3 Stages of Competitive Channel Programming
Crafting your channel program should be a very deliberate activity. Although you may start with the channel in an opportunistic model, building a program with careful thought and purpose will serve the business in the long run. I’d like to offer you a simple three-stage process model to help you build strategic, competitive channel programs and put you on the path to sustainable revenue from your indirect channels.
In this process model, the first phase is Assessment to structure the program, the second phase is Validation to implement the strategy, and the final third phase is Growth Levers to scale your operation. Each phase is designed to build upon for the next, and should be active only for a set amount of time to keep you moving in the right direction.
Phase 1 – Assessment
Assessment is where you outline the commitment necessary to structure the business for the channel, as well as identify the specific steps to take in launching the channel strategy in an accelerated manner. There are specific functional areas you will want to explore in your assessment and develop a strategy for each of these areas. For example, it is helpful to understand:
- How your product sells, and how easily that can be transferred to partners
- Understand the internal roles and investment needed to support the channel
- Understand your end user profile and value propositions around that profile
- Validate the practicality and legality of selling thru the channel
- Your chosen go-to-market path and profiles of the partner targets you seek
- Competitor strategies and results
The Assessment phase should not take a long period of time to move through. In fact, if you’ve been opportunistic with your channel plays you may understand most of these things already. Once your business can articulate and document the items in the assessment phase, you are ready to move on.
Phase 2 – Validation
The second phase is Validation where you focus on initial execution and measurement of the program or initiatives outlined in the Assessment phase. A timeline with actions and anticipated results should be used to measure your success. This is a great time to incorporate feedback into your program and allow for early diagnosis and course corrections. During this stage, it is helpful to understand:
- Key performance metrics and identify any areas of conflict or where your strategy fell short
- Mechanisms for both promotion and feedback, and incorporating both back into your strategy
- The concept of channel engagement and how best to support that, which could mean investment in a channel technology stack
The onboarding structure for partners and training delivery methods
The Validation phase is your testing grounds to be sure you’ve got the right strategy in place. You are ready to move on to the next phase when you’ve got a proven strategy, documented processes, and a clearly defined value proposition for the channel.
Phase 3 – Growth Levers
The third phase identifies Growth Levers in your business where you can scale your operations to sustainable revenue streams. During this phase, you should focus on the growth elements needed to take a successful channel start and evolve into a sustainable revenue stream. As you look at the different levers to push and pull in your program, you may explore:
- Changes to your organization, roles and responsibilities
- Changes to your support structure and introduction of new roles and responsibilities
- Introduction of new tools and resources
- Business intelligence, scorecards and business reviews
- Demand generation tactics, leads and marketing platforms
While the other stages may be relatively short and have a defined beginning and end, this stage can stop and start again as the needed by the business. All growth levers are not pulled at once, as you have to adjust and see what the result is, then adjust again. For that reason, you can find yourself in and out of this phase infinitely. As a good practice, if you’ve been out of it for a long time, it’s good to deliberately go back into this phase to see what else can be done to make your channel even better.
This 3-phase engagement model will take you though all the necessary steps to build a competitive channel program for your business and keep you fine tuning that strategy. While this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many more details in each category, the principal stages and high level discussions will keep you on the right path to channel success.