Channel Champion Blog

by Peter Hornberger

NascarCCI recently created a new eBook that describes our Partner Investment Lifecyle, a model that breaks down the typical vendor/partner engagement into nine discrete steps. As we were reviewing the finished contents of the eBook, we were reminded just how much our perspective on incentives has changed over the years.

Creating incentives isn’t like designing a piece of furniture. It’s more like fine-tuning a racecar. Click To Tweet

Incentives Are No Longer Just About Sales

In the past, we looked at incentives as something we’d help vendors implement in order to improve partners’ ability to execute marketing campaigns (the use of SPIFs, rewards, rebates, contests, etc.). But the more we thought about the nine stages in the Partner Investment Lifecycle, the more we realized that incentives could and should be used not just to execute campaigns but to encourage partner behavior change across the entire lifecycle.

Better Definition Leads to Better Control

Our purpose in creating the partner lifecyle was to help vendors understand their partner interactions not as just one long engagement but as a series of individual steps—each of which could be assessed, measured, and improved. Rather than being used just to get better campaign results, a specifically formulated incentives is an excellent way to improve partner execution at each specific stage in the lifecycle. Using them, marketing professionals can look at their relationship with a partner and ask themselves, “Okay, where are the wheels falling off? Am I not getting enough partner engagement in the business planning stage? Is my joint marketing planning working? Are partners not using our campaigns? Are they not registering deals? I see all of the shortcoming in our partner engagement, but how can I fix them?”

Incentivizing Partner Behavior Change

Vendor organizations can use incentives to patch these holes, to change partner behavior so that they are doing more of what you want them to do and less of what they might do on their own. If they are not participating in joint business planning, what kind of incentive will engage them in the process? If they are giving you bad data, maybe an incentive to work with a through-partner marketing agency will result in better data. Incentives can be developed for every stage of partner engagement.

Improving Your Channel Cycle By Cycle

But creating incentives isn’t like designing a building or a piece of furniture. It’s more like fine-tuning a racecar. Here’s the difference: in the former, you make a design change—maybe add a window or door—and then the thing is built. In the latter, maybe you adjust a fuel injector or adjust the shocks, but then you test-drive it and perhaps make further adjustments. You are able to implement the incentive, see what behavior changes take place, and then adjust the incentive to improve the results

We designed the Partner Investment Lifecycle as a loop because, like a race track, it’s something you travel around again and again. With each revolution, you collect more information, see what is working and what is not, make adjustments and refinements, do it “for real,” and then repeat the process. And the more you repeat it, the better you get at understanding how to maximize productivity. You come to understand which are the right partners for you, how to best work with them, what campaigns work best for them, and now… which incentives result in the best change in behavior.

All Those Little Changes Add Up

Incentive-based behavior change in each stage of the Partner Investment Lifecycle improves subsequent stages as well: the better your partner gets at joint business planning, the better job they will do of joint marketing planning. The more deals your partners register, the better data you’ll have to measure ROI.

Incentives can play a huge role in encouraging partner behavior change during each stage of engagement. And the results are cumulative: the better your partners execute each stage, the higher your overall channel marketing ROI will be.