By Hayley Marnes, Global Head of Channel, Volume
Within Volume, our philosophy for effective partner engagement is rooted in four key pillars: Gain, Train, Empower and Retain. Gain the partner, instill the knowledge and tools necessary to understand the business, empower them to transform this knowledge into real value for their business and drive revenue by fostering a loyalty that will last for the long haul.
To reach that end goal of genuine loyalty — and, of course, that all-important revenue — then marketers need to think bigger than business. They need to think human.
The Human Element
Think human? It might sound like a simplistic idea, but it’s rooted in a belief that understanding human behavior is essential to fostering any kind of human engagement. In setting up an effective partner management program, one that successfully Gains, Trains, Empowers and Retains partners, an appreciation of the rational, emotional and societal drivers is what can really kick-start engagement and put an endless string of failed first dates to an end.
This is where the application of e-learning can really drive value within the channel; optimizing the learning process to appreciate the human elements of business; empowering the partner and strengthen loyalty along the way.
The difficulty with traditional learning materials is that they’re quite static, generally relying on some form of template that can be distributed quickly, en masse to the widest audience. While this ensures a delivery of consistent, pre-approved content, it immediately creates a burden for the partner. These partners have a business to run and bread to put on the table, let’s not forget. Sales reps particularly have busy schedules, often involving large amounts of traveling. Yet they’re asked to take valuable time out of their day jobs to get up to speed.
It’s not to say partners do not see training and learning as important, but it inevitably still has to be fitted around “business as usual,” which can be a double-edged sword. Whether it is at the onboarding stage, or further down the line during the certification process, the commercial benefits to the partner of completing these processes are clear — but they need to have the right tools in order to do so.
To this point, the anytime nature of e-learning is of huge importance — allowing content and training to be delivered during downtime, which is much less disruptive. Thinking back to the need to understand human behavior, it should always be considered that partners have their own constraints on time from other sources.
Effective learning isn’t reliant on just the content, but the structure and context that it’s delivered in. In this respect, if more effective partner relationships are to be established, the onus is on the vendors to deliver a deeper, richer learning experience that does everything it can to ensure the partner stays on course, rather than expecting the user to adapt to a one-size-fits-all set of materials.
Creating platform-neutral, mobile-optimized content that can be consumed on the go through an interactive module can draw huge benefits for both parties. The opportunities for the partner to engage increase exponentially: a spare hour in between jobs or while stuck in a traffic jam, for instance. It may sound trivial, but a small appreciation and effort made to make life easier for the partner is a powerful driver of positive sentiment and association.
For the vendor, this offers a cost-effective (and green) alternative to face-to-face interaction, not to mention enabling a much faster time to market as modules are completed faster.
Particularly with detailed subjects high on technicality, e-learning techniques can draw upon a range of new interactive tools that can be used to demystify complex subject matter. We’ve all experienced the dread at some point in our lives when faced with a brick-like textbook of content we need to consume, memorize and be able to recall at will. Interactivity is intrinsic to not just the delivery of content and instructional material, but crucial in the process of discovery too, empowering the user to find their own path to the correct conclusion.
This is where things become particularly exciting — interactivity, and to think about what the future holds for e-learning as a discipline when technology can stretch the realms of possibility even further.
If the beauty of e-learning is founded upon its ability to mould itself to the user, at a time and place that suits them, then technology can help learning become even more deeply embedded within human nature and our everyday behavior. Think of the remarkable leaps forward wearable technology has taken this year alone. Combine this with digital convergence and the ever-increasing ability to be plugged in, and there’s only going to be bigger and better opportunities to seamlessly weave learning and interaction into everyday life, really enabling users to make the most of their downtime.
Opportunities for multi-sensory learning, too, is a hugely intriguing area for both channel marketers and indeed anyone with an interest in creating the type of immersive experience and environment that is proven so crucial to learning. Hand gestures, for example, through the integration of emerging technology such as hands-free, gesture-controlled applications, could add a new dimension in sensory stimulation. Engaging a second, third or even fourth sense in the learning process, helps lighten the strain on our mental capacities, allowing us to absorb information much more quickly and efficiently.
All in all, e-learning’s application within the channel is already an exciting area for innovation and development, but the future is where the real opportunity lies to drive loyalty. If vendors can continue to find ways to further seamlessly integrate themselves within their partner’s lives, thinking beyond the business context and looking at the wider human picture, then they can forge those valuable, long-lasting partnerships en route to truly significant ROI.
As Global Head of Channel at Volume, Hayley Marnes works with clients to evaluate, define and develop channel marketing and management strategies. From recruiting and onboarding, through to realising partner potential and driving loyalty; the ‘Gain, Train, Empower, Retain’ model, and Volume’s tailored tools and tactics have delivered demonstrable results time and again.