Monday, April 27, 2009

Are you Tuned-In to your Channel Partners?

Some partner programs pride themselves on their extensive number of partners. Congratulations, are partners supposed to be excited about that? Welcome to our partner program! You now have more competition for your business then you did before you joined. I'm not saying vendors should have fewer partner, let's be reasonable. But, don't be so out of touch with your partners that you promote your partner list as a benefit to them.

As I wrote in "One size does NOT fit all" channel partners want a tier and a program that fits their business. You must recruit them with this in mind. Telling them their competitive landscape has just tripled doesn't really help. So what does matter?

1. Ease of Use: Please! When I was an alliance manager I worked with several vendors. The one we sold most often was the one whose program was straight-forward and whose portal did not require a PhD to navigate.
2. The "What's in it for me?" factor: Do I need to explain? If a partner sells your competitors product and makes more money, the only time they will sell your product is when a customer demands it. You'd better either have great margins/rebates/incentives or you'd better have the best product out there.
3. Lead generation: Ask any solution provider what they wish their vendors would do better and they will say lead generation. Either handing over nurtured leads or providing them with the right tools to get the leads themselves. This doesn't mean sending them email campaigns that only talk about your products' value prop. They need to be customizable so the solution provider feels it represents their business as well.
4. Support, support, support: Not just technical anymore. Partners need to know that they can get what they need from you in minutes. If they are out on a sales call and need a quote or piece of collateral it better be smooth.

Vendors who do this have the highest satisfaction ratings despite some of the largest communities of partners. They aren't talking about how many partners they have, they're talking about what they do for them.

Who does this right? I'd love to hear from solution providers and vendors.

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