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5 Ways to Safeguard Your Channel Partner Community in Times of Change

Apr 29, 2020

One of the core segments that has been affected due to the current situation is the supply chain trade across various industries and geographies. Here are 5 commandments to ensure that your partners remain informed, motivated, and engaged even through tough times. 

 

Just about 2 months back, if someone had told us that businesses all around the world would be reengineering themselves to adapt to a whole new ecosystem, we would have said ‘Well, that makes for a great sci-fi movie plot’. But here we are, living the plot! 

While different businesses and industries have been impacted to varying degrees, one of the core segments that has been affected is the supply chain trade across various industries and geographies. Having said that, this is also a segment that has to be well-prepared to swiftly remodel and cater to the new world post the crisis. Hence, your business's channel partners are crucial now more than ever. Strategic focus on building and sustaining the relationship with them is the key to unlock the post-crisis market potential. 

Here are 5 commandments to ensure that your partners remain informed, motivated, and engaged even through tough times. 

1. Communicate Authentically

Let’s start with a simple communication mantra ‘Talk More, Talk often, and Tailor your Talks!’ An Idiosyncratic communication approach that stems from a deep understanding of the partner's current state of mind is cardinal to design your communication strategy. Get in touch with some of your partners to understand their current thoughts and concerns. A good way to do this is through ‘Empathy interviews’, a Design Thinking technique to understand the feelings and experiences of others. Use insights from these to design your messaging framework. Balance this with hygiene communication such as a note from the CEO and senior leadership, being boldly transparent about your business continuity plan, and sharing market insights in an authentic manner.

While crafting the message is one aspect, hand-picking the most relevant, innovative, and future-centric mediums are equally important. While on one side it is important to tap into the most commonly used mediums, on the other, digital transformation is inevitable and it is important that you nudge partners towards new mediums that help people stay connected and productive in today’s world.

2. Reward Thoughtfully

In times such as these, Reward program designers around the world will have to demonstrate a significant shift in strategy. While luxury experiences and exciting merchandise have scientifically proven to be more effective in creating hedonic experiences and driving productivity and performance, this time-honoured approach will have to be looked at with a different lens - a partner perspective lens. Here are 3 simple ways to redesign your rewards strategy:

  • Shift from experiential rewards to essentials
  • Follow the trends and provide access to the world of digital entertainment (online streaming subscriptions)
  • Provide relevant E-learning offerings and help partners use this time productively

3. Reallocate Budgets Strategically 

Many Channel partners and influencers may belong to varying strata. It is important for you as a brand to identify partner communities worst hit by the situation and outline ways to sustain them. Relocating a small portion of your brand’s funds to safeguard the livelihood of these partners could prove to be extremely effective and would assure the partners that you really care.

Another way to support your partner community could be a ‘By our people, for our people’ approach where your brand’s own employees can donate funds to support the partner community, thereby strengthening the emotional bond. When as a brand, you get together to lift your partners, it would create a greater sense of fulfillment.

4. Design Promotions Effectively

There is a silver lining to slowdowns. Such periods offer you the opportunity and time to design new frameworks.  Sales leaders, who change the rules of engagement, will be able to succeed in steering their organisation to a new normal. Here are 3 proven ways to redesign the promotions/ contests for your channel partners:

  • Set personalised goals at an individual or segment level, based on data from the past- performance.
  • Allow partners to pick their goals from a choice of 3 goal-options. Giving them the ownership will result in greater accountability and higher achievement rates.
  • Motivate them through constant communication nudges so that they are informed and engaged throughout the contest period.

It is important that you keep the current context in mind when you design a promotion/ a contest. While many tend to ‘push partners to the extreme’ due to business pressure, acknowledging the reality of the situation and setting realistic targets is critical to driving favourable results.

5. Upskill Efficiently

One of the common concerns of sales leaders is a channel partner’s lack of in-depth product understanding. There could be various factors contributing to this such as, inconsistent training, poor infrastructure, or erratic schedules of partners resulting in low engagement. This interim period could be utilised to engage the partners with a compelling learning and training plan. Your plan must map the products you want your partners to master, skills that would help them boost the business, customer insights that will help propel sales, the strategy that you want them to adopt post the crisis, and more. Create live, online, offline training materials and events and drive your partners to complete the assigned learning goals.

While things may seem a little grim right now, there is always a silver lining to tough times. The way you design your channel partner engagement strategy during this period will not just drive business for the moment, but create a strong emotional bond that would result in long term and lasting impact.

 

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