8 Tips for Planning 2019 Channel Success

Articulating goals and designing programs strategically can go a long way toward successful partner engagement.

By Larry Walsh

The dog days of summer are officially over, and that means it’s time for you, the vendor, to start thinking about channel and route-to-market strategies for the coming year. Growth is always the imperative, but achieving that growth through various routes to market requires assessments, analysis, and planning.

A mistake many channel leaders make is feeling as though they must create programs to engage with the broadest number of partners possible to generate the highest revenue lift. Also, they mistakenly think that throwing more product, incentives, and marketing at partners will create the momentum they need to book revenue.

In reality, growth is a matter of making choices. As a channel leader, you must decide where to focus, make investments, and decide what you and your organization won’t do.

Around this time every year, vendors will ask The 2112 Group for advice on how they should think about channel strategy. The following are eight tips for effectively engaging channel partners and indirect routes to market more effectively in 2019.

  1. Clearly Define and Articulate Goals: Vendors do a great job of talking about their products and market opportunities. What they don’t do very well is communicate their goals and objectives to partners. You need to enlist partners to help achieve strategic goals. By bringing partners into the goal-attainment process, you’ll likely find more engaged participation and better results.
  2. Engage With Partners Only Where Needed and When Most Advantageous: How many partners are there in the channel? The answer: more than enough. But that doesn’t mean you have to engage them all. Different types of partners have different skills, competencies, and capacities. Don’t treat all partners equally; instead, pick the partners that can best do the job you need done.
  3. Design Programs Based on Desired Outcomes: Just as you should align with the right type of partners to achieve your goals, you should create programs designed to achieve the right goals. Rarely do one-size-fits-all channel programs produce desired results. You need to think about enablement and incentive programs crafted for specific routes to market and intended outcomes.
  4. Do the Math and Define the Economic Model: To savvy partners, product sales are increasingly less attractive. Margins are too slim on many products to make money reselling. More interesting are the add-on (value-add) and after-market opportunities to engage with customers and make money. You need to do more than just say how much partners will make with your product; you need to define the economic opportunity and model for the partner’s end-to-end customer engagement.
  5. Make Partners Put Skin in the Game: If you want committed partners, compel them to invest resources in their businesses. You can invest in partners, but only if partners invest in themselves and the mutual go-to-market strategy. Partners that have a stake in the outcome will invest more effort in achieving shared Having partners – or finding partners – that put skin in the game is more effective than cajoling partners with incentives.
  6. Establish Joint Business Plans: According to our research here at 2112, three out of four partners don’t have business plans. Nearly as many don’t set annual sales goals, and 80 percent don’t have strategic plans for growth. Simply put, partners are poor planners. As a means of finding those “right” partners, you should compel them to establish joint business plans that detail investments, activities, and Partners with joint business plans outperform those without plans two to fivefold.
  7. Create Universal Metrics: The old management saying, “If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed,” is right on-target. You need to tell partners your goals, but also the means by which you’ll measure progress and performance. And you need to communicate progress reports to partners both en masse and individually. Motivating partners involves more than just letting them know if they’re complying with program requirements; it’s also about letting them know how much they’re contributing to the overall effort.
  8. Give Partners Time: Partners hate surprises. That’s because partners sometimes spend years gaining insights and building processes that allow them to engage with vendors effectively. Sudden changes disrupt partner operations and performance. No matter what plans you craft, you have to give partners time to adjust.

Strategic planning is never easy, especially when it comes to translating that planning to partners. But through engagements with dozens of vendor organizations over the years, 2112 has determined that the tips above provide a solid pathway for turning vision into outcomes and success. The 2112 Group can help you craft your vision, strategy, and execution plan. Ask us about our methods for defining better routes to market and partner engagement; e-mail us today at info@the2112group.com.

Larry Walsh, The 2112 Group

Larry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.