Ep. 6 – Channel Management Process Precedes Technology

“Well, first of all, I think it IS your fault…”

Either as a matter of convenience or one of expedience, Laz Gonzalez thinks that most of us are doing it backwards.

A prominent industry analyst and thought leader, Laz brings unparalleled channel expertise to his role as Chief Strategy Officer at Zift and has served as strategic advisor to leading B2B channel programs worldwide. Before Zift, Laz was Group Director of Channel Sales and Marketing Strategies at Sirius Decisions, where his team published extensively on channel management, partner recruitment, enablement and lead generation while developing transformative frameworks, such as the Sirius Decisions Channel Program Model.

In short, he has earned his opinion.

Enhanced rigour around processes and marketing tech stacks has been a prominent trend in the channel marketing space that bubbled up in late 2017 has continued to be a hot topic well into the second half of 2018. Published back in January, Forrester’s Tech Tide: Channel Software Stack pushed forward the notion that many organizations have an unfocused, and undisciplined approach to their marketing technology stacks.

Laz couldn’t agree more: “(Channel management) is not just about technology, and if you go there first you’re likely to fail.”

It’s very common for those managing complex channels to start from the premise that they’ve been told that they need a particular system, such as a PRM or channel marketing software but the fact is no software on Earth is going to help an organization transcend a poorly structured channel strategy.

Thinking through your processes is a matter of stepping back and mapping out your entire channel, ideally physically on a huge whiteboard. Visualize your ecosystem as a starting point, and then get to work.

Laz suggests a ton of helpful questions folks in channel management can ask themselves:

1. What’s the balance between what I want to invest in people and what I want to invest in programs, including the incentives and the operation of the program?

2. Where are we in our maturity? What can we achieve with what we’ve got and the outcomes we’re trying to drive?

3. Onboarding: what are we doing to ensure that we are taking on more of the right type of partners and then getting those partners to revenue as quickly as possible? (Laz mentions that if partners aren’t helped with getting to revenue in the first 90 days, less than 15% of them will make it to the next level of a tiered channel program.)

4. Pareto Distributions: If it’s true that 20% of our partners are going to generate 80% of revenue, what are we doing and what more could we do to bump that next 5-10% of partners up into that top-producer category.

5. Repeatable/scalable: The machine only works if you don’t need to keep adding people every time your sales channel expands. How do you build as much automation as possible into as many parts of your programs as possible?

6. Tiering: Give partners something to strive for beyond channel incentives or sales incentives. A tiered program actual gives your channel an incentive to get to even more incentives!

Taking the time to engage in this disciplined and thoughtful planning will ultimately reveal what technology solutions are going to be required to deliver channel programs, be it PRM, channel marketing, to-partner marketing, through channel marketing automation, and so on.

Channel management software platforms or stacks that are stood up with a clear set of executables and goals in mind will begin to deliver success in the channel much faster, and with today’s ability to draw channel data insights from past programs, we all have the benefit to continuously optimize and do ever-improving work with ever-improving results.

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