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7 Smart Ways to Use Channel Incentives in B2B Marketing

Channel incentives can be a great way to improve your B2B marketing and build better relationships with your most important sales channel customers. A channel incentives or distributor loyalty program that’s seamlessly executed, complements your business objectives and has a solid value proposition could be the thing that sets you apart from your competitors and builds brand loyalty.

Here are seven ways we recommend working incentive programs into your channel marketing strategies.

1. Upgrade your B2B market collective with loyalty rewards.

One of the cornerstones of Sean Geehan’s book The B2B Executive Playbook is the creation of a “market collective”—a close-knit group of those with the most influence over your B2B sales. These should be your VIP channel customers, those you can’t afford to lose. You should be regularly engaging with them about market concerns, sales opportunities and product knowledge. Word-of-mouth appreciation, collaboration and market insight exchange are most important to ensure a B2B market collective is successful, but B2B loyalty rewards sweeten the deal and offer that extra show of appreciation and good will.

2. Establish a customer loyalty program coalition.

Inviting affiliate businesses—those who sell products or services that are supplemental or adjacent to yours—to participate in your customer loyalty program has multiple advantages.

  • You share the program costs with your affiliates. Once they see how the loyalty program can benefit them, your affiliates may be able to pitch in on program costs.
  • Your program is more useful to your participants/customers. Multiple program sponsors mean more opportunities for program participants to earn and spend points, which increases the program’s value to them.
  • You improve customer retention rate. When you partner with companies who already provide value, business or convenience to your customers, you send the message that you care about making their lives a little easier. An increased value of the program results in customers trusting and valuing your brand more.
  • You increase customer acquisition. You could acquire more business from your coalition’s customer base(s).

Co- marketing opportunities like coalition loyalty programs not only have the solid business value of growing your marketbase—they solidify your reputation in the industry and among partners as a company who wants to add value. This garners trust and brand loyalty, which ultimately has a much bigger impact on your success.

3. Promote personal and brand values.

It’s important that your partners’ and customers’ values align with your company’s. According to a B2B customer study conducted by CEB and Google, only about 14% of B2B customers perceive a real difference between their suppliers’ offerings. And they care less than you might think about business values—42% make their decisions based on personal values (career advancement, social, emotional and self-image benefits), while only 21% say their decisions are based on business values like functional benefits.

So how can channel incentives help you earn those personal value points with customers and partners? Promote your brand values in the way you present your customer loyalty program and the kinds of channel incentive rewards you offer. For example:

  • Offer donations to select charities in your rewards catalog, so customers and partners can spend their digital loyalty reward points on causes they support.
  • Run sales promotions on energy-efficient products or services.
  • Show that you’re all about them in your loyalty program Use “you” in the program marketing and communications as much as possible. For instances: Rewards for you, You’ve almost reached your goal!, Here’s what you earned/accomplished today.

Your business can’t have personal value to channel partners if your partners don’t know what your values are. A loyalty program is a great way to say more with actions than words about what your brand stands for.

4. Go on group incentive trips.

An incentive trip with your most valued B2B partners is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationships with them and create lasting mindshare. Host a summit as an incentive travel reward exclusive to your top partners or customers. You can create an experience that’s both fun and educational for everyone. In The B2B Executive Playbook, Sean Geehan recommends all B2B companies host summits with decision-makers in their sales channel:

The payback in terms of driving awareness, positioning the company, building trusting relationships, and boosting sales is substantial. When done correctly, summits deliver benefits for everyone who attends and transform target companies into prospects and prospects into customers.

This recommendation is verified by an Aberdeen Research study, which found that 100% of Best in Class companies offered group travel and 100% offered company sponsored events to recognize year-end sales success. Best in Class companies are also more likely to offer group travel rewards for year-end sales success.  Oxford Economics USA found that these companies who adopt incentive travel generally experience a 4:1 return on investment, along with increased cash flow and profit.

5. Increase sales motivation to push out high-margin products and services.

This best practice couldn’t be more straight-forward: just offer incentive rewards to your sales reps or sales channel partners for selling and promoting your high-margin products. Easy-to-earn channel incentives such as debit or gift card rewards for short-term SPIFs can quickly energize sales motivation and increase sales of products you need to push out in a hurry.

6. Increase warranties, registrations and aftermarket services.

Rewarding product sales isn’t the only way channel incentives can help you increase revenue. You can increase margin by offering incentive rewards to customers who add on or extend warranties, register their products or schedule maintenance and aftermarket services. Doing so gets you closer to making supplemental services a standard part of the average sale. You also make customers happier because, if anything ever does go wrong with their purchase or they need additional service, you can prove your brand is there for them.

7. Educate channel sales reps on your products and services.

Many B2B markets are defined by constant evolution and innovation. It’s more important than ever to keep your sales channel partners up to date on product knowledge, certification requirements, safety policies and more. Educating both channel partners and end-user customers has proven benefits in terms of repeat business, increased brand loyalty and lowered business costs. In a recent Accenture survey, 92% of executives said that effective customer training effectively secured them repeat business.

Offering incentive rewards for passing quizzes, submitting surveys or earning new certifications creates new motivation for customers or channel partners to keep their skill sets and product knowledge up-to-date. It also helps you create agile marketing strategies with their valuable insights.Rewards aren’t the only way to make learning more appealing. Gamify information you want them to learn with leaderboards and games of chance, give them a sense of triumph and that rush of adrenaline only winning can offer!

When you, your partners and your end-user customers are more informed, it could be the important differentiator that sets you apart from your competition.

Today’s channel incentive programs are more than just cash bonus sales rewards. Combining creativity and strategic thinking with versatile channel incentive technology, you can create a powerful B2B sales and marketing tool that meets your unique business needs.