With the economy finally showing signs of recovery, companies across all industries need to do all they can to stay one step ahead of the competition and find new ways to gain market share. For those organisations that rely on a channel sales strategy, effective partner engagement is vital to making this happen, to stimulate performance and ultimately boost sales.
However, it’s no longer enough to take a “sell x and get y” approach. Channel programmes need to constantly evolve and take a more sophisticated approach in response to today’s competitive landscape. Whilst incentives play a fundamental role in driving performance, the core focus should be on driving engagement between a brand and its reseller audience.
Ian Horsham, Divisional Director, Promotions and Incentives, The Grass Roots Group offers some advice and insight for B2B marketers to maximise partner engagement and enhance performance levels.
- Capture the imagination
For any engagement campaign to be a success it needs to resonate with the audience and get them excited about what’s on offer. When BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions wanted to increase partner performance levels it used the buzz surrounding the 2014 World Cup to incentivise partners by offering tickets to the games and football memorabilia to capture the imagination and competitive streak of its partners. Of those invited to register for the ‘Game On’ incentive, 60 per cent signed-up in the first few months and over 800 individual sales people enrolled in the scheme.
- Be bold and engaging
Once you’ve got people’s attention you need to keep it. There’s no point producing a great “call to action” email, if the landing page you are directing people to doesn’t live up to expectations. As well as the incentives on offer, the look and feel of any portal also needs to engage the audience and entice them to sign up to a scheme. The information provided needs to be insightful and useful, with online learning, dedicated marketing support and resource libraries playing a key role in helping sales staff ultimately sell more, alongside the incentive aspect.
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When BNP Paribas re-designed its partner incentive portal, it wanted to ensure it would not only be a key source of information but engaging to all who visited. The slick, contemporary feel and bold, eye-catching design of “weareleasing.com” made an initial impact on visitors, with 90 per cent of those invited, registering within the first two weeks.
- Offer the right incentives
Successful initiatives are those that utilise rewards that are tailored and relevant to the channel audience. Points-based solutions might not be the right approach for all, with bespoke reward solutions, “business benefits” packages and prepaid cards starting to grow in popularity.
As highlighted by the BNP Paribas example, as well as the type, ease of redemption is also a key consideration. BNP Paribas has made it straightforward for partners to redeem the points they earn for sales via an online catalogue or have them transferred to a BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions branded VISA card, for faster payments.
- React and adapt
The success of any scheme is only as good as the last campaign and to keep partners coming back for more, companies need to constantly review engagement levels and take user feedback on board.
Facilitating a two-way dialogue with partners is vital. An automotive client for example, hosts an online forum on its portal, where topics are posted on a weekly basis, to encourage feedback and debate, with dealer staff embracing the opportunity to have their voice heard.
Taking a targeted approach is vital and what works for one audience might not work for another so it is key to segment and target partners based on what interests and entices them to engage in a particular campaign. As we have seen, hooking onto a topical event or anniversary can be a great way to capture the imagination.
- Rely on insight and intelligence
As well as keeping it creative, analysing what has and hasn’t worked well will help boost the success rate of future campaigns. For example, when BNP Paribas looked into open rates of its email campaigns, it changed sending out “call to action” emails from a Friday to a Tuesday, which resulted in an increase in open rates from an average of 20 per cent to upwards of 60 per cent.
By drilling down into email open and sign-up rates of each campaign, companies have access to a wealth of information upon which to base future schemes, to ensure the best possible levels of engagement. This stage shouldn’t however wait until the end of a campaign, with regular analysis meaning tactics can be refreshed or adapted for a better outcome.
By following these five key principles, companies can keep partners engaged and motivate them to stay loyal to the brand. Showing an understanding of what makes them tick and by offering them useful business support tools as well a reward that they really want, will have a significant impact on future sales and long-term partner relationships.