Channel Incentive Study- B2B Technology Industry

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1 Channel Incentive Study- B2B Technology Industry A CCI Report CCI conducted a study in Q4 of 2010 to assess the utilization of various incentive program types and their relative importance and/or effectiveness as perceived by both the vendor community and its channel partners. The incentive program types spanned a broad range to include: Co-op/MDF, SPIF programs, rebates, opportunity management rewards, trade-in programs, and end-user purchase rebates. Separate surveys were tailored for vendor and partner audiences with the goal of identifying similarities as well as differences between the two (manufacturers/vendors and their channel partners).

2 Background Effective management of channel partners (resellers, distributors, agents, etc.) requires a series of carrot-and-stick tactics offered by channel marketers (e.g.: vendors, manufactures) to encourage specific behaviors. The carrots in this case are represented by a series of incentive programs that encourage a wide range of behaviors. The resulting expense of these programs often accounts for a large percentage of the channel marketer s go-to-market (GTM) budget. The range of programs offered and their associated expenses are unique to channel marketers, as for the most part these incentive programs are not normally associated with marketers who rely on a direct sales model. Over time, a channel marketer may make multiple incentive programs available to its channel community. The myriad of programs offered increases complexity for vendors and partners alike, and makes it difficult for vendors to isolate the impact and ROI of any one program. Conversely, channel partners themselves often deal with several vendors, each of whom barrage them with various incentive programs. Each program often requires unique systems and processes to administer. Despite the efforts of vendors to design programs that offer broad appeal, channel partners will be selective as to which programs they actually embrace, giving preference to the programs that most align with their business goals. The intent of this study is to help identify relative program effectiveness of the various incentive programs offered to channel partners from the perspective of channel marketers and channel partners alike. To that end, unique surveys were designed and administered by CCI in Q4 of 2010, targeting vendor and partner audiences. Responses from vendors measured channel incentive program current offerings and trends, while a parallel survey to channel partners gauged their program participation and preferences. IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of the responses total more than 100% as respondents were encouraged to provide multiple responses (such as, Select the top 3 ). 2

3 Program Types Included in the Study Program Type Co-op/MDF Reseller Rebates SPIF Programs Opportunity Management End User Rebates Trade-In Rewards Description/DesiredChannel Behavior Incented Reimbursement for sales and marketing efforts designed to incent channel partners to advertise or otherwise promote the vendor s brand and products. Rewards paid to reseller entities (companies) for achieving sales goals or other targets specified in advance of a program period usually quarterly or annually. Rewards paid to individual sales reps employed by the reseller for selling the vendor s brand over competitive products. Cash incentives or special discounts directed to resellers (companies or individual reps) for registering sales activity in advance of completing the sales transaction. The incentive is intended to provide the vendor with insight into sales engagements early in the process with the goal of attaining pipeline visibility, minimizing channel conflict, or to encourage hunting vs. farming sales behaviors. Rewards for purchasing a product offered to the consumer. Such incentives may be rewarded instantly (acting as a discount at the time of purchase) or reimbursed after the transaction was completed through a claiming process. An incentive for purchase that requires a physical return of goods in advance of reward issuance. 3

4 Background Research Objectives The objectives for the study were as follows: Assess the perceived effectiveness of the various channel incentive programs from the points of view of the originators (vendors or manufacturers) and the participants (channel partners). Identify any gaps in perceptions. Provide a benchmark as to the relative importance of channel incentive programs (as a whole) by vendors within the context of the overall program mix offered to their channel partners. Identify gaps in perceptions between vendors and their channel partners. Gain deeper insight into MDF and Co-op practices o Reimbursable activities o Perceived areas for program improvement Participant Profiles Vendor Profile The study included channel sales and marketing professionals from technology companies. There were 150 responders participating in the study. 42% of the respondents classified themselves as software vendors, followed by 22% in the hardware and peripherals industry, 24% in telecommunications, and 11% from storage and networking. The majority of the respondents were directly responsible for channel program management with titles that included: Channel Marketing, Channel Sales, Channel Operations. 18% of the responders possessed CxO titles. Another statistic relevant to survey findings is the proportion of direct to indirect sales. 32% generate more than 80% of their revenue via the channel, and more than half of all respondents sell more than 60% through the channel. A majority of these vendors report having fewer than 500 channel partners, with just 12% indicating a channel of more than Channel program geography represented by the respondents was a statistically even split between North America and global purviews. Partner Profile The partner survey received 502 responses. Approximately 70% of the respondents consider themselves to be value added resellers (VARs). Though a distant second in self-identification, managed service providers (MSPs) represent a growing trend. The reported annual sales revenue spanned evenly from $1 million to more than $20 million. 4

