Why supporting channel partners in difficult times is a solid long-term strategy

Fear and uncertainty is running rampant along the fast-spreading virus, COVID-19. The market has been directly affected, and will likely continue to be. The economic implications are “significant enough to make a recession likely,” according to a blog post from Charles Schwab. And naturally, that signals alarm bells for many organizations.

How will this uncertainty affect the channel? Now, more than ever, is the time proactively support channel partners. I’m not necessarily suggesting spending more on the channel – brands can prove their appreciation for their channel partners by delivering steady, dependable support during what will be a challenging time. Though we aren’t technically in a recession just yet, consider this quote from David Vinjamuri, from Forbes.com:

“…A recession is also an important time to invest in your most valuable customers. If you’ve done customer lifetime value analysis, you’ll know that your most profitable customers are extremely expensive to replace. Instead of losing them, offer value to make them more loyal.”

The same rings true for channel partners. Support from brands during these trying times will be remembered. With such support, brands will solidify their partners’ loyalty, and ensure their products will be the go-to solutions for the partners’ customers.

Supporting channel partners in the short term during a crisis…

Our recent 2020 Business IT Trends Annual Report revealed that Partner Technical Expertise and Vendor Support accounted for roughly 31% of the success factors for respondents’ IT projects. Additionally, “Good communication from partners” accounted for another 11% of what made an IT project successful. These findings speak to the importance of consistent communication between channel partners and their customers – and hint at the importance of consistent communication and remaining top of mind with customers.

The easiest way to support channel partners is to simply reach out to them. Send an email, get support teams on the phones – engage with the partners, and find out how they’re doing. Are they panicking already? What are their customers’ reactions? Do they have a plan for the next few months? Is there anything the brand can do to help? Some of their answers may be surprising. For example, some of our partners are reporting being busier now than they were before. There is a perk to being in the IT industry when everyone is moving towards remote work: Small companies who were not set up for remote work suddenly need services to help them with this transition.

Channel partners appear to be making lemonade out of the lemons they’ve been given; imagine if brands could support them with something to sweeten the recipe. Discounted prices for cloud subscriptions, for example. Product bundles for work-from-home capabilities. Brands could be capitalizing on the increased demand the channel partners are experiencing right now.

It’s clear that end users are still purchasing. Partners are still meeting this demand, and want to provide a good customer experience for their customers. If they’re unable to meet their customers’ needs, their reputation as trusted advisors will suffer, in addition to their bottom line. It’s important that the support and programs brands have promised to their channel partners remain intact, so that the partners can continue operating as usual.

Additionally, all those events that got turned into virtual events? Invite the channel partners. Suddenly, partners who may have been restricted due to small budgets can attend. This virtual event could turn into some of the largest audiences ever! Sharing the event with channel partners would improve the relationships between the brands and their partners. Partners will look to brands as thought leaders and industry experts even more than they already do. On top of that, the brands will actually be educating them, and making them more capable to sell their products down the road.

…Provide long term benefits for channel partners and brands

Supporting channel partners during difficult times doesn’t have to be cumbersome. It doesn’t even have to cost more money than brands have already planned for. Showing commitment to partners – and to the relationship brands have built with them – will bolster the trust already established between brands and their channel partners, and make partners appreciate the partnership with the brands that much more. Channel partners will be much more loyal to supportive brands above other, less-supportive brands they might be selling. Further, with a brand’s continued support, partners will maintain their status as trusted advisors to their customers, and will remain top of mind when it comes to making purchase decisions.

Last year, we analyzed 66,000 campaigns that were sent from partners. We found that a partner who has sent more than 30 campaigns generates more than twice as many leads per campaign than a partner who has only sent between 1-10. It’s imperative that each campaign isn’t considered as a standalone event. Rather, each campaign builds off previous campaigns, compounding the effect. Brands have invested for the long term with their channel partners, and the benefits will be clear if everyone stays the course. Consistent campaigns will deliver long-term sales for channel partners and ROI for brands.

A brand’s continued support of the channel means the channel will experience increased business…which, of course, comes back to the brand’s bottom line.

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