3 Channel Manager Incentive Ideas to Drive Channel Marketing Action

Mike Moore, Averetek

In my post, Channel Managers: What’s In It For Them?, I suggested using incentives to try and capture the interest and focus of channel managers to drive partner engagement in channel marketing programs. After all, many channel partners rely on their channel managers to help them figure out what to focus on. So, if you incentivize the channel manager to get the partner to focus on marketing you should see an improvement in partner engagement.

Based on several recent discussions with channel professionals, I’m changing my suggestion to a recommendation. Channel manager incentives are no longer optional for driving channel marketing success. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s risky to start any kind of channel marketing program without including some sort of incentives for channel managers. Incentives can also be vital to stimulating activity during those times of year when it doesn’t come naturally.

You may not agree that incentives are even necessary, and in some organizations, they may not be. But more and more, channel managers are being asked to fulfill the role of partner strategist, opportunity manager, marketer, training and enablement manager and so much more. Revenue is typically the number one driver of how channel managers spend their time. So, if you want them to spend their time on anything that doesn’t lead directly to revenue, you need to employ some sort of incentives. Without incentives, you're left to either hoping channel managers choose to support your programs or relying upon channel sales management to wave a stick at their team. I prefer to offer carrots.

Incentives can take many forms, and they should be based on whatever it is you need the channel manager to do. Here are some examples of channel manager incentives I’ve run in the past. Feel free to use as-is, or adapt these ideas to suit your situation. Additionally, all of these could be used as partner incentives, too.

1. Starbucks and Champagne

For any kind of high-volume activity, like asking for channel managers to get every partner they manage to run an email campaign this quarter, I try to plan incentives that are small in value but can start to pile up as they engage more partners.

For example, offer $10 in Starbucks card credit each time the channel managers gets one of their partners to launch a landing page/email campaign to at least 250 contacts, up to some maximum amount for the month or quarter. We all understand the value of $10 at Starbucks and that it will likely buy two drinks. As a channel manager, if I play my cards right, I could earn enough to not pay for Starbucks for the next couple of months. 

When the action you’re looking for your channel managers to direct takes a bit more effort, the incentive should reflect this. When trying to get channel partners to register their customers for an annual fly-in customer event, we offered channel managers a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne for every five customers registered. With a retail price of $25-30 per bottle, the prize was in line with the level of action needed to produce the desired results. Many channel managers embraced this incentive and we sent out several cases of champagne. This incentive was much more effective than sending out thousands of emails.

Waiting until the end of the quarter to reconcile results and payout would be a mistake in today’s Amazon Prime-oriented world.

  • Doing a bi-weekly reconciliation and payout for Starbucks will keep your channel managers motivated. Starbucks makes it super easy to send gift cards electronically
  • A monthly reconciliation and fulfillment order probably makes more sense for champagne or other physical goods that you may need to ship out. Check out Wine.com and Drizly for online ordering.

2. Starbucks and an HDTV

When trying to drive short-term actions that lead to long-term results, you might try an incentive that follows that short-term/long-term structure. In the case of a full end to end campaign (demand generation all the way through to pipeline and closed won revenue) you can apply a small incentive to the starter action, like publishing a landing page offer and promoting it through email and social, and a bigger incentive that’s tied to the end result - the closed won revenue.

For example, for every landing page promoted through email and social, you’ll pay the channel manager $10 in Starbucks. Next, for every $1,000 in closed won revenue from those leads, they’ll earn 5 chances in a raffle for an HDTV (approximately $800-1,000 value). By offering tickets to the HDTV raffle, a much better prize than some Starbucks dollars, you’re keeping channel managers engaged from the start of the campaign all the way through the results you really care about, the revenue.

Having a raffle for the HDTV prize is better, in my opinion, because at the time of the prize drawing, everyone who has a ticket can win, as opposed to an incentive where the person who closes the most business wins. Since there’s usually a channel manager or two who win every contest structured to reward the top earner, many channel managers won’t even try to compete since they believe their odds of winning are low. With the raffle, the top revenue producer rarely wins, which is fine since you’re typically not trying to incentivize that person, anyway.

3. Dinner for Two

Beyond the everyday incentives, you may want to have some quarterly recognition for channel managers who contribute to your channel marketing programs. Rewarding your top channel manager per team or region with a dinner for two for the most activity, the most partners, the most improved, etc. will not only make the recipient feel great for being recognized, but they get to share it with someone in their life. Being able to go home and tell your significant other that you did something good at work and that you get to take them out for an amazing dinner goes a long way.

For this incentive, I would budget $250 per dinner or whatever buys a fancy dinner in their city. A $100 dinner isn't special enough, in my opinion, so budget a little more and your channel managers will appreciate it.

A nice side effect of this recognition is how other channel managers within your business will feel when someone else is recognized and rewarded. "How did they win? I’m a much better channel manager than them! That dinner next quarter is mine." You can bet that many others will want to earn that recognition the next time.

Other Ideas?

Have other ideas for channel manager incentives? Leave them in the comments or send us an email.

Channel Management, Channel Incentives

Mike Moore, Averetek

Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek

Mike Moore serves as Averetek's VP of Channel Strategy. Mike has spent twenty-three years in the IT channel as a channel partner and as a channel and field marketer for software companies like Microsoft, GE Healthcare, and Progress Software.

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