How do you engage your B2B channel, reach end-users, and capture critical information?
Chances are – how you respond may influence your channel partner’s behaviors. The best incentive programs target point of influence (POI). In other words, the person responsible for selling or buying a product.
It starts with building B2B relationships that go beyond transactions.
This is when having the right incentive program can make all the difference.
What motivates a B2B relationship to go beyond everyday transactions? The truth is – it can come from several factors. For some it may be all about loyalty, or years of partnership, or trust.
For others, it could come down to the incentives you offer.
It all depends.
One thing is clear though. A strong incentive strategy rewards savvy manufacturers, distributors, and dealers alike. If you’re struggling to gain traction with your channel partners, this post is for you.
Read on for powerful strategies to engage your B2B channel.
What Is a Point of Influence?
Many manufacturers struggle to engage their B2B channel partners.
It’s not from a lack of trying. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Many manufacturers work hard to demystify this common business problem.
When you boil it all down – great B2B relationships exist beyond simple transactions.
And – that can be hard to quantify.
So, what exactly is a Point of Influence? Most important – how can you grow your business through them? A Point of Influence (POI) is the person responsible for buying or selling a product.
They could be a channel partner, customer, or salesperson within your channel.
Engaging your point of influence offers the best opportunity to grow your down channel partnerships. These people have influence over the movement of your product.
Here’s an example:
- A distributor decides to sell your product at other locations.
- An architect selects your product is a perfect match for their blueprint.
- Technicians use your product to fix an issue on a job site.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it sheds light on the importance of targeting point of influence.
Unique Challenges for Manufacturers
Trying to motivate down channel partners can feel like trying to catch the ocean. Impossible.
Manufacturers have unique challenges when trying to engage their B2B channel partners. These challenges exist on three separate tiers. Let’s take a look.
Manufacturers need to decide which tiers fit into their strategy, like a cost analysis:
- Tier One: represents traditional manufacturer salespeople and manufacturer reps.
- Tier Two: represents distributors who work with many manufacturers.
- Tier Three: represents dealers/retailers who buy from distributors and resell products.
Trying to gather clean data at each tier gets more complex the farther you go down the channel.
As middlemen, manufacturer reps, distributors and dealers position themselves between manufacturers and end-users. It’s only natural. You can see how providing data direct to manufacturers could be a conflict of interest.
Hence, the need for great B2B partnerships.
On top of that, data isn’t always clean which presents its own challenges.
So, how can manufacturers build the trust needed for strong B2B partnerships? And, when they do, how can they ensure clean data that supports sales growth for all parties involved? These are the challenges most manufacturers face on a daily basis.
Despite the challenges, there are ways to engage your B2B channel.
Motivating Top-Tier Channel Partners
Your manufacturing salespeople and manufacturing reps are the lifeblood of your business.
Without them – it’s hard to move your products and maintain valuable B2B channel partnerships. While your salespeople show devotion to your brand, manufacturing reps may not. So how can you ensure your first tier meets your sales growth targets?
It can be helpful to start with a traditional sales incentive program:
- Motivate sales teams with goal-based achievements through group incentive travel packages or president’s clubs.
- Incentivize manufacturing reps with loyalty-based programs that focus on enablement or training.
The Incentive Research Foundation states, well-structured incentives increase employee performance by 44%.
Incentivizing Mid-Tier Channel Partners
The quality of your channel partnerships comes down to building strong B2B relationships.
The goal here is to incentivize your mid-tier partners to help promote your products. In return, your partners receive a sales boost and rewards. It’s a win-win strategy where manufactures and distributors grow their perspective businesses.
So, how can manufacturers improve their mid-tier channel partner B2B relationships:
- MDF and Co-op Funds: Use MDF and Co-op funds. They can be a targeted strategy to improve channel partnerships. It can also improve sales growth and brand awareness.
- Targeted Sales Incentives: Motivating inside sales reps to promote specific SKU’s. This is a great way to collect data. It also incentivizes an often overlooked, yet important channel partner.
- Training and Enablement: Add learning opportunities for down channel partners. That way they can become more familiar with your SKU’s and brand as a whole. It’s a great way to improve down channel partnerships and brand awareness.
Applying the strategies above will improve your relationships with B2B down channel partners. It will also help with data collection – improving channel engagement.
Targeted Promotions: Collecting Dealer-Level Data
Understanding the buying behaviors of dealer pros or contractors is important for a manufacturer.
Your data collection should focus on specific buying behaviors. You want to know how, when, and why they buy. That way, you can best engage your B2B channel.
So, how can manufacturers collect this data from the dealer?
By using targeted promotions.
When distributors and manufacturers use targeted promotions, they gain valuable data. When analyzed, this data can help understand buyer behaviors. That helps improve channel engagement as a whole.
Turn Up the Volume
When it comes to navigating the channel, you need partners you count on to help you move your products.
Many companies are starting to do this with their customers.
With enough data, you can pinpoint the most influential people throughout your channel. That could be a manager or a top seller of your products.
You can collect this data in several ways, including:
- Upon registration into the program
- As a follow up in exchange for points or merchandise rewards
Once you have this data, you can market proactively to your point of influence.
This relationship should be seamless. In your marketing, you can cut through the noise by focusing on value. Keep in mind it’s more than what you can bring to their sales calls.
It also applies to rewards and training.
A Better Way to Engage Your Point of Influence
Many successful channel incentive programs don’t target the sale of the product.
Instead, these programs use a steps-to-the-sale strategy. A steps-to-the-sale strategy is all about understanding the behaviors of your channel partners. You may know what your sales cycle looks like, but like many sales cycles, your funnel may have some leaks.
Inserting a direct sales rep at points in the funnel can help prospects from falling out of contact.
How can your channel partners increase their chances of closing? Could looping in your sales rep after the third call give them the right amount of support they need to close? Channel incentive programs can reward the steps-to-the-sale process.
It’s a better way to engage your B2B channel and your point of influence as well.
Change the Channel
Here are some other fun and dynamic channel incentive strategies to add to your program.
Applying these strategies can help you capture market share. They can also drive discretionary purchases toward your business:
- Friendly competition through gamification and leaderboards
- Spin-to-win contests
- Integrating your program with your partner portal
Want to learn more about what makes a channel incentive program successful? Download our free guide: The Definitive Guide to an Effective Channel Incentive Program.