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Top features of the best channel partner programs

Written by Jonas Rosa
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A partner program is a strategy to inform, educate, and engage partners to create more value for your end-users. They are a great way to expand into new markets, enhance local reach. The best programs also allow you to maximize returns on channel investments. 

Read up on some successful channel partner program examples here. 

The best channel partner programs ensure that your channel partners are aligned with your business goals. They understand your product and pricing. They should be able to strongly articulate “why you over the competition.”

If you are building a channel partner program or figuring out the must-haves, look no further. Every program worth its salt should have these three features regardless of the industry that you operate in. 

1) Incentive program management

A partner program strategically uses goals and rewards designed to motivate channel partners to promote, recommend and sell the brand’s products or services. Some companies consider incentives to be the flagship pillar of a program because it has the ability to drive sales and other desired goals like leads, customer experience, and product understanding. 

For this, having a platform to keep incentives and processes uniform, trackable, and transparent is essential.

Companies generally tie incentives to organizational goals such as sales targets. The reason why it is considered by some to be the most important aspect of a partner program is that it leads to a lot of great results and can drive many aspects of the selling process. For example, the criteria for completing an incentive could be based on:

  • Selling a specific amount of product within a quarter or a year
  • Reaching a revenue target
  • Selling a set quantity of a specific product
  • Selling a product in a set period of time
  • Sold products to a specific market or vertical

With the right incentive program management tool, vendors can create simple or complex incentive rules that define how channel partners can accomplish their goals as well as how they are rewarded. 

These include: 

  • Single action rules engine 
  • Individual and team incentives 
  • Capability to incentivize any object 
  • Promotions scheduler 
  • Multi-top incentives 
  • Approval process workflows for payouts
  • Reward management 
    • Reward calculation based on: 
      • Sales growth 
      • Tiers rebate acceleration 
      • Percentage or fixed amount 

Vendors can also specify reward types in an unlimited number of ways to create a truly rewarding incentive plan. If a partner meets the incentive criteria, they can be rewarded with rebates, points, funds, and spiffs. 

The goal is to incentivize multiple desired behaviors that drive the final sale rather than the sale itself – ensuring an interactive, step-by-step campaign that keeps your partners engaged throughout the process. 

2) Training

Most programs provide some form of e-learning – which could include courses, white papers, sales scripts, competitor battle-cards, and other presentations. These enable a deeper understanding of the vendor’s offerings which will help with customer interactions and sales.

A channel partner can only sell high volumes of your product if they really understand how it works and why it can benefit a customer. To do so, they need to undergo a significant amount of training on your product and how best to sell it. So, set up rewards for your channel partners who undergo a certain amount of training, such as product demos.

When behaviors are incentivized to drive more action, a program runs more efficiently and effectively, leading to more sales and revenue. This mindset will completely alter the way you think of building a partner program and will also change how successful you are.

Successful incentive program training is fulfilled by:  

  • Course and module management 
  • Multi questions types
  • Shuffle questions & answers 
  • Question weight and penalty 

3) MDF – Market Development Funds

A program helps partners earn and keep track of MDF (marketing development funds) which are used to pay for marketing materials and activities to help promote the vendor’s product.  

MDF can be underutilized by channel partners, so a great incentivization strategy could be to base incentive rewards on how much a partner organization uses from their marketing funds or even rewarding them for the percentage of allocated MDF that they actually utilize (e.g. reward partners that allocate 40% of their funds to hosting promotional events).

How can you develop an MDF budget? 

Companies can solicit their large partners to submit annual business plans involving their planned investments in hiring, marketing, training, infrastructure, etc. From this, you can extract marketing spend, which – when aggregated across your partner base – will be a clear estimate of what your MDF budget needs to accommodate. MDF can also be demand/growth-based- how much was used this year, and for what is used? What is the expected growth in channel revenue next year? What are the projections for various marketing channels/activities’ effectiveness next year? 

There are many ways to derive great value from your MDF investment. The main objective is to hyper-personalize the local reach of the brand. It’s a great way of ensuring reach while playing to the channel partners’ strengths. 

The time to invest in a Channel Incentive Program is NOW

Channel partnership between resellers and vendors can crumble due to various reasons over time. Resellers may not be motivated enough to engage with the company and its products. As a result, the company may experience low participation from their partners and ends up missing their performance goals. 

To strengthen and streamline partner relationships here’s what product companies can do with a robust channel incentive program.

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