Anyone who sells through an indirect sales channel knows incentives can help boost sales. If you're like most channel managers, however, you struggle to gain mindshare from your network, which can include resellers, distributors, and channel partners.

You want your network to promote your products and be a successful selling machine. But your partners receive a constant deluge of information from all their vendors and are too busy focusing on their own agendas to support yours.

So, how can you drive engagement?

Start with a robust platform

Our research and experience reveal that most vendors—even those with more than $1 billion in annual revenues—have limited insight into the effects of their partner incentive investments. Channel marketers still find themselves trying to manage programs on spreadsheets, which can be a cumbersome and error-prone task, or on separate systems, which makes data nearly impossible to aggregate for relevant ROI insights.

Let's look at the benefits that a seamless, unified channel platform can offer.

A robust channel engagement platform should be personalized, modular, upgradable, scalable, mobile, and purpose-built

In other words, the right solution enables a channel manager to launch, communicate, and measure the incentive programs that can drive sales most successfully. You need a system that is…

  • Fast to implement
  • Highly flexible
  • Fully customizable from simple to complex programs
  • Personalized
  • Segmented and targeted
  • A tool that provides total program visibility
  • Easy to use

Today's technology should be a SaaS, cloud-based solution

The days of "custom platforms" are long gone.

Sure, you want to customize your programs and incentives, but you don't want to reinvent your platform every time you have a new marketing strategy that can give you the competitive edge. Moreover, a SaaS product gives you access to the newest releases, which can fix bugs or include new capabilities.

A successful channel engagement platform builds engagement throughout the entire partner lifecycle, including recruiting, training, developing, integrating, motivating, and retaining

Adding a new partner and building smart groups—that deliver timely information only to the segment of your channel network that needs it—should be easy.

Access a global rewards portfolio

Effective incentives are the lifeblood of a successful indirect sales program. That's why you need an innovative rewards and payments portfolio with a global reach.

Having a broad mix of desired rewards (such as branded prepaid cards, gift cards and vouchers, direct deposit features, merchandise, travel, and experiential gifts) can drive engagement for your sales channel. Look for a platform that can fulfill rewards accurately, seamlessly, and in a timely manner.

You can save time, money, and headaches if your platform provider is also your single source for reward processing and delivery, including customer service support to answer your partners', resellers', or distributors' questions about the their rewards and other fulfillment issues.

Do the heavy lifting yourself (or not)

If you're running your indirect sales with a lean-and-mean team—and you probably are—you want the option to choose full-service, supported-service, or self-service channel engagement platform management, including the associated incentives.

Look for a company that offers all those options, including the choice to dial up or down the support you receive over time.

Your benefits can include…

  • Focusing your energy on the competitive landscape to determine the channel strategies you want to implement. Let your channel engagement provider manage the details, including launching, managing, and reporting on campaign results.
  • Building and launching the simple or complex incentives "behind the scenes" for you. Although your channel engagement platform should give you access to an admin portal, you might not want to manage all the details. That's when you should have the option to have "platform experts" button up campaign requirements on your behalf.
  • Determining the most effective incentives for your international programs. Trust the single-source provider of your rewards catalog to finesse relevant offerings for countries and regions, based on previous claims from those areas.

Need creative services, too?

Channel program managers typically juggle a lot of different demands, including the need to develop partner-marketing communications. If your channel engagement platform provider can offer in-house advertising agency services, too, jump at the opportunity. You'll have a turnkey solution that integrates the key services you need to launch a campaign—all managed under one roof.

Close the gap between bright ideas and smart execution

There is a wide gap between the most important partner engagement strategies and how successful your staff can be at executing them. A majority of channel managers understand the benefits of adding behavioral incentives to their partner programs but find them too complex to manage.

Through a SaaS- or cloud-based channel engagement platform, you can deliver highly flexible and targeted incentive offerings across the entire partner lifecycle. Combine that with an international rewards portfolio and industry-leading services and support, and you will have everything you need to drive sales-driving behaviors in your partner network.

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image of Dan Hawtof

Dan Hawtof is vice-president of Product & Business Development, Channel Solutions at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, a global provider of customized incentive and engagement solutions.

LinkedIn: Dan Hawtof