Are Your Channel Program Tiering And Levels Still Relevant?

By Ellen Linkenhoker, Channel Partner Solutions Lead, ITA Group

“Is tiering still relevant for my channel? Is it the strongest approach for my audience or are there better options I should be considering?”

These questions are coming up regularly and are especially important to consider for channel leaders who are looking to build the best partner program for their brands.

One way to help figure out if you should re-evaluate your program tiers and levels is to consider your current state vs. future goals.

Align Your Current State To Future Goals

Set a baseline on your existing program and then move into the future. Ask big-picture questions like “Where are we trying to go as a company?” and “What specific goals do we have for the channel?”

Ellen Linkenhoker, Insights & Strategy Leader, ITA Group

As clients look to the future, we hear the following common goals (which aren’t always reflected in
their existing channel programs):

  • Growing revenue in new product areas
  • Growing revenue in specific high-margin products
  • Growing revenue for services
  • Growing revenue for different payment types (recurring vs. one-time investments)
  • Measuring success, growth, revenue and eligibility in new ways (e.g., dollar amount vs. quantity, volume vs. lifetime value, etc.)
  • Increasing brand consistency across independent dealers, retailers, reps, franchises, agents, etc.
  • Increasing service and satisfaction metrics
  • Growing loyalty (measured by repeat purchases)
  • Simplifying the partner experience to increase engagement
  • Positively impacting the customer experience through the channel
  • Growing partner capabilities and competencies
  • Growing influencer channels to gain referrals and be top of mind for those who recommend solutions

Knowing where your business is headed will help determine how to re-structure your channel program successfully for more relevance. It’s also useful for identifying partner types, coverage gaps and alternative roles to focus on inside your program.

Mapping Your Future Goals

Another way to think about the future state of your program is to map your business goals to the point in the buyer’s journey where you need your channel partners to make an impact.

Imagine your channel as the funnel shown here (grab the cheat sheet here), then map your current programs where they would fall in the funnel based on business goals. Objectively place your partners within the funnel so they’re aligned with their current business focus. This image will end up showing your whole channel partner ecosystem, giving you a holistic view of where you’re driving performance (or where you need to drive it).

Influencer: Are you trying to grow at the top of the funnel by increasing how often your brand comes up in searches? Are you trying to grow leads, referrals and advocates? These are influencer- focused programs and partners.

Transactional: This is the area where we tend to see a heavy emphasis. These are traditional resellers, VARs, distributors, wholesalers, independent representatives or agents. Programs and partners focused on sales, sourcing, producing and distribution fall here.

Retention: This bottom-of-the-funnel area has seen large growth. These programs and partners
focus on increasing recurring revenue, growing existing customers; improving service and support
levels; increasing customer satisfaction; etc.

The overall funnel visual is the most useful in helping identify different partner types, coverage gaps and alternative roles you should be focusing on inside your program and levels.

The process of mapping partners into the funnel visual and looking for gaps might create the impression that you need even more programs to meet your needs, but as discussed previously that will increase administrative headaches. Encompassing these different goals and partner roles inside a single program requires more than tiers alone.

If you want additional tools and suggestions for moving away from tiers and levels, more information is available in our whitepaper.

Ellen Linkenhoker is the Channel Partner Solutions Lead for ITA Group. She drives the insights, strategy, and evolution of their channel solutions while offering advisement for client engagement and incentive programs. She’s worked as a practitioner in technology, software and service companies both as part of the channel and as a vendor. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, marketing, incentives and engagement in her role with ITA Group including pioneering thought leadership on channel partner ecosystems and the partner experience.

Editor’s Note: This ChannelView is the first in a series of three articles by Ellen Linkenhoker.