Until the COVID-19 pandemic, live events were the main go-to market activities for channel development. Starting now, Digital has become center-stage of any channel development strategy. Vendors need to transition from Road Warrior to Virtual Warrior.

Every channel leader will need to rethink their digital game to ensure that it is as deep and wide as it can be.

What’s the challenge in this virtual transition? Most current channel leaders are simply not up to speed with the required skills to win in the digital arena. It is not easy to translate traditional channel development behaviors into the virtual way of communicating, marketing and social selling.

Easy or not, it has to be done. And, even when things do get back to normal, it will not be business as usual. This pandemic is a permanent game changer on how vendors and channel partners will do business moving forward. This will also change most businesses!

Here are 10 things that vendors can do to cross the chasm to the digital World:

  1. Improve your social media clout on social networks. This takes time and you really have to know what you are doing. No such thing as build it and they will come. You have to give good reason and purpose for people to come! Consistently sharing valuable content and being authentic will eventually build trust and followers.
  2. Build an opt-in list of prospects. You can start with your current internal list, but if you want to expand wider, then you will need access to net new contacts. News media and distributors are the logical go-to resources to reach a larger audience while ensuring you do not breach anti-spam regulations.
  3. Digital communications. Most marketing automation platforms can do the trick, but you also need your partners to have a tool to pass on your messages to their end-users. Some PRM tools are okay, but do some deep research for yourself as to what your channel partners want and need and you may be surprised as to what you learn.
  4. Virtual meetings. Most companies have some sort of web conferencing tool that works okay. We use several and for different purposes. Many companies are now looking to build a better virtual meeting experience. Some virtual meeting tools now offer the ability to integrate with your CRM to automatically manage the sales process and sign agreements.
  5. Build a vibrant digital channel community and economy. You need your own community that includes all of the people that can support the partner ecosystem. This is not just a place for your partners to pull down information. It has to encompass all actors that contribute to success. It has to be a peer-to-peer environment. It also has to be a marketplace for partners and end-users to find what they need. If you are not sure what this means, contact us.
  6. Create relevant and valuable content (written, voice and video). Your entire digital strategy will live or die because of the quality of content you deliver. Of course video is king. But podcasts are very practical and popular. For this, you may need experts who can generate relevant high-value content.
  7. Develop a team that thinks and acts digitally. Face it, some people just do not get digital. It is easy to stumble if you are not fluent in digital and the younger generation will instinctively feel your vibe. It is projected that by 2025, younger people will make up 75% of the channel. This generational transition is already in motion.
  8. Cultivate relationships with influencers who already have digital access to your target audience. Building a digital relationship is totally different from face-to-face and it takes a lot of time. To jump ahead, you may need to influence the influencers and it is not only about money!
  9. Experiment and think without a box to jump ahead of your competition. If you play it too safe and do what everyone else is doing then you will probably blend into the white noise of the digital World. It is better to lead than to follow. This is where your creativity and risk-taking leadership will need to step up. You will make mistakes, but eventually your sail will catch the wind. Keep trying until it does!
  10. Rework your channel programs and tactics to better mesh with the new reality. Most vendors are still playing with the old multiple tier-level partnership/rewards playbook. You may want to consider flipping to an account-based model where rewards and support mesh to the specific value that each partner brings to the table. If you are not sure what this means, you can reach out to us.

There are other things you can do, but if you can get most of these 10 things right, then you are well on your way to becoming a Digital Channel Chief! Subscribe for free to eChnanelNEWS to stay up to date. Ask us how we are helping vendors make the transition.