Tips for Creating a High-Performing Channel Partner Program

Channel partners know their work is profitable to you, but they need to profit from your partnership, too. And that means they need a win every time they engage with your program.  

But that doesn’t mean using incentives alone to drive action. Or rewarding every move your partners make. It can be a lot simpler than that.  

Making your program valuable starts with drawing out your partners’ best qualities, building their loyalty through meaningful experiences, and creating the right conditions. The conditions that make it easier to work with you, sell for you and reap the benefits of your connection. 

This isn’t a nosedive into a new strategy. It’s enhancing the steps you’re already taking to retain partners and empower their potential within your program. And you’re likely off to a better start than you think.

The Four Characteristics of Engaged Partners

What does “partner engagement” really mean in practice? How can you spot it? What are the actual characteristics that these channel partners will embrace? Usually, it looks like: 

  1. Alignment: Partners are connected to your brand, exhibit deep knowledge of your products and services, and act as an extension of your team.
  1. Advocacy: You can count on partners to position you best in the market. They promote you over competitors, take advantage of upselling opportunities, invest in localized marketing, make referrals, and rep your brand merch.
  1. Participation: Partners contribute to program objectives, respond to communications, provide feedback, track progress, complete training, collaborate with peers, and stay vigilant for new opportunities.
  1. Performance: Partners are progressing toward shared goals and driving measurable business revenue and program growth.

Remember: These qualities aren’t built in. They must be nurtured. Channel partners don’t start loyal to just one program. They choose to invest in businesses that celebrate their role and the wins they bring. That means, to be the program partners invest in repeatedly, you need to enable their success as they enable yours.  

Finally, the competitive landscape is crowded. When partners stumble upon a free-flowing water source, there’s not much point in surveying the terrain. Channel partners will stick to the familiar, reliable, well that’s replenished them time and time again.  

That’s what you want your program to be: The constant. The familiar. The landmark. But that’s a post you’ll need to drill down yourself – and it starts with creating the right program environment.

The 6 Conditions Program Managers Need to Create for Better Engagement: 

If you’re not seeing evidence of alignment or advocacy, if participation is hot and cold, or if it seems like performance should be stronger, it might be time to re-evaluate the conditions you’re creating in your program. For consistent engagement and continuous results, you need to focus on: 

  1. Enablement Materials
    Empower partners with efficient and organized onboarding, comprehensive training to grow professional skills, and customer-ready marketing materials.
  1. Supportive Relationships:
    Connect partners to field team reps for easy access to prospect demos or guides, tech or product support, and a help desk to resolve challenges.
  1. Relevant communications:
    Target and schedule your partner communications so they’re always relevant and on time to deploy at actionable moments. You can also customize your partner portal to give partners a more personalized program experience.
  1. Incentives & Recognition:
    Celebrate and reward partner achievements with a range of incentives. Personalize rule structures for your diverse partner personas and reward more than just sales transactions to build a well-rounded loyalty strategy.
  1. Product Success
    Ensure high-quality products that make it lucrative to promote your business. Then, boost the value of your offerings with ongoing product enhancements that adapt to market changes and add value for both your sellers and end customers.
  1. Brand Immersion:  
    Clearly define your values and goals so partners can relate to your culture, connect to your brand, and share your vision for success. Create partner forums and ask for and incorporate feedback to transform your channel program into a collaborative community

If partner retention is a focus, these six conditions should be, too. A loyalty strategy begins to form when you can step outside your program, look objectively at the experiences you’re creating for partners, and act on opportunities to add value.  

When engagement is a struggle, it’s almost always because certain conditions haven’t been created or need more attention. Take it as a sign to extend your focus beyond short-term gains, and home in on long-term goals. 

If you build a program that advances shared objectives and supports your sellers, their loyalty will be the natural next step. To transform seemingly loyal partners into ride-or-die brand advocates, though, they need a healthy, success-driven, and supportive environment, which, luckily, you now know how to create. There’s no workaround for building a thriving partner ecosystem. You need a positive and empowering program environment to drive real results. It becomes the standard for your brand’s identity, and it does wonders for your partners’ performance. Of course, partnerships don’t reach full bloom overnight, but you can start today!