We’ve all been there. You dial into your phone, cable, credit card or other 800-number and you’re asked to enter your card or account number, presumably so that when you eventually speak to a human, they’ll know who you are and be able to quickly provide assistance.

But things rarely work out that way. The first questions that the customer service representative usually ask is who they’re speaking with and if you can provide your account number. As an existing customer of that company, it’s insulting.

Your channel partners have the same expectation when they interact with your staff and your partner tools.

Channel Marketing Automation Software

As a channel marketer, I never aspired to manage tools, but that’s what I found myself doing after a simple question in a business review meeting turned into a terrific opportunity to build a scalable program to enable through-partner events. While working on a seminar team at Microsoft, our vice president asked what our team could do to enable channel partners to deliver Microsoft-themed events.

In about four months, I architected and managed the development a web-based event management tool and hired and trained a team of event managers who enabled thousands of Microsoft partners to deliver more than ten thousand events across the United States within the first three years of the program.

And just like that, in an unexpected career twist, I was knee-deep in the world of channel marketing tool management.

Channel Metrics, Marketing Pilot

Before diving headfirst into a new program, many companies organize a pilot as a way to test their ideas without taking on the full risk of a broad implementation. You can think of a pilot as a semi-scientific experiment where theories are put to the test in the real-world. 

Without a clear set of goals, it's hard to tell if the pilot was a success, failure, or if its results are inconclusive.

But what exactly are we testing when trying out a new channel marketing program?

Channel Incentives

Many analysts and pundits have written blog posts and articles about why channel programs fail. They blame system integrations, channel managers, and many other common and uncommon reasons why the best of plans don’t lead to the results expected. While some of these explanations may be valid in some situations, the most common reason that channel programs fail, in my experience, is the lack of partner engagement. The usual cause I see is misalignment between the program goals and partner incentives.

Channel Marketing Automation Software, Channel Sales, Marketing Automation, Channel Partners

It’s rare to find a software or cloud company that doesn’t offer some type of trial of its software that prospective customers can evaluate before making a purchase decision. Whether your application is for business users or technologists, having the opportunity to tinker with the software can help quickly advance the sales cycle. There’s a frequent problem, however, when it comes to the intersection of trial software and your channel partners, but it is solvable.

Channel Incentives

Whether you're a CEO, a channel marketing leader, or a channel manager, you spend a good amount of time trying to understand what drives your channel partners so you can use that understanding to get your channel partners to align with your priorities. The use of incentives (rebates, spiffs, co-op, MDF, etc.) can be helpful in driving specific behavior, but there is risk involved.

When I have questions about incentivizing channel behavior, there's one person I turn to: Claudio Ayub, Chief Strategy Office for Perks | Channel.

Channel Marketing, Budgeting

Life is much simpler (at least in some ways) when you’re on the making money side of the business (sales) rather than the spending money side of the business (marketing). The word that sends a shiver down the spine of every marketer is “forecast”, as in “Did you enter your marketing expense forecast? Did you hit your forecast? Why did you miss your forecast?”

Like others, I’ve lost sleep over whether I was going to make my forecast or not.