If you sell your products and services through channel partners then you know how important these relationships are to your business. Providing your partners with the tools they need to build long-lasting and exceptional customer experiences is crucial to driving sales and gaining top-of-mind brand recall. But are you doing enough?
As digital transformation ripples through every facet of every industry, its repercussions have certainly not missed your channel partners. They are facing the same disruptive go-to-market models that are eroding the competitive advantages of many businesses. To succeed, indeed, to survive, they must have the right support to meet these new challenges, or they—and your brand—risk irrelevancy in a quickly shifting marketplace.
The first step is to forget about traditional channel management. Rolling out cookie-cutter campaigns every quarter and organizing an event is no longer enough. Vendors must think holistically and be proactive in recruiting partners that not only have the skills to meet the changing digital landscape, but can also deliver the same level of hyper-personalized service customers are used to receiving in B2C channels.
As AI, IoT and automation sweep away old business models, it’s no surprise that an exceptional customer experience has become a prerequisite for business success. Making the customer feel special, appreciated and valued, nearly guarantees repeat purchases and the all-hallowed recommendation.
To prove this point, a recent study undertaken by gyro and the Financial Times found that how customers feel about a brand was a key purchase indicator. In fact, 86% of those surveyed labelled ‘confidence’ as the most likely feeling that would lead to greater consideration. Confident brands are focused and credible in the eyes of consumers, and it is crucial that your channel partners mirror this feeling.
To build that confidence, channel sales must become an essential part of your digital transformation conversation. Old school ready-made campaign templates can certainly kick-start a product push, but they fail to inspire creativity throughout the entire sales funnel and help your partners stand out from the crowd.
Good channel marketing enablement programs always break down the silos between functions. They empower channel businesses to scale rapidly, regardless of their current marketing sophistication. And they pave the way for centrally-created marketing initiatives to develop into personalized campaigns that incorporate channel partners own unique offerings.
To make this vision a reality though, the entire channel value-chain must be re-evaluated and addressed. The imperative of digital transformation needs to be cultivated from the perspectives of both the vendor and the partner.
Vendors must start to think holistically. They need to be proactive in creating alignments between the sales team and the marketing department. Although both marketing and sales share the same goals of increased revenue, they often differ operationally. In order for an organization to truly maximize its investments and create better customer experiences, it is necessary to have both marketing and sales teams coordinating as one unit.
Once these business units are cooperating, vendors can begin to help their channel partners unleash real competitive advantage, not simply replicate marketing messages. To make this happen, partners will need to be equipped with the tools they need to sell your brand—from relevant soft skills and technical trainings, to marketing training and relevant marketing support—including initiatives that drive demand and improve the customer experience across newly evolving digital and social touch points. Education will effectively inspire confidence within your channel partners to not just market independently but relevantly. An effective way to get new, if not more, customers to reach you through pathways that may not have been previously accessible to you.
Your channel partners look to you for a vision for the future. Because of the close proximity of this relationship, they also look to you for operational best practices and marketing inspiration. Leading by example you can become a truly valued partner — not only by supporting them to sell your products, but also by helping them to build their business. By this way, you are not only enabling growth in their sales numbers but, in yours as well. With profits increasing all around, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Just like all relationships, collaboration is crucial in facilitating and establishing effective channel partner enablement. Spend time to understand your channel partners’ business, consider their goals, knowledge gaps, and marketing maturity. Perhaps most important is to know what it is in for them so that you can provide the correct enablement to build trust and an increased commitment to the partnership.
By working together towards developing a stronger go-to-market strategy, you can cater to where they are now, and also build the foundation for where they need to be in the future. The results will ensure that your brand’s purpose, values and culture will not merely be retained, but strengthened.
Relationships matter. Building them often takes time and effort, but the rewards of including your channel partners in your digital transformation journey will ensure its success.
Yasmine Mansour is head of APAC channel marketing and partner enablement at Gyro, a B2B full-service agency under Dentsu Aegis Network.