• Why Partner Joint Marketing Plans Fail

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Most channel programs fail because of poor execution—not because of poor design.

    Case in point, while attending the Channel Focus North America conference earlier this month in San Diego, I had the privilege of moderating two separate sessions on partner Joint Marketing Planning (JMP), and attending one other. Each session was jam packed with attendees who were all looking to optimize their joint planning efforts. Most attendees have a JMP practice in place, but were feeling that their efforts were less than optimized—even a waste of time in the extreme cases.

    In a perfect world, the JMP process can yield several benefits: Align partner and vendor objectives, focus MDF spending, provide a basis to allocate resources, forecast business outcome, provide a gap analysis of partner coverage, and provide a mutually agreeable foundation for partner performance. That last point can be extended to CAM performance as well, because if their partners’ plans are submitted and approved, it’s only an extension of this concept that the assigned CAM would be at least partially responsible for follow-through.

    With all those aforementioned benefits at hand, you’d think the whole world would have this JMP thing down. Well, that’s simply not the case. Attendees from all three sessions came well prepared with a series of unique problems—or so they thought. When the bulk of issues were summarized, they were distilled into two major categories:

    1. How can I get my partners to embrace the JMP process?
    Specific problems here addressed the concern that partners perceive the JMP process as a waste of time because they don’t understand the benefits to them.

    2. How can I get my CAMs to follow-through with a JMP process (at all stages)?
    Specific issues here addressed every phase of the planning process, including: getting CAMs to take the time to create the plan in the first place, assessing the plan’s progress mid-term, and reconciling plan attainment at period’s end. Interestingly, problems expressed by any one attendee was largely focused on just one of the areas (creation, mid-term assessment, or post-period reconciliation)—rather than all 3. (Although, perhaps it makes sense that if a plan wasn’t created in the first place, the lack of follow-though would be self explanatory.)

    Both of these problem areas are perfect examples of how channel programs can fail as a result of poor execution—not necessarily by poor design. So, it may surprise you that minor executional adjustments can yield big gains in results. When applied to channel programs in general, such adjustments usually consist of enhancements in processes, communications, or both.

    What follows are a series of best practices that can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your JMP process. To substantiate their effectiveness, it should be pointed out that the people having the issues in question weren’t implementing these practices—whereas the remaining members of the groups that were performing these suggested practices weren’t experiencing the same issues. How’s that for a test and control group?

    JMP Do’s and Don’ts:
    • Always assure there is something of value available to the partner for participating in the JMP process. This gets back to the “Carrot and Stick” approach as a basis for all channel programs. Remember, WIIFM is the motivator. And more often than not, the “Carrot” is just that.

    o At the most basic level, any MDF allowances or other back-end rewards that may be earned by the partner should be based on those activities specified, and approved, within the plan. No plan, no MDF.

    o In addition to financial incentives, there are other potential “carrots” of high perceived value that can be made available based on specific actions identified within the plan, examples include: marketing assistance, SE assistance, or training and certification credits. These would be allocated to the partner based on their alignment with the contents of the plan. Essentially, the plan becomes your means for allocating resources based on mutually aligned goals.

    • The JMP document should always be designed to align the strategies and tactics as identified by your partners with your own Go-to-Market initiatives. This way, you can assess how your MDF allocation, and other resources provided to the partner for enablement, will help you achieve your own GTM objectives.

    • The approved JMP becomes the defining basis for “success” for both that partner and the CAM assigned to that partner. So, for those of you who are having trouble getting your CAMs to embrace the process, consider making the JMP the catalyst for any bonus compensation assigned to your CAMs. Note, I didn’t say “in addition to” any current bonus plan; rather “the catalyst for” any earned bonus. The JMP must be created and approved. By default, goals are finalized for the period for both the Partner and CAM. The CAM then becomes responsible for goal attainment. Effectively, the CAM’s compensation (in part) is tied to plan execution, including attainment of sales goals—and any other soft activities specified within the plan that are critical to attaining your GTM objectives.

    Performing these practices, or not, can have a big impacting on the effectiveness of your JMP process. Note that none of these changes are really substantive, yet their inclusion can mean the difference between success or failure.

    In addition to the above suggestions, we offer 2 separate eBooks on planning optimization which may be found on our website at:
    eBook: FAQ’s- Incorporating Joint Marketing Planning Into Your Channel Strategy
    eBook: Improving ROI on Channel Investments through Joint Marketing Planning

    I invite you to check them out. Otherwise, if there are any other hot tips to optimize the planning process that might have been missed, I invite you to respond with ideas.

    Craig DeWolf is Vice President of Business Strategy for CCI: Channel Management Solutions.  Craig’s extensive experience spans over 20-years, across a variety of industries and distribution models. This background has given Craig an excellent perspective of the issues facing marketers and their distribution partners, and the solutions that will make them mutually successful.

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