The answer to, “How to grow my channel?” is here
By T.C. Doyle
Whether you are new to partnering or a seasoned veteran, chances are you or one of your peers has Googled, “How to grow my channel?” If so, Impartner has answers for you.
Below are five proven ideas that will help you grow your channel no matter your industry or definition of growth. Whether you seek to grow the amount of revenue partners generate with your ideas and innovations, increase the number of partners that affiliate with your organization or even elevate the awareness of your partner program, then “Growth Hacks for Pumping Up Indirect Sales” is for you. The following includes a mix of tips on best practices that cut across several aspects of your business — from economics to program development to partner engagement.
Let’s start with a short summary and then dive into each hack more thoroughly:
- Hone your value proposition
- Define your partners’ journeys
- Wage war on complexity
- Upend your status quo
- Automate every aspect of your channel
Hone Your Value Proposition
If you were asked by a prospective partner how they will make money with your ideas and/or innovations, could you answer succinctly? Could you also respond in significant detail? If not, then chances are you haven’t properly defined your partner value proposition, which is the sum total of why partners will want to work with you.
Your value proposition includes the economics of your partner program, the benefits it offers and even the competitive advantages it provides. While this blog will address several programmatic aspects below, your primary duty is to figure out how partners will make money with you. If you cannot see a clear path to enhanced profitability for partners, then they won’t either.
As you develop your economic model, consider two things above all others: the market landscape you compete in and the total addressable market (TAM) your products and/or services serve. If your ideas compete in a price-sensitive market with small or even negative margins, then you may have to budget for significant financial incentives for partners to get them interested. Likewise, it helps to be able to show partners any additional economic opportunity they will enjoy above and beyond selling your products and/or services. In the tech world, for example, many vendors attract partners because they can demonstrate that for every $1 worth of technology that partners sell, they enjoy an additional $4-$9s worth of additional opportunities around services and consulting.
For more on developing your partner value proposition, don’t miss, “Why Would a Partner Want to Do Business with You?”
Define Your Partners’ Journeys
Partners come in many different types and sizes. They have different business models, customer priorities and capabilities, too. Because of this, it doesn’t make sense to treat them in a monolithic way. To connect more deeply with partners, which is the key to growing your business with them, you must understand the journeys they are on and how those journeys intersect with your objectives.
Again, consider the tech community, which counts hundreds of thousands of partners in North America alone. In the tech market, tech partners look to vendors to help solve a variety of problems. Some partners need an economic powerhouse to help drive their businesses. Others need a new vendor to help ween them from unprofitable lines of business and/or outdated business models. And still others need a quick fix to address a particular customer need.
Because of these differences, your partner program should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate different partner types, but not so untamed that it offers no structure. To achieve this objective, it helps to define your potential partner types and map out what they offer both to you and require from you — their journeys, in other words.
Experts including Achieve Unite, a member of the Impartner Channel Chief Advisory Board (CCAB), agree that enablement matters as much as remuneration when it comes to partner journeys. Partners, after all, sell what they know. If you can help partners get to know you well, they will recommend your offerings more often than your competitors’.
Wage War on Complexity
No matter the researcher, study after study on partnering reveals that partners want many things from vendors, “ease of doing business” high among them.
In industry after industry, partners complain about vendor complexity and intransigence. Given how long complexity and rigidity have plagued partnering in various industries, it’s a wonder more progress hasn’t been made. That’s not to say forward-leaning leaders aren’t trying.
Consider software vendor GreyCastle. When GreyCastle decided to draw up a list of things it wanted to achieve with a reconfigured partner program, reducing complexity and unnecessary customization rose to the top of its list based on partner requests. Before it relaunched its program, GreyCastle recognized eight different partner types and allowed many variances to its standard contracts. After analysis, GreyCastle decided that this flexibility was coming at the cost of efficiency. So, it cut partner types to three. Doing so saved the company money and rewarded it with more time and energy to engage with partners in the field.
Then there’s Vertiv, a global provider of data center and communications services to global companies. When Vertiv launched a new deal registration program with Impartner automation, the company made a conscious decision to ask for less information than before. Dispensing with “nice-to-knows” and going with only “need-to-knows” helped increase the number of registered deals by several hundred million dollars.
