As with everything else in 2020, many B2B companies’ relationships with channel partners, which are critical to their success, have been disrupted. The “surprise and delight” treatment that is widely used to keep internal employees engaged is equally effective with channel partners.
Often, a company representative visits channel resellers in person or connects with them at trade shows, but that has been taken off the table this year. Lincoln Smith, chief strategy officer at HMI Performance Incentives, says several of their clients are staying in front of VIP channel partners by sending tokens of their appreciation. “It has to do with identifying those VIPs that you normally had a lot of touchpoints with and provided them with a lot of value that you no longer can provide,” he says.
One large IT infrastructure client worked with HMI on a campaign to replace the networking they normally accomplish at a trade show that was canceled. Instead, the client sent high-end quarterly gifts to top-performing channel partners to make sure they felt valued. The IT company is happy to have cemented these important relationships and reaped numerous mentions by its partners in social media posts.
Similarly, Peter Goldberger, founder and CEO of Incentive Team, helps manufacturers who are mostly in home building and furnishings connect with key resellers. When the outbreak first struck and all businesses were stuck in neutral, Goldberger’s clients encouraged the resellers to use the downtime to learn more about its products through video training. Those who completed the training were awarded points that could be redeemed online for merchandise and other rewards.
“We were incredibly busy with the training part immediately,” Goldberger says. “All of our clients’ resellers were at home and the salespeople couldn’t visit them. What could they be doing so at least they stayed engaged and the brand stayed top-of-mind? Selling is positioning a product so it resonates with that consumer walking through the door. We are huge believers that training plus incentives equals the change in behavior that our clients are looking for.”