Successful channel management programs typically follow four steps: segmentation, development of policies, creation of product messaging, and the designing and implementation of sales and marketing programs. As you know, the fourth step—sales and marketing—is crucial. This is the step that many channels stumble over, with the classic problem of resellers lacking marketing resources or expertise and vendors not recognizing how to best provide support. Yet many vendors, while recognizing this problem, see it as an obstacle that is separate from channel management. It’s not.
In order to make the most of your channel relationships, you should design marketing support programs that fit the unique needs of each partner segment. Notice that I said “marketing support programs.” Many vendors don’t feel it’s their job to serve as their partners’ marketing team, and they’re not incorrect in this feeling. But they should take responsibility for offering marketing support, and should do so with the recognition that the type of support will vary with each partner segment.
If you’re not sure where to start in designing marketing support programs, there is one simple question you should ask each partner within a segment: “What can we do to help you sell our products?” This question emphasizes: (1) that it is the partner’s job to sell your product; and (2) that you recognize your role in the process and are willing to support them. Their answer will guide you in creating customized marketing support programs and, ultimately, to enhancing loyalty within the channel.