In addition to complexity, intransigence also hampers channel growth. Consider your own list of requirements. If your ideas and innovations are complex and require special knowledge or skills to sell, then you’re likely to impose limits on who can resell your offerings and in which circumstances. In a post-pandemic world when everything from business models to staffing realities are in flux, rigid restrictions may no longer make sense outside of regulated industries.
Lastly, for a program to work properly, it must recognize that partners often belong to many programs in addition to your own. Taking this reality into consideration when devising your growth plans will pay dividends down the road.
Upend Your Status Quo
There’s an old joke about advertising that goes like this: everyone who has ever paid for advertising knows half of their investment is wasted, they just don’t know which half.
Sound familiar? It might if your organization has allocated a heap of money for market development funds (MDF) that either goes unspent or is lavished upon activities that bear no fruit.
There’s no reason to stand for this status quo today. With modern tools available to every channel program professional, you can measure the efficacy of marketing campaigns, monitor partner activities and better manage your partner investments. If you believe market your MDF is being squandered, then chances are it is.
So make changes, not based on whims and intuition, but facts and data from your PRM and other automation tools, instead. The same goes for other parts of your channel that you want to grow.
Instead of hoping that under-performing partners will suddenly one-day turn into valued contributors, consider eliminating them form your partner program altogether. Doing so will free up time and resources to lavish upon companies that make active commitments to your company, and reduce your stress levels, too.
Making these types of changes requires more than a change in policy; it may require a change in thinking. Consider: Instead of measuring success by the number of partners your organization recruits, prioritize partner sales output, instead. Far too many companies focus on the wrong metric, resulting in miscues later.
If you’re still struggling with upending the status quo, then take smaller steps before you leap. Try working with underperforming partners for two solid quarters. During this time, ply them with extra guidance and handholding. If they still don’t generate your sales, then rest assured you have done what you could and cut them loose.
Automate Every Aspect of Your Channel
The idea that you can run an ecosystem with a spreadsheet or home-grown tech stack is antiquated; you cannot at scale. It’s like trying to apply for a job today through the mail.
Today, world-class partner programs depend on world class automation. The reasons are many if not obvious. Consider findings from a study commissioned by Impartner. It found that nearly one-third of companies that automate their channel programs saw an increase in revenue. What is more, 29% enjoyed a decrease in partner-related administrative costs. The study also found that more than three-quarters of companies that automate their partner programs report a ROI in less than 18 months, while even more say they gain a competitive advantage in their respective market.
In addition to these benefits, automating your partner program provides your organization with something that spreadsheets can never faithfully offer: actionable insight that is based on real-time partner data. With these insights, vendors can make more informed decisions about resource allocation, pricing changes, marketing activities, sales rewards and more.
Then there are the partner benefits, which number many. Take onboarding.
When one Impartner global customer ditched its outdated tech stack, partner onboarding was reduced from three days to just 90 seconds. Imagine the increase in partner satisfaction this company enjoyed a result?
Today’s partner automation tools offer partners consumer-like experiences that are similar to Amazon.com or Netflix. And they do so for more than just onboarding. Today, modern partner automation platforms simplify everything from training and certification to deal registration, through channel marketing and more.
Before you launch your next program, find out what your partners’ expectations are when it comes to these disciplines. If your competitors rely on partner resource management, then you will have to, too. You cannot pump up your indirect sales with one arm tied behind your back, in other words.
No matter how you define “grow my channel” — be it expand into new geographies, enter new vertical markets, increase sales volume through existing partners, recruit new allies, etc. — the above tips will help you in your cause. While we might be impartial, we firmly believe that automating your channel is the most important tip we can offer. We built our entire business around the idea that this is the single best way to grow a channel. We believe it now as much as we did since the day we opened our doors for business.
See for yourself how partner automation can help you answer the No. 1 question you ask yourself daily, “How to grow my channel?” Sign-up for your Impartner demo today.
You’ll be glad you did.
If you’re looking for more ideas on how to improve your channel, don’t miss this article on marketing collateral: “To Improve Partner Content, Borrow a Page from Your Drip Marketing Handbook.”