5 Key Findings

6 Vendor Utilization of Incentive Programs by Program Type Co-op/MDF Sales Rebates SPIF & Loyalty Programs SPIF Programs Funded by MDF Opportunity Management Trade-In Programs End User Rebates Other 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% All programs featured in the study were extensively utilized by respondents, but Co-op/MDF programs were by far the most widely deployed, followed closely by Sales Performance Rebates offered to their channel partners for attaining specified sales goals. Interestingly, the respondents indicated that rebates directed to end users to incent product purchase were the least utilized of the group. We believe this is because such discounts are administered through a means other than rebates. The verbatim response provided by entries designating other in their response consisted of sales contents which is presumed to be some tiered or chance-based incentive targeting resellers and/or reseller sales reps. 6

7 Vendor Utilization of Incentive Programs by Program Type Investment in incentive and reward programs as a percent of entire channel budget: More than 50% 41-50% 31-40% 21-30% 11-20% 0-10% The broad use of these financial incentives are supported by a relatively modest budget for channel incentive programs. The majority of vendor respondents allocate 10% or less of their overall channel budget to incentive programs. 7

8 Relative Importance of the Various Incentive Programs: Vendors Programs MOST important channel success: Sales & Marketing Training for Partners Rebate & Incentive Programs Opportunity Management Co-op/MDF Technical Training for Channel Partners Joint Marketing Business Planning Lead Management to Channel Partners Marketing Resource Center Other 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Within the context of the overall mix, the relative importance of incentive programs is second only to sales and marketing training in the view of our vendor responders as important tools to help achieve GTM goals through their channel partners. Respondents selecting other cited demo equipment and partner technical support as important contributors to their program s success. Rebates and incentive programs in this case included a combination of partner sales performance rebates and SPIF programs directed to partner sales reps. 8

9 Relative Importance of the Various Incentive Programs: Vendors Programs LEAST important channel success: Marketing Resource Center Co-op/MDF Opportunity Management Lead Management to Partners Joint Marketing Planning Technical Training for Channel Partners Rebate & Incentive Programs Sales & Marketing Training for Partners Other 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% 50% Consistent with its low score on the most effective category, Marketing Resource Center received a clear acknowledgment from the vendor responders that it is perceived as the least effective tool in the arsenal. Of interest though are the scores achieved by both Co-op/MDF programming as well as opportunity management. Channel marketers seem to have a love/hate relationship with their Co-op/MDF programs. This suggests that either it is perceived as a necessary evil and a necessary ingredient to a successful channel marketing program, or that their program is lacking clear ROI to track its success against goals. Opportunity Management programs have been the cornerstone of the channel marketer s arsenal throughout this century. Its relatively high score indicates an expression of diminishing effectiveness that is perhaps due to the program s maturation processes, in that their program no longer meets the vendor s needs or no longer provides the competitive advantage it once did. 9

10 Program Utilization & Perceived Effectiveness: Channel Partners Relative importance of vendor-provided incentive programs relative to other programs offered by vendors as perceived by channel partners: Co-op/MDF Vendor Sponsored SPIF Programs Volume Rebates Leads Received from Vendors Sales & Marketing Training Technical Training Joint Marketing Planning Opportunity Management Marketing Resource Center 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Resellers believe that incentive programs in their various forms are the most significant programming (in aggregate) offered by their vendors that contributes to their success. Of relative interest here is that: Sales and Marketing Training was ranked in the middle, a contrast to the high score provided by vendors. Opportunity Management and Joint Marketing Planning scored relatively low. This is a signal that resellers are unclear of the benefits those programs bring them. Hence, both resellers and channel partners don t believe that Opportunity Management programs are optimized. 10

11 Co-op/MDF Utilization Reimbursable Activities that are MOST Significant By Vendors 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% By Partners Reimbursable Activities that are LEAST Significant 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% By Vendors 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% By Partners Co-op/MDF programs originated to provide reimbursement to channel partners for advertising and marketing activities. However, they clearly have evolved at least for the technology industry to focus more on business development, training, and other activities that focus on closing sales or developing customer relationships (as opposed to lead generation). Other than telemarketing, the more traditional activities that focus on lead generation scored low individually and in aggregate. Reimbursement for social media activities is not considered important by either vendors or channel partners (as of yet). Activity preferences seemed to align well between vendor and partner responses alike. 11

