Companies largely rely on an indirect salesforce of dealers, contractors and other channel partners in order to go to market.
In fact, more than 75% of all world trade flows through an indirect sales channel, according to Jay McBain, principal analyst at Forrester Research. The PHCP and HVAC wholesale-distribution channels are no exception.
Your incentive program is an important platform to motivate these partners and overcome disruptors in the modern sales channel.
Today, PHCP and HVAC distributors face several common disruptors within their channels. These include changing buyer demographics and the rise of digitalization. Additionally, distributors now have a greater need for data and analytics to personalize their marketing, provide enablement and achieve differentiation.
CHANGING BUYER DEMOGRAPHICS
According to Forrester, by 2025 75% of buyers in the channel will be millennials. For PHCP and HVAC distributors, this means the contractors, dealers and retail sales reps you sell through will have a different buyer’s journey and a different set of expectations than buyers in the past.
Experiential and lifestyle rewards can be used to engage millennials and start building brand preference. However, the primary advantage of an incentive program for helping distributors adapt to this demographic is technological. