Engagement is a measure of how involved partners are with a vendor’s brand.
To deepen this involvement, there needs to be a trust and knowledge exchange that happens over a period of time. Without trust and building understanding through knowledge, a relationship cannot develop. Trust doesn’t occur as a result of push marketing campaigns aimed at partners; nor as one-off incentives for selling a given product.
Engagement to create trust and build understanding requires a continuous and collaborative interaction between the partner and the vendor over a period of time. Increasing involvement is the result the relevancy of the value exchanged for every one of these interactions. It can’t be a special program or individual tactic – it must be a persistent process.
What’s the payoff?
Using a Gallup study measuring the value of engagement between brands and their customers, the business value of engagement is clear. This study found that those brands that successfully engage their customers see 63% lower customer attrition, 55% higher share of wallet, and 50% higher productivity. Gallup also found that actively disengaged customers present a 13% discount in those same measures. Translating this into a vendor-partner engagement context, successful engagement processes can result in higher share of the total available partner revenue will the vendor who practices engagement as a process, as well as more time invested by the partner in certifications, joint marketing, etc. And a more engaged partner base will be more active on the vendor’s behalf, decreasing the appearance of partner attrition.
Key Elements of Partner Engagement
There are 5 key elements required for a partner engagement strategy.
- Personalization: We all respond and become engaged when interactions are personalized towards our preferences, which stem from an understanding of who we are. Partners are not entities… they are people who wish to interact in the same personalized way. Personalization if it is to engage, must be grounded in a solid understanding of the partner – their business model, their target customers and solutions, and their go-to-market approach. What complicates this further is that individual people have different roles which also must be factored in to deliver a personally engaging experience.
- Contextualization: This builds on the partner organization and user profile described above, adding knowledge of where the partner is in their journey with the vendor. Are they just starting the relationship, emerging as a productive partner, or scaling their relationship with the vendor after many successful customer wins? Context also includes the partner’s geographic location – e.g. a promotion for Germany should never be part of a global promotion display.
- Relevance: This is probably the most difficult because relevance is time and activity based. Each interaction must be informed by the task or activity that the partner individual is undertaking. It requires a delivery of value in the context of what the individual is trying to do at any point in time. If they are just engaging a new customer, what is most relevant would be a snapshot of customer intelligence describing the type of customer the individual is calling on, as well as talking points for helping the individual to engage. What tends to happen most often is a one-size fits all value proposition that is vendor product-oriented, and not partner or customer solution oriented. And it is rarely offered in the context of a new customer engagement.
- Knowledge: Engagement can only be achieved using the knowledge (data + understanding) that a vendor has about the partner. This knowledge must inform each of the partner interactions. Most vendors have only a partial understanding of how their partners want to do business. And there is usually not a connection with customer intelligence to help those partners engage with their customers more productively and successfully. This needs to change in our “perfect storm” world. The partner program of the future needs to be personalized towards the partner’s preferences aligned with those of the vendor.
- Journeys: Engagement must be thought of as a continuous service that spans the end-to-end partner journey with the vendor.
Summing all these elements provides a framework for measuring how successful partner engagement can occur – at each point of interaction and across all interactions in the partner journey including at the channel partner recruitment stage. Engagement is proactive and active delivery … we must begin to think of engagement as a service, that is persistent and informed by partner behavior, journey stage, profile, preferences and most important, time-based activity.
For further information watch Kathy Contreras from Sirius Decisions and myself, explain how to dramatically accelerate and scale for channel growth by leveraging partner personas and partner's journeys as the foundation of your channel enablement and engagement strategies.