Many companies rely on alliance or channel partners to represent and support their brands and products to end customers, and the manufacturing sector is no exception. In manufacturing, we often find vendors are established companies with traditional ways of engaging partners that have worked successfully for many years. These connections are built on process, data management and relationships honed through a complex history to “get them right.”
However, in today’s world of seemingly boundless innovation, the space of partner relationship management (PRM) is no exception to the changing ways that business is being done. Even so, it is surprising to see less than ten percent of manufacturers are electronically integrated with their partners, meaning these companies are missing out on key opportunities to spur revenue, further innovation, inspire collaboration and widen their product and brand ecosystem.
This lack of integration means these companies face challenges — staying top of mind, motivating partners, equipping partners with the right tools and educating partners on products and services.
So, what can be done, and what are the best companies doing to motivate partners and spur activity?
First, they provide incentives for partners to learn and sell the vendor’s products. This type of program can have a profound effect on an indirect salesforce. While implementing an incentive program may seem like a daunting task, realize that incentives come in many forms so you can design a program to match your needs and resources, and then scale as desired over time.
Examples of incentives include the obvious margin percentages, but could also include margin bumps, protection or other financial bonuses for partners who complete trainings or achieve a set number of sales tasks, etc. Incentives can also take the form of fame and notoriety. “Partner of the Year” or “Top Performing Partner” awards, recognition in newsletters, even a performance dashboard in your PRM system can be an incentive and foster friendly competition. Gamification is also finding its place in partner management and is not just for end customers anymore. Approaching partners with incentives through gamification can be an easy way to motivate your channel while educating them on how to best sell your products. Gaining badges, points, swag, extra product demos to hand out to customers and the like can all serve to increase vendor/partner engagement.
Another example of when incentives can bring success is when a manufacturer sets aside market development funds (MDF) or co-opportunity marketing funds (Co-Op) to use with smaller partners that have little to no promotional budget. In such cases, the vendor works with partners to set up plans to sell a certain amount of the vendor’s product, execute some joint marketing activities or have the partner accomplish some other mutually beneficial task or goal. In return, the partner receives some type of support from the vendor like promotional funding, joint-advertising or attending an industry event at the vendor’s expense. This motivates the partner to work with the vendor’s products in order to gain something that invests back into the partner itself. The most successful partner campaigns are those that are simple and focused — stating that the vendor will supply X if the partner does Y.
Second, the best-performing companies stay on top of their partners’ productivity and trim “dead wood” (i.e., non-productive relationships). As the saying goes, you don’t need to be the fastest to not be eaten by a bear, you just need to be faster than the person running next to you; similarly, you don’t necessarily need to be the best in terms of partner programs, you just need to offer more access to helpful content, and be easier to work with, compared to your competitors.
Manufacturers can quickly and efficiently manage and motivate partners with the use of a PRM system. PRM solutions allow companies to digitally review, manage, enable and communicate with partners wherever they’re located in the world.
PRM makes it easy to track a partners’ engagement, continuously connect with partners and motivate them to stay educated on your products while influencing positive behavior in your partners. Integrated dashboards, reporting, communications and incentive management allow you to collect a range of online and offline metrics, monitor and tailor the touch points between partners, and even foster friendly competition between your partners who are sometimes competitors with one another. All of this provides increased exposure to both vendor and partners and provides measurable gains in ROI. Through these measures, a PRM solution also allows you to study the ingredients of your partners’ success and apply those insights to your entire partner network to create a continuous cycle of channel management improvement.
With small, easy steps and PRM technology that simplifies the partnering process, manufacturers can reintegrate with their channel partners and tap into this key source of revenue and sales.
Rob Dautel is Sr. Manager of Mass Market & Ecosystem at Renesas Electronics America, Inc.