The Importance of Vendor Partner Programs for IT Channel Success
In closing out our earlier article on the challenges faced by smaller vendors within an IT channel that is dominated by deep-pocketed technology giants, we promised to cover the importance of partner management once you have established demand for your products in the channel.
Simplicity is the key to a successful partner program, but a common trap that vendors can fall into is making the assumption that offering resellers margin alone will be enough by itself to drive channel desire to market and sell
Certainly margin is a major component and incentive for a reseller partner to want to offer your products, so if they can gain even higher margin by meeting certain criteria, such as deal registration or completing sales or technical training, they will be eager to do so. Vendors and their distribution partners need to be ready to answer the “what is in this for me” question when engaging with new resellers.
We must remember there are two dimensions coming into play here. On the one hand, the resellers you are looking to recruit will be working with many other vendors, big and small, and will be participating in incentives and rebates schemes from many of those. So essentially, having something to offer is part of the currency needed to join the party.
Don’t forget that your partners face heavy competition also
Secondly, many vendors forget that resellers have competition too, so anything you can give them which can serve as a differentiator against their competitors will be welcomed. This can be a straightforward as providing and granting permission for them to use a ‘certified reseller’ logo and listing them on the ‘where to buy’ section of your website; through to provision of a full partner portal with online training courses and co-brandable marketing materials.
Providing elements of differentiation for your reseller partners, however tangible or intangible, is key to having a good story to tell in response to that inevitable on-boarding question that you or your distribution partners will be faced with.
Building a robust partner ecosystem takes a lot of resources, so start small
How far you can go towards building out and delivering your partner ecosystem will of course depend upon funding and your internal capabilities. A partner portal with a fully integrated learning management system (LMS), providing sales, technical and marketing training is no small undertaking, “did I hear you say marketing, we’ve never training our channel partners on marketing”. So our advice is to start small and try to work with a modest set of partner benefits based around business level commitments.
What we do not want is a huge list of ‘registered’ partners who really have no incentive or desire to actually grow business with us. Aligning some simple incentives with business level commitments is a great way to start. Couple this with some corresponding partner levels and you at least have an answer for those early adopters looking to take your products to their customers.
Once you have gained some channel momentum, and in turn revenue and profit to invest further in your partner programs, the list of options open to you is a long one. Partners are certainly receptive to cash or prize based rewards but you may struggle to complete is this area with the big guys.
For the smaller or new coming vendor, look for ways to help your resellers to market your solution to their customers. Remember that one size rarely fits all, so ensure you take time to understand their target audience and other value propositions that may link into your messaging. Above all, ensure that anything you do is linked to specific business outcomes. Never lose control over market development fund spends (MDF), or fail to define AND measure the return on investment (ROI) of any partner campaign you design.
The team at Plexus can help you to engage with your IT channel partners at whatever stage you may be in your channel sales journey.
This can range from design of co-branded materials such as videos, animations or written collateral, partner portals with online training modules, deal registration and rewards programs. We can also expertly manage all digital campaigns through LinkedIn, Google, Facebook and others with full transparency and real-time reporting.