How to Adapt Partner Programs and Staff Your Channel for Success in the New Normal
Access to channel experts who can serve as a natural extension of your partner organization can be the difference between simply getting through this difficult time or coming out ahead.
At the start of 2020, technology vendors faced the frustrating challenge of finding top-notch channel talent in a market dominated by record-low unemployment, rising compensation, and increased demand for work-from-home flexibility. Fast forward to today, and we all know how much things have changed. For one, the employment landscape has completely capsized as the response to the pandemic has taken center stage. More than 22 million U.S. workers have been laid off and millions of others have been furloughed.
But just as the world’s collective reliance on technology has soared, so has the need for specialized talent to deliver IT services and support. It’s a dichotomy I see playing out across tech channels everywhere, where highly specialized talent remains scarce even as unemployment skyrockets.
Recently Forrester predicted that the odds of a tech market decline in 2020 have jumped up to 50 percent in the wake of coronavirus. Analyst Jay McBain went a bit deeper to quantify what a downturn could mean for the tech channel, with the best-case scenario representing a global drop of $47 billion in technology channel spending – and that’s assuming the U.S. and global economies recover in the second half of the year. While the long-term economic impacts of the pandemic remain unclear, two things are certain: businesses will have to quickly adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers and partners, and they’ll have fewer people and even tighter budgets with which to pivot.
Even in the headwinds of layoffs and reduced head count, channel-driven companies cannot afford to put partner programs on autopilot. They have to meet changing business demands and pay close attention to revenue-generating channels. But how do you keep your channel running on all cylinders when your company is short-staffed and unable to hire new employees?
Channel Strategies for a COVID-19 World
Now more than ever, technology vendors need to point partners in the right direction so they can capture the new opportunities that exist in the current business environment. This will require re-working or creating entirely new partner programs to help partners grow profitability. As you explore your options, think about adjustments that make volume rebate incentives more achievable. Consider the playbooks, enablement content, and virtual events that are needed to help partners sell and capture the immediate market opportunities that that this global situation has created. Above all, you need to determine how to get these deliverables and programs out the door quickly at a time when you may have lost headcount, channel expertise, and capital expenditures.
And don’t forget this: as we all know, channels are the revenue-generating arm of most companies. What we’re hearing is that partners want vendors to provide them with specific programs and actions they can use immediately to generate demand and close deals. That’s why now is the time to double down on your channel investments.
But how do you double down in the face of layoffs and hiring freezes? We are seeing companies allocate greater amounts of their OpEx funds to companies like Channel Impact for services that include:
- Event program management to support you in replacing your live events with virtual events
- Developing training modules for both internal and partner sellers
- Adjusting incentive programs (MDF, rebates, loyalty) to make them achievable in this economic climate
- Developing partner enablement content, such as videos, playbooks, presentations, FAQs, etc.
- Crafting partner communications
At Channel Impact, we are actively helping companies design and adapt programs to better serve their partners across all of these areas during this temporary downturn. In many cases, we’re directly supporting our clients’ channel teams with program management and execution. As channel careerists, we have real-world experience in building and pivoting channel organizations, and in scaling and modernizing programs to better support partners through periods of transition. We are uniquely qualified to fill any personnel and program voids that exist in your channel.
Flexibility is key when you work with us: we can serve as a natural extension of your organization. Access to our full-time channel experts can be the difference between simply getting through this difficult time or coming out ahead. Another advantage of partnering with Channel Impact is that you can utilize your OPEX budget to keep your channel business running and have the flexibility to dial work up or down as needed.
Hope for the Future
There is little doubt that the coronavirus has triggered a recession, but just how long and deep it will run remains to be seen. My personal experience is that significant and unexpected economic events can also present new growth opportunities.
In 2008, Channel Impact was merely a three-year-old company when the entire financial market collapsed. Virtually everyone had stopped purchasing, and the tech industry faced massive layoffs. But over the next three years, we saw demand for our highly specialized channel business triple. Companies big and small called upon us to fill the voids left in their tech channels amid lay-offs, reorganizations, and hiring freezes. Our value to our clients grew sticky and organically, and we’ve since worked alongside some of tech’s most formidable channel organizations.
Even in the eye of this storm, technology companies still need to engage partners, run incentive programs, execute partner marketing, and do everything possible to keep revenue flowing through the channel. We are here to match your business with the right people, processes, and programs to keep your channel running through these challenging times.
Learn more about the various ways we can support you and know that we are ready to go to work today.
Please reach out to me directly for a one-on-one discussion on how we can help.