Six Ways Channel Organizations Can Remain Innovative
September was a whirlwind for me: several exciting client projects, bride’s maid (or matron, a term which I hate) in my friend’s wedding, moving my house, and several trips. All good things but just the same, when you’re wrapped up in what’s currently going on, you are not focused on building that pipeline or nurturing relationships or innovating around your current programs. I find the same is true with some channel organizations. How do you keep innovating when you’re busy maintaining your current programs? Here are six suggestions.
If you have a channel team where each member is focused on maintaining the status quo with little extra bandwidth then relationships with your partners are suffering somewhere. Sure you are getting your newsletter out and deal registration still has 24 hour turn around but are you changing the program as partners’ needs change? Are you providing your partners with the most up-to-date sales information? Are you innovating within your programs to match the current market trends? If you’re not doing it, another vendor is and partners will notice.
Here are six suggestions for staying at the front of the herd:
- Read the industry rags and blogs: subscribe to blogs or rags to keep up with what other vendors are doing and current channel trends. Be sure to catch the comments as well as the original post, sometimes they add even more value.
- Form an Advisory Council: let me guess, you already have one. If you do, make sure there is a representative from each of your “types of partners”, not just your large partners. Make sure the mom and pops are represented. They individually make up a tiny percentage of your revenue but together create a long tail of revenue where word spreads. They would be missed and would speak out if they felt alienated or felt your program was not providing them with support they need.
- Listen to your Advisory Council: sounds like the same point I know, but some vendors form the council then never listen to them – I felt it had to be called out. Of course you don’t change something the second they complain or with every trend but you should assign one of your channel managers or ask a consultant to take a closer look at the changes that make sense. A survey or a few phone interviews never hurt anyone and just think of how much more in-touch with your partner community you will be. I promise they will notice.
- Social Media Engagement: I know you’ve heard this from me before but it is so important that ALL of your partners feel like you communicate HOW they want you to. If 20% still prefer email and 25% prefer phone contact and 30% will look on your website but 25% are on twitter/LinkedIn/blogs you’ve lost that 25% completely.
- Assign innovation to your whole team: Some people are more comfortable knowing their specific tasks and responsibilities and sticking to them. It is imperative however, that you also have people willing to manage short term projects above and beyond. These people should be doing surveys, following trends, reaching out to partners, and constantly reassessing elements of your current program.
- Be willing to clean out the closet: If you EVER hear someone on your team say “but this is the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s not how we do things” their time may be up. It’s fine to brainstorm about why a specific strategy might not work but your entire team should be open to changes, brainstorming, and innovation.
Overall it’s important to get out of the bubble we find ourselves in and make sure we’re innovating by making use of feedback, due diligence, and open minds. What other issues are we missing? I’d love to hear about companies that innovated and won, or those that innovated and lost. Are there others out there who need to innovate soon before a big loss?
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.