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(Best) Practice Makes Perfect: A 5-Point Checklist For Channel Marketing Success

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 10.33.43 AMBy Dan Hawtof, Blackhawk Engagement Solutions

The perception: You’re too busy. Managing campaigns, payouts, channel partners and sales leave you with zero time to affect change within your current program, much less implement a new one. The reality: If you don’t communicate a great channel program, none of that matters. The best program, product or incentive in the world doesn’t matter if no one knows it exists. You have to get the attention of your partners through smart, prioritized communication.Most of your Value Added Resellers (VARs) interact with three to 23 vendors, so they want — and actually need — on-point communication that highlights your channel program clearly. We’ve boiled it down to five communication tips that speak volumes.

Tip 1: Speak Simply

Pull your last two campaigns and read them again with a fresh eye. Audit them for jargon and buzzwords to make sure the industry-speak makes sense. Ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Do these campaigns help your resellers understand your product, or are they out of left field, too technical or full of internal company jargon?
  • Is the focus all about the company and its products or the benefit of those products and services to your partner?

Take a quick assessment and improve on your next communication, or pass your notes along to your content management team. (If you’re lucky enough to have one!)

Tip 2: Have A Conversation

Our personal and professional lives have merged, and the best communication pieces are conversational. Resellers will likely be reading an email from you between tweeting, skimming the daily tech news and visiting Amazon. Analyze your company tone. Stay on-brand, but blend in. Don’t be viewed as the overly rigid voice that stands out — in a bad way — among all the other open browser tabs.

Tip 3: Modify Your Medium

Short content is in because most people won’t listen for more than a few minutes or read past the first paragraph or two. If your standard format is 60-minute webinars or long white papers, rethink your delivery. Explore other media, such as tiered email campaigns, one-minute embedded video tutorials or product cheat sheets. Truncate your content, and you can do more with it. Repurpose existing, long-form content into smaller, more focused parcels that are easily understood.

Tip 4: Elevate Your Main Message

Within the first paragraph, your channel partners should know what you want them to do. At Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, our marketing team puts the call to action in the opening sentence of every piece of correspondence. Then we restate it again at the end. It works like a charm. Review your campaigns and make sure the incentive is in the lead-in and emphasized throughout the communication pieces.

Tip 5: Keep Their Eyes On The Prize

A channel marketing program is most effective when you quantify the reward opportunity. Whether your program relies on straightforward sales SPIFs or non-sales behavioral incentives, it’s critical to focus your resellers on what’s in it for them. Look through your campaigns and make sure the incentive is clearly stated and specific.

Here’s an example of a layered incentive opening line:

“An exclusive bonus for certified dealers: If you register your deal and then close it, you’ll get your SPIF for the sale, plus 10% additional bonus because you registered the deal as a certified reseller.”

See the difference? You’ve identified the audience (certified dealers), the action to take (register deals), and the rewards (sales incentive plus bonus) they can earn. By tying a behavioral reward to the sales incentive, you get more participation in your program, increase partner engagement and drive the end goal — sales!

Your Secret Weapon

You can get help engaging your partners. Our marketing services team can help you create engaging communications that deliver the results you want. We can also operationalize them with our channel platform. It is capable of handling the most complex incentive program, while monitoring and reporting its performance. Plus, we can make changes and adjustments on the fly, so you can achieve the results you want.


Dan Hawtof is VP of Product & Business Development, Channel Solutions for Blackhawk Engagement Solutions. For more than 25 years, he’s been involved in almost every aspect of the channel. He’s been affiliated with large enterprises and small startups, working in every department, from sales and strategy to product marketing and management, and more.

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