When whole industries go into survival mode due to extreme circumstances — like the impact caused by COVID-19 — these are the times that channel incentive and partner programs become even more useful. Forrester research showed that 39% of global B2B marketing decision makers were looking to improve partner experience in 2019 and because of all the changes 2020 has brought, creating a value-driven and beneficial partner experience has become even more important.
Now more than ever, B2B businesses have a vital need for channel partners that can upsell and cross-sell, maintain positive customer relationships, and drive product adoption among new customers. Channel incentive programs already provide numerous benefits and features that enable channel partners to achieve their goals. Enhancing or improving key program areas in particular can go a long way to helping both B2B organizations and their channel partners to manage risks and improve performance.
Make Data A Priority
When the norms are changing everywhere, the usual processes for identifying and engaging new prospects or working with existing customers might not prove to be as successful -- making it harder for partners to achieve their goals. B2B businesses will need to lean more heavily on data capturing and analysis in order to maximize their current opportunities, scoping out future potentials, and identify where customer relationship-nurturing is needed the most. Channel partners will need data collection and measurement tools that can track ongoing fluctuations in sales and behavior patterns, and provide detailed insights and recommendations for how to move forward.
Lean On Your Partner Segments
Typically a majority of channel revenue will come from the top fraction of partners, while the remaining bulk of the partner list are low-spenders. The obvious approach has been to focus efforts on the higher spenders who are already proven to be profitable. But in truth every partner is equally important -- especially in times of uncertainty when businesses need every advantage they can get. Even if these "lower tier" partners are spending little to no dollars themselves, they could still be contributing to your bottom line by methods such as giving recommendations, passing along leads, and operating as advocates to retain existing customers. B2B businesses can strengthen their overall sales prospects by 1) identifying these different types of partner segments, 2) understanding their motivators and reasonings, and 3) incorporating segment-specific engagement tactics and rewards into their overall channel strategy.
Identify And Drive Value-Heavy Behaviors
Channel partners aren’t the only ones who can benefit from improved data collection — B2B businesses can as well. You can identify new indicators of success during slowdown periods by incorporating program analytics to help you track partner actions and behaviors such as:
- completing or currently enrolled in training modules
- engaging with content or webinars
- asking for information from sales reps
- utilizing specific tools or program features
Tying which non-transactional actions eventually result in successful transactions — during both certain and uncertain times — will show which engagement areas you should focus on and help give you an incentive game plan to drive more partners and customers along the same path.
Understand Changing Priorities
Adjusting to new norms isn’t always as easy as powering up your work laptop on your kitchen table instead of your office desk. Workers in almost every industry are needing new training to handle both small and extensive changes — from learning new safety and sanitary guidelines, to understanding completely revamped product lines and sales strategies. Training already plays a pivotal role in any good incentive program and it will only become a bigger priority in 2020 due to ongoing shifts in buyer types, customer priorities, and brand goals. B2B businesses will need to invest in enhanced training and certifications for channel partners and sales teams in order to ensure they have the skills and knowledge needed to remain effective in the “new normal”.
In a study done in April 2020 Willis Towers Watson found that even as organizations with incentive programs expected the disruptions and economic challenges caused by COVID-19 to have an impact on their programs results, the majority did not intend to make major changes to program design or function -- much less remove programs entirely. This is because incentive programs still provide business value in difficult times as well as good. They enable B2B businesses to help and support their channel partners by giving them the valuable tools, rewards, and tactics they need to overcome various challenges and continue making wins both big and small.
If you're looking for guidance on how you can adjust and optimize your channel incentives program in response to COVID-19, reach out to us today!