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Investing in the Right Channel Partners is an “EPIC” Way To Stimulate Growth

Recall the old adage “you only get out what you put in.” When it comes to channel management programs, these timeless expressions couldn’t ring truer. In a B2E (Business to Everyone) world, organizations can reap significant benefits and achieve key growth and ROI objectives if they’re willing to invest in their channel partners in a deeper more personalized way like tailored and easy to use MDF, Incentive and Through Partner Marketing programs. But, for many, especially large organizations with complex channel and dealer ecosystems, there are so many questions to be answered:

  • Who are my top channel performers and how can I amplify their success?
  • What channel models and programs work best and for which partners?
  • How do I implement an effective program that can scale?
  • How can I get any of this accomplished in today’s “new normal?”

During the latest ChannelEdge podcast with 360insights’ Steven Kellam, Ryan Shopp, Vice President of Marketing at Cisco AppDynamics, reminds us all that now is the time to “Be Epic” with your channel partners: take risks, be creative and use this moment of rapid digital transformation to identify top channel and dealer partners, connect with them on a more personal level and then enable them with the right tools.

For Ryan, however, being “epic” isn’t just a call-to-action: It’s AppDynamics’ channel engagement model that has proved to be a game-changing sales and revenue booster. Specifically, the acronym “BEPIC” is AppDynamics’ approach to determining the group of channel partners to focus upon and how they go about categorizing partners. Ryan uses this acronym to guide and focus his team:

Belief – The foundation of the program is to get both sides to believe strongly in AppDynamics and the value it will provide customers. This happens over time starting with a structured sales deck that everyone is trained to present.

Executive Sponsorship – Finding and building a belief with the right executive sponsor is critical to success. An executive is identified and targeted during the Belief part of the process and their commitment to the program is secured as a second step.

Propensity to Buy – Ryan’s team and the channel partner work together to identify the twenty accounts with the highest likelihood to buy. They then narrow the list to the top 5 and work together to secure the business.

Interlock –AppDynamics’ uses what Ryan describes as a value pyramid to present the offering to customers.

Cadence – is all about holding each other accountable to how often they get together and work on these accounts and track their progress.

With as much as a 300 percent increase in several partner sales and channel contribution going from 30 percent of sales to more than 70 percent, AppDynamics’ approach of smart and strategic investment in the right channel partners is clearly producing incredible results. But, there’s more to this approach. Instead of Ryan and his team trying to target the hundreds of channel partners that sell AppDynamics solutions, they’re using a three-step process to identify the top 50 channel performers and then amplifying their outputs. He describes the approach as being like Account Based Marketing but focused on investing in the right channel partners.

It all comes down to defining your top partners, segmenting those partners in a certain way, aligning business objectives and then investing in them using the right tools and resources. He uses the following three-step process to identify and motivate those top performers:

  1. Deep focus approach Leverage data insights and customer journey mapping to identify the top 50 channel performers and focus amplification efforts on that group.
  2. Maturity Assessment Determine what phase of maturity (or knowledge stage) is each channel partner currently in with regards to your business, products and ecosystems. Are they product and business experts or are they still novices with a hunger to learn more? Knowing this will help determine how to focus and personalize enablement efforts
  3. ROI – Work with partners to identify success metrics and create clear paths to achieve ROI success.

It doesn’t end there. AppDynamics then creates templates and playbooks for other partners to follow so they can achieve “top 50” status, which Ryan and his team assess every six months – giving motivated partners an opportunity to grow.

Clearly, Ryan and his team are taking the time and effort to understand each partner and what makes them “tick” – spending 80 percent of their time and budget on their top performing partners. Then, they are marketing that success to their partner community to drive competition and demand for their programs. This kind of commitment starts with C-suite buy-in and persists down through organization to drive channel success. The BEPIC approach is obviously a market best-practice that many other organizations (whether they’re B2B, B2C or B2E) can learn from as they take a second and third look at their channel strategy this year and well into the future.

About the Author

Steven Kellam Senior Vice President, Marketing and Alliances Steven is a respected leader in channel incentives and marketing with a comprehensive end-to-end understanding of what it takes for brands to succeed selling through complex sales channels. He has over twenty years of executive management experience combining leadership, vision and execution applied to sales, marketing, business development and operations. At 360insights, Steven drives growth through alliance building, thought leadership marketing and collaboration with the sales team. Steven is a strong strategic leader with a passion for growth and operations excellence. Prior to joining 360insights Steven served as President of CCI (now E2Open’s incentive business). At CCI, Steven led efforts to form alliances across the channel software market, grew its MDF and co-op advertising business, and expanded its solutions offering across its product suite to include rebates, sales incentives and APIs to support strategic partnerships. Steven studied Economics and Marketing at Virginia Commonwealth University and Hampden-Sydney College, respectively. Steven lives in San Francisco and is a competitive athlete, participating in triathlons and open water swims including the Escape from Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and the Kona Ironman in Hawaii.

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