Please enter your username or the email address associated with the account so we can help you reset your password.
B2B relationships between brands and their channel partners are no longer as clear-cut as in the past. With the evolution of digital and online mediums, new breeds of channel partners have emerged, with roles to play beyond mere sales. Social media, for example, has made marketing behemoths out of ‘influencers’ who now have tremendous sway over the purchasing habits of their followers. Brands that want to bring their products and services to the forefront need to cultivate relationships with these new kinds of channel partners,who play increasingly vital roles in winning over discerning consumers. The B2B marketing goal is now to turn channel partners into brand advocates, for which they need to be courted, incentivized, trained, and compensated. In order to help our brand and agency clients navigate the ins and outs of this new landscape, we’ve put together a 2018 guide to making B2B better.
B2B relationships are as personal as B2C – if not more so: On average, B2B customers are significantly more emotionally connected to their vendors and service providers than consumers.
MAKING CHANNEL PARTNERS YOUR BRAND ADVOCATES
Getting through to today’s consumer requires more than traditional advertising or incentives. They can effectively block pop-up ads, tune out branded information, and navigate competing discounts and deals like seasoned pros. With all the tools available to influence a consumer’s buying decisions, the one that matters most – still – is a recommendation. According to a Nielsen survey, most people (77%) say “word-of-mouth advice… is the most persuasive source of new product information.” For brands who are a step removed from their end customer, an enthusiastic recommendation can be a key differentiator. Channel partners wield a lot of influence in being able to provide that enthusiastic thumbs up – and cultivating a strong connection with them can lead to their being vital marketing advocates. So how do brands go about fostering the kind of loyalty that would lead a channel partner to become an advocate?
For B2B programs, fostering loyalty might start with financial incentives and immediate discounts, similar to B2C programs. But lasting loyalty comes from uncovering the consumer inside your B2B accounts. Much like B2C efforts, this involves enhancing the relationship by using data to understand channel partner motivations, and offering personalized and customized interactions, training, rewards and recognition.
Provide Influencers with Value-Added Incentives: If your brand relies on influencers (celebrity or not!) as channel partners to expand engagement and reach, then make sure your incentives are tailored to attract and maintain their interest.
Consider Sales Incentive/Loyalty Programs for Resellers: If your brand depends on distributors, dealers, agents and resellers to bring your products to market, a channel sales incentive or loyalty program (sometimes called dealer reward programs, reseller programs, distributor incentive programs or agent reward programs) can help you engage your many channel partners to stimulate sales. Incentive programs build brand loyalty. With the advent of an incentive program, channel partners learn more about your product and are better able to explain its benefits to their end customers. A properly constructed incentive program will train hundreds of sales channel partners into brand advocates, encouraging their customers recommend your brand to others.
Define Business Objectives and Strategy First: The strategy, goals and objectives of an incentive program must be well-defined up front and clearly communicated. Program goals should be data-driven, measurable and reasonably challenging. Like any marketing effort, incentive programs are most effective when targeted. Rather than enroll every one of your channel partners, focus on those that represent the most value to your organization, and those with the greatest potential upside. Knowing who you want to influence and then structuring a program that directly address their needs will generate the best response.
Understand Your Data Requirements: There are a several possible target participant groups among your channel partners – dealers, dealer sales reps, dealer customers. Once you have decided which of these participant groups are most influential, you need to identify the data associated with their activities – and how to obtain it. Understanding this step is critical to the design of the program award rules and measurement. The more data you gather from different sources in the sales process, the better you can assess the value of your incentive program. Get order data on products from your internal departments. Gather data from channel partners. If possible, structure the program so that it enables you to identify and capture purchase data from end users.
Use effective and updated channel incentive technology: Most importantly: use the right kind of incentive technology. The dispersed nature of your sales channel mandates that you use an online rewards program that is mobile optimized or available through a mobile app. This is the easiest and most direct way to offer your channel partners compelling rewards. They instantly receive digital reward points for desired behaviors, and these points are immediately redeemable in an online rewards catalog with millions of merchandise, event ticket, and travel options. Speed, ease of use, and immediately apparent benefits will pique your partners’ interest in your channel incentives program. Then you move into the really fun part: using the program to improve channel marketing and brand loyalty.
Create a Value Proposition that Resonates with Your Partners: The program itself needs to communicate enough value to your channel partners to get their attention. If you decide to implement a point-based reward solution, the number of points awarded for an action or behavior must be perceived as fair for the effort being expended, and point awards need to accrue at rates fast enough to keep program participants excited about their progress toward the rewards they want.
Multi-tier targets: Experiment with tiered targets. The first-tier target can be set at a point that a majority of sales agents historically attain, the second-tier target at a point reached by a smaller percentage of the channel sales force, and a third-tier target at a point hit only by an elite few. A tiered structure can have a profound impact. Research shows that core performers striving to achieve triple-tier targets significantly outsell core performers given only two tiers. These results suggest that core performers exert more effort if given additional tiers. Stars are presumably unaffected by the extra stepping stones because they view the top tier as attainable regardless of the number of targets. And the inattentiveness that laggards show suggests that they typically aim for and are satisfied with achieving the first-tier target.
Clearly Define All Program Structures: Ensure that everyone involved in the program knows the “rules.” Be very explicit about the desired behaviors and activities being rewarded, and how rewards are earned.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Effective communications are crucial for getting a channel incentive program off the ground and rolling. Communications that mark the program launch build the brand and drive participant awareness, interest and enrollment. Ongoing communications promote product sales and encourage participant engagement, reflected in more point-earning and reward redemption behaviors. Communications can also be used to reposition the program, aligning it with evolving business objectives. Employ every available medium to increase visibility to your channel partners — and then leverage their engagement with the program to convey key marketing messages, strengthen your brand, increase product knowledge, education and more.
Track, Analyze and Adjust: Monitor and analyze your program data to get an understanding of how your program is driving business activity, and determine changes that will improve performance. Your program activity should be tracking the behaviors of your channel partners (and potentially end users) and could yield early warnings about market and competitive developments.
Capture data and personalize experiencesUsing data effectively allows B2B marketers to understand their accounts better and target them with more relevant and personalized communications and experiences. B2B companies are finding value in adopting data and analytics to drive marketing efforts and identify customer needs. Loyalty programs capture not only transactional, but engagement data and use it to serve customers with relevant content, communications, and product recommendations.
View Original Article