With the benefits of a channel program so well-established for any business looking to extend its reach into new, unexplored markets (and amp up its ROI in doing so), it seems like an obvious move to give a channel program a shot.
But many vendors find themselves stumbling when it comes to building their channel program out. That’s because structure is paramount—and structuring a program that takes into consideration the right kind of people, in the right places, with the right resources is an endeavor that requires a lot of thought and strategic investments.
If you find that your channel program doesn’t seem to be extending your reach at all, or if you’re witnessing partner attrition from those that would rather work with other vendors because you aren’t giving them what they need, this beginner’s guide to structuring your channel program can help.
Instead of throwing things at the wall and hoping they stick, create the kind of tightly controlled, well-honed channel program that pulls in the recurring revenue you’re after from a host of audiences you couldn’t touch otherwise.
Channel Is a Different World—Build It That Way
Say you have a person in-house who’s gotten accolades for making connections with direct clients. When you’re getting ready to put together a channel program, then, the choice seems evident—you want that employee handling your channel, to bring the same success that you’ve seen in direct.
But if you move your most successful direct rep away from all of those clients with which s/he’s managed to create and foster ongoing relationships, you’re unintentionally kneecapping yourself twofold.
First, you’re taking your top talent and making them start from scratch, having them call the shots in a world where relationships have different rules and different expectations.
Second, you’re pulling them out of well-established relationships where they’re doing an excellent job, leaving a noticeable gap in a segment of the business that’s demonstrating ROI.
So remember to keep your strongest staff where they’re having the most impact. And instead of moving the best in your business to your channel to see if they can make it float, hire and train channel pros who are experienced working in that world and understand all of its unique demands and complexities.
Don’t Let Your Channel Become a Separate Silo
Channel is a different world in terms of the talent you need, but it is not a different planet that operates in isolation. Everyone across your business, from marketing to finance to product development, should be interacting with the channel staff so that everyone understands how to best leverage it.
Figuring out how to tweak the resources that have led to success with direct clients so that they work for your partners and their clients requires a lot of thinking and a lot of talking. Keep the lines of communication open, assess needs, and make sure that everyone knows that the channel program is there, what role it fills, and how they can contribute to make it thrive—building overall success.
Give the Channel Time (and Space and Resources) to Grow
The channel is a long-term investment and a long game. If you’re planning on dipping in and bailing out, you’re depriving yourself of the chance to get the big gains in ROI everyone’s talking about—in fact, approaching a channel program this way is investing without hope of getting a return.
Implementing a channel program that’s managed and administered by people with the right skill sets is half the battle. The other half is treating it as an ongoing investment in which you are constantly looking at the numbers on partner performance and tweaking your approach over time.
It’s this level of attention that will allow your channel to thrive—so if your partnerships aren’t getting you exactly what you’re looking for, don’t call it a wash—analyze it and change it!