Channel partner engagement programs grow sales, expand your reach, educate channel reps and turn them into champions of your brand. They are proven effective motivators and can go a long way to improving your bottom line.
The level of effort required to properly manage a successful program is often undervalued, causing an organization to assign someone to administer the program on top of their current role. But there at least 18 sophisticated processes running in the background that make it look easy.
There are many things to consider before attempting a do-it-yourself channel engagement program. To be effective, your program needs to be implemented with:
- Short- and long-term business goals;
- A strong value proposition and clear objectives;
- Dedicated support;
- Predictable program management;
- A variety of engagement activities and incentives;
- Regular updates; and
- Rich business analytics
to ensure that the program is continuously meeting your goals and delivering ROI.
If you think a DIY channel engagement program sounds feasible, here are 7 questions you should ask yourself:
1) Do you have an appropriate person in place with a spare 8 to 20+ hours per month to dedicate to just supporting the program participants?
Program management is a balancing act between the demands of operations and the participants. For example, when initiating in-house channel engagement programs, organizations often assign someone to administer the program on top of their current role. Upon roll-out, that person can expect a minimum of 25% of the reps calling and asking questions about the new program. This can easily amount to more than 21* hours of calls in the first month, alone, not including messages, call backs or when things don’t go as planned. Post roll-out, the number of calls per month will likely dwindle to 10% of the members calling for status updates and more, taking up 8 hours of the program administrator’s time.
This is on top of the monthly duties of checking the number of sales made by each rep and authorizing the appropriate funds or rewards in an auditable and timely manner. Many companies that run DIY programs suffer from late disbursements (>60 days) and slow response times reducing participation and overall channel satisfaction.
2) Are you prepared to source and administer rewards?
You’ll need to as there is an increasing demand for flexible rewards. Ample personal choice to apply them to what is important to the individual is not only demanded, but expected today. Program branded reloadable reward cards are a great option with 70% of businesses using them as part of their incentive program, spending over $24 billion annually.1
But don’t miss out on the impact of experience rewards too! It may seem counterintuitive. Ask anyone which they would prefer, cash or a non-cash rewards of the same value. The response is likely to be a resounding, “Show me the money!” However, when it comes to tapping into the emotions that make incentive programs work, the results are very different. In practice, businesses have noted that tangible, non-cash rewards do a better job in attracting and holding people’s interest, getting them excited about possibilities, and motivating them to act in a way that meets business objectives. The theory is that, while cash is nice, and usually needed, the participant feels more “rewarded” when they receive something they would love to experience but wouldn’t/couldn’t acquire on their own. Which approach creates more of a meaningful, positive, memorable experience?
It’s not a trivial issue. Reward offerings can make or break a channel engagement program’s success. You need to understand what type of rewards will stimulate your unique participant group — and sustain their motivation over the life of their relationship with your organization.
3) Are you able to stay current with changing regulatory environments and tax laws?
This is a huge challenge. Nearly 60% of organizations agree or strongly agree that government regulations are making it more difficult to design and remain compliant with their reward and recognition programs.1 Keeping up with regulations and implementing and maintaining a system of record keeping for tax and legal compliance can become a monumental task if you’re trying to administer a channel engagement program yourself.
4) Are you tech savvy enough to keep up with the latest trends in channel engagement plans and beat your competition?
Reps will automatically gravitate to the program that is not only the most lucrative, but simple, predictable, convenient and fun. That is why 60%1 of organizations are incorporating mobile capabilities into their programs, and gamification is becoming standard practice. Applying gamification to channel programs is a fresh and fun way to deliver business content, while greatly improving retention and overall engagement. A study by the University of Colorado found that adults participating in gamified eLearning experiences scored 11% higher in factual knowledge and 9% higher in retention rate.2 From a channel perspective, the more knowledgeable and confident a rep is in your product’s features, benefits and strengths against the competition, the more they will promote that product.
5) Do you know what to do with the data you’re collecting -- if you’re even collecting it?
Business analytics can deliver increased visibility and value proposition optimization. Your data can predict the impact of program changes on rep performance and program costs, enhance the reach and efficacy of your program, and detect fraud and errors. Without having the data broken down for you on convenient dashboards and in reports, it’s far too easy to skip the analysis that will make your program successful and strengthen decision-making.
6) Are you prepared to personalize your program?
With as many as 5 generations working in a single sales force, it’s becoming harder to incorporate personalization into rewards to accommodate individual tastes and desires. An incentive only works if it is targeted to your particular audience. Do you have the time, inclination and ability to meet the needs of all demographics or incorporate rewards that offer personal flexibility?
7) Finally, do you know when to ask for help?
Don’t be fooled. Software is only part of the solution. There are companies that will tell you that you can do it yourself and they might even offer free, generic software to get you started. Be prepared to be shocked by what they will cost you in the end. They make their money off the rewards and upsell services to support your DIY program, and what they don’t tell you is that the opportunity costs of doing it yourself will be considerable; your appointed program manager won’t be focusing on their key responsibilities, they certainly won’t have the bandwidth to grow with your program, and both their work and your program will suffer.
Enlist the help of experts, experts that provide a complete solution and the right level of program management and support. Why DIY when you can draw on the experience and knowledge of specialists like ChannelAssist, who focus on creating effective and affordable channel engagement programs? A ChannelAssist program can cost as little as $3,000 a month, with an implementation fee as low as $25,000. Our programs ensure that you maximize channel engagement, increase funnel visibility and drive revenue growth. Give ChannelAssist a call today to avoid the DIY pitfalls and open the door to greater channel success!
* Assuming 1,000 program members x 5 minutes per call.
- Incentive Research Foundation, IRF 2017 Trends Study, 2017. http://theirf.org/research/irf-2017-trends-study/1940/
- Gamification, Games, and Learning: What Managers and Practitioners Need to Know, 2013. http://www.elearningguild.com/insights/index.cfm?id=168