• Bruce Sherman

Partner Channel Tip: Start Small

One of the most underutilized tactics in the B2B tech space when launching an initial or revamped channel partner initiative is the use of a pilot program. There have been many (way too many) partner programs released out into the wild that were not ready for prime time. Even some of IT's biggest brands have been known to launch partner programs or initiatives that simply missed the market and fell flat. It’s even understandable how this happens. Tech companies have sales goals and the channel probably makes up a majority of the revenue KPIs, so the sooner the partners are transacting, the better. That said, when a program does fall flat, it can be very costly and the tech channel (one of the smallest big industries around) has a long memory.

One approach to avoid either an all-out failure or at least a way to dramatically increase the rate of success of launching your channel strategy is to start with a pilot group. This would be a small sampling of choice partners that would act as your early adopters and allow you to work out some of the kinks of your program and shore up some of the details around some of the impactful variables. This is especially true of working through processes, enablement, and opportunity development.

These initial partners should be selected from not just those who you may already have a strong relationship with, but also new entrants into your program that fit the criteria of the ideal partner program (IPP) that you have developed. If you have identified more than one IPP for your channel, make sure each is represented in the pilot. If your target pilot grouping is six, add two more. There are inevitably going to be dropouts.

For greater pilot program success, make sure you take the time to draw up a detailed outline of the pilot and the responsibilities of all parties. Be prepared to supply (and most execute) the deals to feed activity into the pilot. Ensure to provide ample support to the participants of your pilot program and task your channel teams with being hyper-vigilant in tracking results and capturing regular feedback. Those partners who remain dedicated and complete the pilot program should be heavily rewarded! They may have saved you a lot of money, expedite your time to market, and helped you save face in the sometimes unforgiving and sometimes dog-eat-dog tech channel.

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