12 Social Media & Co-op/MDF Programs Partner Utilization of Social Media in Sales and Marketing Activities Do you currently use social media to build business and generate leads? No 60% Yes 40% 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% Which social media outlets do you use? 0% Are your social media efforts funded by vendor Co-op/MDF allowances (at least in part)? Yes 12% No 88% Social media is used sparingly, though gaining adoption. A slow movement towards social media may not adversely impact channel success, as most partners report that they do not use social media to build business. Only 40% of partners surveyed use social media. If social media is part of their sales and marketing strategy, partners predominately use LinkedIn and Facebook, each receiving a response rate in the 70% range by partners. Twitter is used by approximately 50% of the partners who participate in social media. Additionally, these partners are funding their social media activity themselves. An overwhelming 88% of partners report that vendors do not fund social media. 12

13 Social Media & Co-op/MDF Programs Reimbursement Practices for Social media Programs by Vendors Do you support your partners through social media marketing? Yes Yes. We provide content for partners to use No. Our partners haven't expressed interest No, but we intend to 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% Vendor-provided statistics differ slightly, though the implication is the same. 60% of responding vendors do not support their partners for social media in any form. Of those that do, most supply content only. Only 8% of vendors indicate that they reimburse for social media activity through Co-op/MDF. Vendors seem to be somewhat behind the curve in social media for their partners, but that is understandable since Co-op/MDF are primarily designed to reimburse for hard costs associated with activities, and those are somewhat hard to quantify for expenses associated with social media. Of those vendors that do reimburse for social media, it is unclear from the responses whether social media is reimbursed as a standard activity, treated as an exception (requiring special approval), or if the associated expenses are rolled into other approved activities. 13

14 Evolution of Co-op/MDF Programs Area that needs the most change: According to Vendors Global standardization Faster payment process Integration with SFA/CRM system Improve partner support and issue resolution Streamline administration Improve marketing support/program planning Revise guidelines to better reflect company Improve analytics and ROI 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% According to Partners More predictable allowances Marketing assistance Joint marketing planning for optimal program Faster turnaround of funding requests/prior Faster payment and reimbursement Simplified guidelines and adminstration 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% While vendors are mostly interested in analytics as the primary focus to improve their Co-op/MDF programs, partners believe that vendors should focus on simplicity and expediency as primary program enhancements. 14

15 Joint Marketing Planning is on the Uptick Vendors who perform joint marketing planning with their partners Yes, but with selected or top-tier partners Yes, with most of our partners Not yet, but we have plans to develop No, and we have no plans for such a process 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Most vendor respondents conduct formal marketing planning with only their top tier partners. Another significant number of vendors have plans to adopt a structured planning process (though timelines and specifics were not explored in the survey). Similarly, the majority of partners (60%) indicated having participated in marketing planning with their vendors. Automation or lack thereof used by vendors to perform joint marketing planning varies widely. Manual processes are common due to the historically qualitative nature of the exercise, though use of software tools is growing. What s key is that the plan also includes quantitative measures so that planned activities and forecasted outcomes can be compared to actual execution and related results. Vendors report that joint planning among channel marketers and their partners provides a host of benefits, including: Increased goal alignment Economies of scale Reduced bottlenecks at critical juncture in channel marketing activity Advance notification of spending Joint planning offers a collaborative process between vendor and partner. It can compensate for an overburdened channel support team, while still effectively growing the channel. For those who may be considering adding joint planning to their channel programs, note that partners may initially perceive it as another administrative burden. Vendors can change this tenor by defining a process and establishing a track record that illustrates the benefits derived by partners who participate. Vendors who have a successful history with joint planning are poised to expand the initiative to a larger portion of their partner base. 15

