Differentiate Your Partner Program: Start with the End in Mind
Many of my posts have some information on how to design a program to attract a certain type of partner, but to truly differentiate your program you need to start with the end in mind. Don’t jump into creating a differentiated program without first deciding a) your target market, b) the type of partner you want to recruit to reach that target, and c) what that partner would want or expect out of a partner program.
For instance, if you create a program that is all about one-on-one support of your partners – sales, marketing, technical – but the type of partners that would be best suited to sell your product or service are completely self-sufficient, then your differentiation is totally missing the mark.
Once you’ve identified your target market, decided on the partner profile that would best serve your target, and figured out what they want out of a program, take a look at your competition and see how they have differentiated themselves. Are they providing excellent pre and post sales support? Do they have the largest margins? Will they help you sell services to increase your margins? Whatever they are doing (or claiming to be doing) find something else that you can do better. That’s important, don’t claim to do something better if you can’t. If a feature of your program is not on par with other vendors in your market segment, don’t claim it as your value proposition. Don’t say you have the best technical support if you have two guys sitting in a room reluctantly answering the phone or responding to emails withing 48 hours. 48 hours?! Do you know how much business an end-user and thereby your partner could lose in 48 hours? Now, if you have 24 by 7 technical support as well as partner message boards with assistance, and your support team uses chat THEN you can say you have the best technical support.
All this seem like a lot of work? Well that’s why only a few companies have what they claim are “world-class” channel programs and even fewer actually have them.
How are you differentiating yourself? Are there programs out their claiming to differentiate something they shouldn’t be?
Contributing blogger Heather K. Margolis, the Channel Maven, has led channel programs for major IT companies. She also has extensive lead generation and marketing experience. Follow The VAR Guy via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; Twitter; and via his Newsletter; Webcasts and Resource Center.