You can have the most perfectly designed channel programs, but if you don’t execute successfully, it will fail … ever wonder why this is? The Business/Strategic effort to design a successful channel program is only as effective as how well it plays out in the Channel, and how well you prepare and execute on that vision. Will your program resonate with your partners, with your Senior Exec Team? How will you know? Let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls that occur at the execution stage.
The Law of Unintended Consequences
I was recently discussing Wal-Mart's empty shelf issue with a friend. I was curious as to whether or not there was some deeply ingrained corporate incentive that has had the unintended consequence of driving behaviors resulting in the lack of sellable inventory on their shelves.
My guess is that there is a reward or bonus structure in place that caused store and regional managers to keep low inventory vs. stocking their stores with high-turning SKUs.
In any case, it illustrates a tipping point in size, supply chain and/or bonus/compensation structure that is not sending the desired message to consumers or analysts.
Conclusion: Examine your performance incentives from the viewpoint of the recipient. How would you work the incentive to your advantage? How would that impact your business if amplified?
We Know Something Happened but Can’t Prove It
Work backward from your desired reporting (key KPIs) when determining the data you must collect to prove ROI and program results. Using data points that your finance and management teams are already reliant on will increase your chances of success. If it’s an unproven or even just familiar set of data, you’ll encounter disbelief or resistance to your "proof".
Conclusion: Ask your constituents what reporting will make them feel confident enough to invest and build out the program. You won’t have to sell the value if you already include what’s valuable to them.
Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
Recently, I worked with a vendor that had discontinued a Loyalty program due to cost, and within a quarter saw their Opportunity Registrations decline. Now the vendor realizes the program drove mindshare in their Channel, but will have to re-build that engagement with a new program that will require education and marketing to re-coup the lost pipeline.
Conclusion: Examine programs holistically. How do they influence and drive each other? Considering these positive (or negative) elements is key to successful execution.
Teach them how to Fish
Which brings me to another important tactic – a great communications and training plan. Change is scary, and when people don’t know where to turn or how to engage with a program, the Vendor will lose. Adoption is a key component and the best way I’ve found to drive adoption is to socialize programs well. Pilot a program with a subset of your most vocal and important partners – at conception, at testing and at launch. Tell them again and again – and have a method in place for reaching new members of each Partner organization.
Conclusion: Tell ‘em with video, tell ‘em with pictures, and tell ‘em with regular voice or face-to-face communication if you can. Email is great for broadcast communications but it’s easy to ignore, so make sure you reach them through every other medium they use. And if you forget everything else…
Remember this one thing – your best strategically designed plan will only be as good as your weakest link. This is usually due to the tactical execution (or lack thereof) required of the people involved, and the ease (or difficulty) of maintaining the business process you’re asking them to employ. Not to mention how it hits their wallets!
Think about your programs in the context of those important “wrappers” because I assure you, they matter. We can share with you how hawkeye Channel by Vistex clients benefit from exceptionally designed and executable programs, and drive the successful execution of Channel programs for maximum vendor value.