Welcome to the future. Not the flying cars, robotic future that "The Jetsons" envisioned, or even the hoverboard, self-tying Nikes from "Back to the Future."
The future of the channel is grounded in new demographics, new business models and new definitions of partnerships. I talked more about these in a previous post.
It doesn’t come as a surprise to channel professionals that things are changing faster than ever across the partner ecosystem. A perfect storm of new technologies, transforming business models, rapidly evolving competition, consumerization and economic forces have fundamentally changed the traditional supplier/partner relationship.
Bill Gates keenly said that we overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. Let's focus here on the next 12 to 24 months.
Not only are things moving much faster, the relationships have become significantly more complex. Ten years ago, a solid email, portal, phone, advertising and events strategy was all that was needed to communicate effectively to partners and customers.
Today we have more than 30 marketing vehicles in play, and the level of noise and clutter is, at times, out of control.
So with that in mind, how do we plan for 2015? How do we recruit the right new partners, develop our current partners to be stars, and take our top performing partners to the next level? Here are the first five of my 10 growth hacks (the next five will be in a subsequent post).
1. Go Mobile
Five years ago the average partner had one device (usually a laptop or desktop). Today the average is three to four, including smartphones, tablets and perhaps a rudimentary wearable device. By 2018, top researchers predict that number to be 10.
Cars, watches, smart walls, and other devices will drive new types of partner interaction and provide the platform for innovative selling and support tools.
Top vendors today are using technologies such as GPS, cameras, video and social in new and interesting ways that would have been unheard of even a few years ago.
More than 65 percent of partners report they prefer to use mobile as a primary source of doing business. With more than half of all Internet traffic now coming from mobile devices, many channel vendors and distributors do not have a viable platform to leverage and grab a competitive advantage.
2. Leverage Big Data
Is your partner program still segmented by historic revenue? Perhaps you are thinking that a survey or partner advisory council meeting will give you the secrets to what is happening out there.
In reality, there are hundreds of data points that allow you to understand partner performance and loyalty to your brand. If you were able to combine these into one powerful set of predictive and prescriptive analytics, what changes would you make in your program?
Your partners keep telling you that they want better communication and support from your team. That doesn't mean sending more emails—it means understanding your partner deeper and connecting in the way that they prefer.
What if your partner program was ultra-customized by individual person and company? Understanding the who, what, where, when and why of each partner persona could be the biggest channel growth hack you can make in 2015.
3. Expand Automation
The recent surge in marketing automation popularity has not yet worked its way into channel communication. The ability to set automatic triggers based on a partner’s behavior results in a new level of insight.
Scoring each individual partner based on their actions can improve future communication and content to be more relevant and focused.
The win here is implementing a drip campaign across the channel, catering to each person based on where they are in the marketing/sales funnel.
4. Move Away from Partner Portal as Primary Contact
Surveys show that 95 percent of partners do not regularly use partner portals. In fact, unless they are forced to log in for deal registration or mandatory education to keep their status, many partners do not come at all.
Channel marketing and communication has increasingly become a push vs. a pull exercise.
There is no magic in push—every individual is different and making your program easier and more accessible across myriad communication vehicles is a must (unfortunately).
5. Re-look at Communities
You think your company is complex to deal with? The partner ecosystem is large and diverse, with dozens of different specialties, business models and types.
There are many sub-communities that have formed to serve these differences. These take the form of associations, online forums, social media, media groups, vendor and distributor groups, user groups and peer groups.
Communities tend to be more focused and specialized and have people that support each other with common interests and challenges. What makes them powerful is the ability to influence through the implied endorsement of the larger membership.
In many cases, participation is the only cost of entry.
In my next post I'll discuss more channel growth hacks for 2015. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on my first five—drop me a line in the comments section below.
Jay McBain is co-founder and CMO of ChannelEyes, a mobile platform designed to change the way vendors communicate, educate and engage with their VARs and channels.