Today’s channel is a world away from the earliest days of channel marketing, when some resellers featured dozens of vendor “partner” logos in their marketing materials (and later, on their websites). As the tech industry matured, vendor solutions grew more specialized, and channel partners abandoned the shotgun approach in favor of true partnerships with a smaller number of vendors.
Every partnership is bound to have some pain points, however. Many stem from misunderstanding each other’s needs and expectations. To help ensure successful relationships, here are five essential questions channel partners should ask their vendors—and the answers they should receive.
1. What sort of training should I expect, and who should pay for it?
At the very least, vendors should share in the cost of training their channel partners. Preferably, the vendor would pick up the cost entirely, especially since the time channel partners spend training is time they cannot spend on their own business.
Footing the bill for training is really in the vendor’s best interests. A knowledgeable channel partner is better equipped to not only sell the vendor’s product but also support the end user. Expecting channel partners to pick up the entire cost sends a message that they’re not valued. It’s also a big red flag indicating a lack of commitment on the part of the vendor, which could translate into problems obtaining other support down the road.
2. How will you prevent channel conflict scenarios?
Most vendors utilize multiple channel partners and internal direct sales teams. It’s important for vendors to establish clear and consistent rules of engagement to head off conflict-of-interest situations, where channel partners find themselves in competition with each other, with internal sales teams, or with both for the same set of customers. The guidelines should include:
- Clear rules on customer targeting. For example, a vendor may assign its internal sales staff to pursue enterprise accounts, while channel partners target smaller businesses and individual channel partners may be provided with regional exclusivity.
- Consistent pricing across channels. Good vendors never make their channel partners compete on price. Giving one channel a sweetheart deal quickly sours the other channel partners, who are now at a disadvantage through no fault of their own. It also erodes the value of the vendor’s product.
- Dual compensation if channels do end up in conflict. Sometimes, conflicts happen despite everyone’s best efforts, which is why vendors need to have a plan for dual compensation. All partners involved in the sale share credit and compensation, which encourages them to work together as partners rather than view each other as competitors.
3. What sort of marketing content/collateral will be provided?
Channel partners can never have enough content. In addition to driving website traffic, marketing content enables partners to establish themselves as trusted advisers to their customers by giving them helpful and timely information.
Vendors should provide customizable marketing material so that channel partners can differentiate themselves in the market and build their own brands. Many vendors partner with agencies or freelance copywriters who specialize in their brand and industry and who understand the needs of channel marketers. Often, they’ll create turnkey content packages, such as a blog with a corresponding ebook that the channel partner can gate to collect potential leads.