Meanwhile back in Technology Land, the lord looked on helplessly as his traders abandoned him for the competition, initially in a trickle and then en masse. The speed with which the shift happened was mind-boggling. With all his money and power gone, he was ruined.
As he reflected on his life (he had a lot of time now), the lord wished he had heeded his minister’s good advice sooner.
What could he have done differently to prevent the slide in trader loyalty while he was on top? And how could he have anticipated the shift in loyalty better?
Indeed these are statements that every channel manager will have heard in some form or another from his partners, hopefully proactively and with enough time to act, rather than way too late.
When I hear vendor channel managers talk about their loyal partners, I tend to hear the following:
"My largest partners …"
"They are the guys with whom I have the most direct relationship ..."
"The ones who get the highest incentives from me …"
All true. But it’s also an approach that can bring you perilously close to the fate of the lord from our parable. The focus seems to be too much on those who have done well historically and it fosters a chicken-and-egg situation, where the vendors cannot seem to look beyond these 'loyal' partners.
Unfortunately, the past may not be an indicator of the future. In my experience, more often than not, the biggest partners are also the ones who can be the most troublesome in the long term. They usually hold the balance of power (due to the concentration of vendor business), and this usually becomes a long-term loyalty dilemma as the relationship becomes increasingly self-centered in both stakeholders.
The relationship needs to evolve into a more mature and collaborative model. Ironically, sometimes the most loyal partners are relatively smaller in size and get relatively less attention from vendors (compared with the big guys). They are the real long-term stars if vendors can identify and invest in them.
So how do we look ahead in this rapidly changing technology landscape? How do we get a comprehensive sense of our partner’s health and direction, cultivate and track loyalty over the long term?
Going back to the five excellent pieces of advice given by the lord’s minister, I suggest three key actions to consider to build long-term partner loyalty, which are all essentially driven by increased insight and intelligence:
- Create predictive intelligence to understand where the partner business is headed and identify the real stars through innovative use of data (quantitative and qualitative).
- Deliver real value for your partners by providing them with targeted business insight that helps them grow their (and your) business in a profitable way.
- Shift the relationship toward a truly collaborative sales and marketing partnership where analytics and intelligence drive mutually beneficial programs, campaigns and investments.
I will expand on each of these areas in upcoming blogs. In the meantime, what have been some of your experiences in developing and measuring partner loyalty?