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Channel Incentives: The long and short of it

The old tried and tested ways are always the best, right? Incentives, discounts and points schemes have been used for years to encourage the channel to sell more, but are they still relevant today? Does the business owner of your largest partner really care about a skydiving experience? Are millennials – soon to be majority of your channel’s workforce – turned on by 50 bonus points to spend on a toaster?


Customer retention remains key and yes, whilst it’s easy to undercut your competitors price from time to time, is that good practice long term? Short term tactics such as special offers and power-sales have their time and place – but does flashing ‘blue-cross-sale’ tickets every other quarter still cut it?


Certainly nowadays in our increasingly consumerised, brand-matching society we are more interested in who goes one step further to deliver added extras, beyond price…and the channel is no exception. Maybe it’s time vendors looked past just giving things ‘away’ in the short-term and looked more at how they can actually help their channel partners – and the individuals therein – to be more successful longer term.


Cash, catalogue or coaching?


Tailoring benefits to specific channel partners that will help them deliver a differentiator to the end user is becoming increasingly popular. Think beyond pounds, points and prizes and explore how rewards such as free demo equipment or increased technical support can motivate. What about access to specific online training platforms, exclusive events, personal career coaching, sales lead generation, or funded marketing services like social media management or preference based eNews?


Keep it simple


Complexity is often the downfall of many vendor rewards schemes. Partners are busy – they have their own businesses to concentrate on. So whatever vendors can do, simply and easily, to add that ‘extra special something’ in order to help influence the customer’s buying decisions will undoubtedly prove to be a winner. Make rewards simple and obtainable with realisable value.


Keep it personal


Invariably, B2C paves the way for many of the tactics later adopted by B2B, and rewards and incentives are no different. According to the Incentive Research Foundation, effective rewards programs should use analytics to drive a unique experience informed by an individual’s unique profile – “In situations where employers or providers are able to deliver rewards and incentives tailored to the individual, they should.” We all recognise (and demand) a personalised experience as consumers, and your partners’ employees now expect that same treatment.


Make it fun


An engaging user experience is more critical than ever when building a channel reward scheme. For example, we all like a bit of friendly competition; peer-to-peer recognition now has a huge influence on driving behaviour, as does gamification. Use these techniques to engage and reward your audience in different ways, and to drive behaviour based on recognition and learning competencies.


You could of course argue however that traditional types of incentive campaigns are still of use, more tactical and specific for short term gains such as tracking specific data or periodical behaviour change. Maybe as an ad hoc activity yes (depending on the type of partner), but it is vital that vendors consider the partner ‘long-game’ too. Strategically thinking to build longer term relationships, trust and commitment will result in more sustained repeat business.


So should you still flash the cash? It depends on your objectives and the personal motivators of your partners. Wins designed for the short-term must be enhanced and supplemented by activities created for the long-term. Create the optimum equilibrium between rewarding long term and short term value – for BOTH your partners’ business and the individuals within them – and you’ve nailed it.


That, essentially, is the long and the short of it!


As ever, if you want to discuss any of your channel activity, get in touch.