Channel partners need incentives

In late 2018, OneAffiniti commissioned a survey of 100 IT brands and channel partners by Forrester Consulting, the internationally-renowned market research agency. In a series of blog posts, we will examine the key findings of the Forrester study, such as:                           

  • The low utilization rate among channel partners for through-channel marketing campaigns
  • The top challenges that partners face in executing marketing campaigns
  • The important role that services play in driving partner engagement
  • The high demand from channel partners for digital marketing solutions

In this post, we’ll focus on another big finding of the Forrester study: brands need to offer incentives to get channel partners engaged in through-channel marketing, and encourage program adoption. Long-term, however, the ‘incentive’ should be the increased sales and ROI.

Poor incentives remain a major barrier

In the Forrester Consulting study, more than half of partners (51%) cited “poor incentive systems” as a challenge in their efforts to use brand-provided marketing platforms and 33% cited it as either a “significant challenge” or one of their “biggest challenges.”

The good news is that brands are increasingly recognizing the need to offer incentives as well. In fact, 88% of brands surveyed described poor incentive systems as a problem, although only 14% described it as either a significant challenge or one of their biggest challenges.

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Brands surveyed who view poor incentive systems as a problem

Incentives remain a major opportunity

Providing incentives offers a chance for brands to drastically increase marketing among channel partners. Asked what would make them more likely to take advantage of brand-provided marketing platforms, a whopping 72% of partners said “improved incentives systems.”

In some cases the issue is that brands may not be offering any incentives for partners to use their platform. In other cases, the issue is that the incentives they are providing do not align with partners’ preferences or goals.  

The good news is, “incentives” doesn’t always have to translate to cash, either. In our annual Pulse of the Channel survey of more than 500 North American partners, more than 60% indicated that they would be more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers monetary incentives, while 40% said their loyalty could be earned via marketing services or training. Turns out, partners are just looking for more help, which should be easy for large brands to provide! Smaller percentages said they would be motivated by invites to brand-sponsored events, brand purchasing credits or partner recognition (awards & certificates).

Incentives shouldn’t be permanent

Because many partners are unfamiliar with through-channel marketing and unconvinced of its benefits, incentives may play a crucial role in getting them to participate in TCM campaigns. Over time, however, the campaigns will generate new demand for the partners, providing an even more compelling reason for them to continue marketing. At that point, brands can reduce incentives without having to worry about partners disengaging.

The challenge is ensuring that partners are actually using through-channel marketing to generate new demand, rather than simply to retain existing customers. The Forrester study showed that while 59% of partners who used a brand-provided marketing platform experienced increased customer retention, only 35% saw increased sales or revenue. That suggests that many partners are not using the campaigns to reach out to prospects, but are simply sending them to their customer list. This is an area where brands need to step in and help partners understand that they are missing out on major potential.

In the end, the goal is to help partners understand the value of marketing. Once they appreciate the role that marketing can play in driving their business, the partners can become powerful ambassadors for the brand.

Explore the Forrester study further

Brands do not need to accept that so few of their channel partners will take advantage of their marketing platforms. Low utilization should not be a given. Instead, it is a symptom of flaws in how brands are trying to engage with partners. If you’re interested in further exploring the findings of the Forrester report, including how brands can improve the situation, check out the Forrester report in its entirety or take a look at the four additional articles we’ve published examining some of the study’s most significant findings. The next article focuses on the major challenges that partners face in executing marketing campaigns.

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