Ten Key Elements of Successful Channel Programs
By Scott Karren, Excerpt from "The Channel Executive's Bible"
Market Assessment: A clear understanding of the ecosystem is critical to finding a solid strategy. Important consideration include: market size, competition, demand, trends, threats, and timing. Investors (be they external or executives) expect market experts.
Segmentation: Channel development is too expensive to leave to chance. Each type of partner has a role in the ecosystem, but not all will fit any given strategy. Good strategy links target channel segments with specific market opportunities simply. Models for roles, requirements and performance focus channel implementation.
Value Proposition: It's not about the product. It is about the link to the channel business model and believable projections about future business performance. The product is just a case study that makes the business discussion specific and relevant.
Recruitment: Targeting specific partners and closing contracts is an ongoing process. Just as tailored hiring plans help employers reduce personnel costs, solid recruiting practices are one of the largest areas of impact on channel ROI.
Program: Channel programs are the vendors' tool for co-management of critical aspect of the business including: facilities, personnel, marketing and operations. Failure rates for franchisees are much lower than for comparable independent businesses because franchise programs have the most explicit channel programs.
Support: Support is the tangible manifestation of the value proposition and strategy. Support can be product, service or market related. It determines the satisfaction of the channel and often their desire to actively promote a given solution.
Staffing: Avoid hiring field personnel just as account support. That is the purpose of your programs. Instead look to the field to recruit new partners, identify strategic opportunities and pilot new business models.
Communication and Promotion: Throw away most of the collateral created about the product and start over with how your channel can optimize business performance. Use blogs, e mail, advisory meetings, trade shows and site visits to get intimate with their business models.
Metrics: Metrics drive action. My statistics professor at The University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business was the most productive, efficient individual I ever met because he lived by mantra: "That which is measured is improved."
Budget: Formal, tight budgets will make friends out of even the most skeptical CFOs and COOs. Being able to wrap the whole channel strategy up in accurate financials ensures program funding.
Scott Karren, The Channel Pro