can be difficult to do it all without a platform for partner relationship management (PRM). PRM is the front door to channel ecosystems management and can make your channel program that much easier to scale.
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