• Extending Your Reach to Lower Tier Channel Partners

    When it comes to deciding which channel partners you’re going to engage with directly, who is it that decides the selection criteria and what percentage of partners get left to self-service or distributor resources?  This is a tricky call to get right. Partner Marketing budgets are often restricted and therefore rarely stretch further than the top to middle partner tier.

    But isn’t the real question, can you afford not to invest time and money into engaging and motivating all levels of partner?  Are we missing the point with those partners who are currently buying low volumes but might be tomorrow’s stars?

    In my experience vendors tend to be very good at servicing the top and middle tiers, but leave the lower tier partners reliant on their web tools and the relationship with the distributor. I now see both sides clearly, having worked for the vendor and for the partner:

    • Understandably the vendor doesn’t have an endless marketing budget and even if they did, the question is where do you start?
    • The partner accepts there is a partner hierarchy whereby they only move up the value chain, getting better service and access to juicier incentives, if they buy more stock. But they have multiple vendors, multiple contacts, multiple tools, passwords etc., to contend with. It’s a headache, and it gets in the way.

    Now I see a better way.  Servicing lower tier partners doesn’t have to be expensive and it can achieve impressive returns if done right.  Highly skilled and well trained tele-channel managers can secure sustained increases in partner retention, motivation and of course revenues through a few simple steps to success:

    • Profile your partners to understand who they are, how motivated they are to work with you.
    • Prioritise those lower tier partners that represent the best candidates to grow with i.e. where you have shared goals & ambitions.
    • Get commitments on common goals and some simple steps that you can take together to drive improvements in revenue number’s.
    • Encourage use of low cost techniques such as e-mail, increasing the vendor’s presence on the partners web page, content syndication, extra sales training, partner sales days and more.
    • Create clarity around the benefits of the partner program.
    • Educate partners to use the tools that you’ve already invested in and give them a helping hand to execute their first few marketing activities.
    • Provide personalised support through regular checkpoint calls to make sure they feel looked after but also to ensure follow through on activities.

    In recent years I have seen many vendors benefit from lower tier revenue growth by anywhere between 20% to 70% year on year following this framework. Fundamentally it works because lower tier partners who don’t usually get noticed really appreciate the support. Coaching partners on how to successfully go to market cascades invaluable skills and promotes independence to drive more relevant leads for both the partner and you, the vendor. To make it scalable you need well thought out backend processes that support the smooth flow of regular contact and visibility, which gives you the confidence that you’re achieving the kind of coverage that your partners deserve. A fully enabled tele-channel manager can effectively care for anywhere between 70-100 partners regularly giving you cost effective growth in your lower tier, but also gives these partners a helping hand in growing their business.

    Teri MacGilbert is an Outsourced Channel Manager for EIMS. To view all company blogs go to EIMS’ blog site.

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