Not too long ago I celebrated 14 years with CCI, helping our clients manage their channel incentive programs. Although I had experience with channel incentives prior to CCI, mostly it was from the perspective of a channel partner. I think channel partners and vendors alike would agree that channel incentive program management has changed dramatically in the past 14 years. If you were magically transported back to the ’90s, you would find that 99% of all program management happened without the internet, and most certainly without an integrated partner portal. For the most part, administrators utilized the telephone and “snail mail” to communicate. Vendors might have posted their program guidelines on their website for partners to use, and they might have had an online claim form, but they would have also mailed them a kit that included everything they needed to participate in a program. Partners would have mailed or faxed in their claim forms and almost always would receive their payment in the mail, along with a monthly statement.
Nowadays most of our clients have an integrated partner portal, with a single sign-on to all the resources a channel partner needs to be successful. Very little happens using mail. Email, not to mention LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., is a more common communication tool than the telephone; and getting access to data on your smart phone and tablet is equally (if not more) important than the PC! Our conversations with clients have changed from “how do we get you automated” to “how do we make sure your programs are giving you a competitive advantage.”
2013 marks CCI’s 30th year in channel management. Some of the key trends we see for this new year center around helping our clients gain that competitive advantage. First, by maximizing channel marketing ROI. From up-front planning (using tools like our Joint Marketing Planner) through execution, we are working with clients to help them and their partners get smarter at marketing with and through the channel. Second, with individual, targeted incentive programs. Specifically, developing programs that help develop and reward the ‘soft skills’ partner sales reps need to be successful in this complex, cloud oriented B2B tech industry. Lastly, utilizing ‘best of breed’ system integration. We are helping our clients move to the next level of integrated partner portals by partnering with (and simplifying integration) with ‘best of breed’ systems so organizations don’t need to settle for a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
A lot has changed with channel incentives, but one thing will remain constant: there is a special bond between a manufacturer and their channel partners, and a real desire to help each other grow their businesses. Channel incentives make it possible for both to build their brand, their revenues, and their profits − and and that’s what keeps me coming to work every day with a smile on my face.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Debra Delaney is the President and CEO of CCI. Since joining the company in 1998 as co-owner, Debra has been a strong leader and a critical factor in the company’s growth and success. She brings 25 years of management experience in the hi-tech sector to CCI. Prior to joining CCI, Debra served as a member of the executive team for various large, complex manufacturers and distributors. Debra has experience managing global customer service, finance, and development teams. Her eye for customer service excellence, bottom-line profitability, and cutting-edge innovation brings extensive value to CCI clients. Debra is active in the business community and is a member of Vistage, a professional organization that promotes the sharing of best practices in sales, marketing, and other business practices, with over 10,000 CEO members globally. Debra serves on the board of directors of a local non-profit organization and is a board advisor for a community bank.