Are you dating your channel partners?

02 November 2016

My love life is a source of much amusement in my circle of friends. The same reasons I give as to why I have friend zoned every date over the last year are exactly the same challenges I hear from Vendor Channel Marketers struggling to strengthen relationships with their partners:

  • They don’t know who to invest time in
  • There is just no spark or connection (engagement)
  • There is no commitment from partners that have already taken a lot of investment, or
  • There is simply no real mutual value to make it work long term.

I know I will have to partner up eventually, so how will I know which Partner is actually worth my investment and who will be loyal?!

First Impressions

I have several dating apps on my phone. I sit, I swipe, I judge. Swipe left for the generic selfies, Swipe right for anyone with a surfboard in their profile pic. I can do this for HOURS. Why? Because in the online dating world everyone is replaceable. If you don’t tick the right boxes or my intentions don’t match yours… its one swipe and it’s over, no questions asked, on to the next.

Your partner programme is your dating profile. YOU are replaceable. I know it’s hard to make your programmes more attractive but that doesn’t mean you should be bland, vanilla and me-too. If you placed your programme in to a Tinder-style carousel, would it stand out? Potential partners need to know what they are getting in to; your intentions need to be clear. Goals, vision, benefits. The vital stats. Your value prop. Your expectations. What YOU want from this relationship. If it’s not clear? Next.

The First Touch

Congratulations, you’re a match. Now for the first communication. The first touch should be a show stopper. I put effort in to choosing photos, writing a profile, describing myself. I have given you the ammo you need to deliver a killer opening line…. You don’t use it. #FAIL.

If a Partner has taken the time to fill out your 20 question partner registration form only to receive a generic email and no other follow up, they will look elsewhere. They invested time to give you some information; the least you can do is acknowledge their investment and use that information effectively. Get maximum value from your Marketing Automation System and segmentation to deliver messages that feel personalised to partners. Point them to information of value and guide them in their next steps – like getting certification or completing required training. Enable them to know you better.

The Dating Game

How do you identify those partners who are worthy of investment? You date them. So, put on your best business outfit and get to know each other. You need to determine how loyal your new partner will be…

The “All Action, No Talk”

The opportunists. The “I want to date but nothing serious”. They dabble in training, buy from you once and drop off the radar. The ones with the great chat who you know could have potential but just not right now. Complacent. They exist in your programme, don’t really engage with you but occasionally get in touch with something interesting enough for you not to disregard them completely. You like them… just not enough to warrant any emotional investment (or time/budget) in them. Yet. The partner equivalent of “Treat them mean keep them keen”. Put them in the “Friend Zone” and pay close attention to how your relationship develops over time.

The “Hard To Get”

There is a connection but they have a wondering eye. They will move on to greener pastures if there is something better on offer (bigger rebate, half a % higher on margin). Swung by incentives. Conditional. Start romancing! Get to know them. Put in that little bit of extra effort and prove how different you are to the other ones out there. Incentivise with items you know they’ll like and not just what everyone else is offering. Show them you are listening. Give them a reason not to go elsewhere. These are the ones to work with and see if you can make it into the relationship phase.

The “Committed”

The “One”. The illustrious emotional connection. This is what we are aiming for. Those we like enough to “seal the deal” with repeatedly for want of a better phrase. They listen to you, they are interested and they get you. There is an appreciation of shared values. It has a future. You have a 2 way relationship and you both get something out of it. You help and support each other as individuals. You invest, together. You are exclusive. Loyal. You are in a relationship.

Don’t Forget Date Night!

You need to keep that spark alive. Just because you are exclusive now doesn’t mean all effort goes out the window. Your investments need to be focused on learning and evolving. Nurturing. Continuously surprising your partner. Making them fall in love with you repeatedly. You need to be showing an ongoing, personalised commitment. Think of marriage – forget a birthday or something personal and you will be sleeping on the sofa hoping that this one minor detail isn’t the basis for your partner starting an affair…

Identify which partners ARE worth investment and which ones aren’t. The reality is, you cannot have happy relationships with ALL partners – some are destined for the friend zone. We only have so much emotional investment – or for channel professionals – time, money, resource – to give so you can’t give it to everyone that enters your universe, so you need to place your bets efficiently.