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Tips for implementing a successful channel program

A strong channel program offers companies a competitive advantage by broadening their reach to a more diverse set of customers, according to Brooke Cunningham, vice president of worldwide marketing for the data management customer solution unit at independent software corporation CA Technologies, as reported by eChannelLine.

Additionally, small and medium-sized businesses often rely on local partners as trusted advisors, making the channel partner's role as a bridge between the company and the end user even more important.

In order to craft and implement a successful channel incentive program, it is imperative that partners be allowed to sell without channel conflict, which is where deal registration programs come in. Partners should be given the same tools and information as the company's own sales force, including marketing programs and sales and technical training to ensure preparedness and success.

Brand leverage must be flexible, with a balance between customization and brand consistency.

"Some [companies] have stringent brand guidelines that apply to usage for partners, and other vendors allow more usage of the brand," said Cunningham, according to the news source. "The benefit from the partner perspective is that they get additional value by being able to use corporate brand look and feel, often driving higher response rates to campaigns due to the vendor brand recognition."

Social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter also can be used to strengthen the relationship between vendor and partner by allowing the vendor to communicate more frequently about programs, offers and incentives. Blogs and forums on the company's own website can be used to get feedback from partners and even engage them in direct conversation.

"It's not just push marketing anymore," said Cunningham. "It's a conversation, and it's much more powerful because of the level of engagement. And, as an additional benefit, it's a very cost effective marketing medium."

Although the channel market is a competitive space, program differentiation can help to successfully drive channel development. In addition to ensuring that a program is presented in a way that best showcases the strengths of the company's technology, the continual integration of new approaches and innovations is key to a channel program's prosperity, according to Cunningham.

Four executives from CA Technologies – which sells its CA ARCserve and CA ERwin products entirely through channel partners – were recently named 2011 Channel Chiefs by Everything Channel's CRN.