If you’ve lost a channel partner, you know partner churn is like the mean, older sibling of customer churn. Whether they left on their own, or you had to part ways over poor performance, partner churn has a whole host of unique challenges. There’s coordinating the return of unsold product, POS systems, and marketing collateral, as well as tasking IT with removing their information and accounts from your partner portal and PRM platform. And, as the channel manager, you’re faced with the questions of that partner’s customers. Why are they no longer carrying your product? Where can they get it now? Or worse, you could lose those customers altogether.
When you communicate with your channel partners, do you talk to them or do you talk at them? Think of the end of the day announcements in grade school, for example, where the principal would come over the intercom and read off a list someone else wrote of upcoming events and information. Chances are you probably remember standing at the door of the classroom chatting with your friends, or being scolded by a teacher to sit down and listen. There’s also a chance that you missed out on some important information (like that picture day is tomorrow!) because you weren’t paying attention.
Have you ever bought something in bulk—maybe a gigantic tub of cheese puffs—thinking, “I can eat all these no problem,” only to throw out half of them because they got stale? Channel vendors are finding the same problem with their market development funding programs: around 50% of these funds are not used. When roughly $50 billion are put into MDF and co-op programs each year, that’s billions of dollars channel partners aren’t tapping into.
PRM or Partner Relationship Management is any combination of strategies, methodologies, software, or web applications that businesses using a distribution channel can use to communicate with their channel partners. Although they look and sound similar, PRM and CRM are not interchangeable terms, and relying only on CRM strategies and technology solutions often fall short of what channel managers (and channel partners) need to successfully get their products and services to end users.
As a manufacturer that sells exclusively or primarily through a channel network, it can often be challenging trying to drive new sales when you aren’t managing the sales people who are actually face-to-face with your customers on a daily basis. Because of this common disconnect between the manufacturer and the end user, it might seem challenging to implement strategies you can track, measure, and test for sales growth. In order to combat this issue, manufacturers must be equipping their channel with the right tools and processes to drive more sales. But what does the channel need, exactly?