When it comes down to it, engage your channel partners like employees, but remember their differences. A critical difference is that channel partners are not under your direct control. Channel partners are not in the adjacent office. Channel partners are not typically giving you their undivided attention – most notably when they do not represent your brand exclusively. But, like employees, channel partners are critical to the success of the businesses that rely on them and are major contributors to your bottom line.
The importance of communication and trust-building are widely recognized as key to engaging channel partners. Less recognized is the role played by an organization’s brand in deepening channel partner engagement. Very simply, channel partners who are deeply engaged with the brand sell more, are highly motivated, and will make a greater contribution to sales goals than partners who are not engaged.
Here are some things to keep in mind about your brand and channel partner engagement:
- Sales managers must believe in—and live—the brand. When their behaviors are out of sync with the brand, channel partners take notice and act accordingly, often in the form of reduced commitment.
- Every touch point between the organization and its channel partners influences perception of the brand and has an impact on partner engagement. Continuous internal communication about the brand and what it stands for needs to be part of every channel partner engagement strategy.
- Personal connections convey the brand and deepen channel partner engagement. Communications options are vast and growing—telephone, email, and now social are just a few – and certainly allow convenience and frequency. However, none are better than face-to-face communication when it comes to amplifying the brand and making an emotional connection to it. There’s also an added benefit: face-to-face cuts through the communications clutter vying for your channel partners’ attention.
- Channel partner training programs should emphasize what the brand stands for and show how channel partners can best convey the benefits to customers.
- Consider linking channel partner incentives and rewards to how well they deliver on the brand promise.
- Amplify the brand at every opportunity. One of those opportunities lies in being active in the channel partners’ territories. For example, making joint sales calls with channel partners strengthens the relationship between all parties—the organization, its channel partner, and the buyer—and provides relevant and real moments for individuals to live the brand.
Keep in mind that brands are viral in nature. The brand may require a host—the organization, its employees, and its partners—to be conveyed, but it can exist independent of the host. This is good news when engaging channel partners through your brand. Although key players may change, the brand endures.
If you are interested in learning more about how to engage with your channel partners and the positive effects engagement and incentives can have on your bottom line, we recommend the following case studies. Contact us today to speak with an engagement expert.
Revamped incentive program keeps brand top-of-mind
Real-time information and streamlined functionality boost franchise participation