16 Final Comments The use of incentive programs to promote and reward channel behavior is widespread and critically important as expressed by vendors and channel partners alike. Below are specific observations from this study that will help channel marketers take their program to the next level: Overall: Analytics are a major concern for channel marketers when it comes to evaluating ROI: Isolating contributions from each program to gauge ROI is of growing concern for channel marketers as resources tighten (money and human capital alike). Because of the variety of programs offered by vendors, any one channel partner can participate in multiple programs offered by that vendor. By implication, these channel partners are participating in a number of similar programs offered by several vendors. This requires an increasing level of administrative burden on partners who lack the resources to both understand and manage the plethora of programs available to them. Vendors have to consider ease of administration and overall program fit with their partner s go-to-market strategy before they design and launch a program. Co-op/MDF and Sales Performance Rebate programs are clearly the most pervasive programs offered by vendors. SPIF Programs SPIF programs directed to Reseller Sales Reps are the third most popular incentive tool. Many of these programs are administered in the form of tactical, short-term programs. However, longer term loyalty programs are included in the mix as well. It is our intent to publish more research on the design and utilization of these programs in the future. There is an increasing trend toward funding SPIF programs directed to Reseller Sales Reps using Coop/MDF allowances particularly for programs designed at the account level. Co-op/MDF programs There seems to be a love/hate relationship with these promotional allowance programs at the vendor level, yet partners believe this is the most important program offered to them of all vendor-sponsored incentive programs. This is an indication that the programs offered by the vendors are considered a cost of doing business rather than a strategic marketing tool. Vendors who feel this way should clearly review their program guidelines, activities, administrative processes, and ROI criteria to ensure their program is designed to optimize the go-to-market needs of the vendor and partners alike. CCI offers a number of white papers and other resources on the topic available at 16

17 Final Comments Operationally, vendors also need to streamline operations and expedite processes. For most programs, partners have to pre-pay for all activities in advance, and cash flow is the number one need for most (small) businesses. Streamlining operations and expediting payment processes (less than 30 days) will greatly contribute to the program s appeal, thereby contributing to improved levels of partner participation. Opportunity Management/Deal Registration These programs became the fulcrum for channel marketing programs in the B2B industries throughout the early 2000s. Yet it seems that their perceived value and impact has somewhat faded for vendors and channel partners alike. There are two potential reasons for this: 1) the pervasive offering of the program by vendors has diffused the value of these programs as a differentiator, or 2) they have lost focus and simply turned into another incentive program, but one which requires more administration than others with less perceived benefit. The scoring and comments provided by vendors and partners alike indicate that they may not be worth the current expense for either partners or vendors. Perhaps it is time for vendors to evolve their programs based on company and category needs to ensure the program is perceived as offering mutual benefit. Also a possible contributor: despite the initial intent of these programs to minimize channel conflict, many channel partners question their value in doing so, and indeed are still concerned with their vendors taking registered deals direct. Social Media and Co-op/MDF Programming Partners are not yet universally embracing social media as a sales and marketing vehicle but all trends indicate this is on the rise. Vendors who are interested in assisting their partners with social media should have a clear social media strategy, and provide their partners with content and guidelines for social media utilization that aligns with their own social media strategy. At this point, including social media as an approved activity within the context of published Co-op/MDF guidelines is pre-mature, as these programs are really designed to reimburse partners for hard costs related to program execution and that is hard to universally quantify. However, social media programs can be funded as an exception (where allowed) if the value of the effort warrants it, or if it is part of a larger marketing initiative. In those cases, it is recommended that the vendor follow through on results, and use that instance as a foundation for social media best practices to share with its partner community. 17

18 Final Comments Joint Marketing Planning The practice of Joint Marketing Planning (JMP) is on the rise, but all partners and all vendors are not currently beneficiaries. The appeal of JMP is that it is an ideal means to help track partners through the lifecycle, as well as to ensure that the vendors investment in time and money is optimized for mutual benefit. For JMP to actually work, partners have to believe that there is a benefit for them (and that the process is not just another administrative exercise). Clearly, partners are seeking sales and marketing assistance, and vendors and partners alike don t believe that the vendor-provided Marketing Resource Centers are effective. JMP can be a very effective tool to provide sales and marketing assistance, tailored to the unique needs of each participating partner. 18

19 About CCI CCI delivers comprehensive incentive solutions to optimize sales channel performance. As an enterprise software and services solutions provider, CCI enables channel marketers to manage and measure sales and marketing programs throughout their demand chain, resulting in greater spending efficiency and improved program effectiveness. CCI provides a combination of on demand software, professional services and program management. CCI s Professional Services team applies best practices to define and deploy programs that meet your business goals. Equally powerful is CCI s software. Delivered as SaaS, CCI automates your channel programs and partner activity for increased visibility, measurement and ROI. Once deployed, CCI Program Management delivers services such as contact center support, auditing and payment services to ensure operational efficiencies. CCI is proud to work with market leading companies in technology, telecommunications and entertainment. CCI 7250 Redwood Boulevard Suite 105 Novato, CA USA T: E: 19

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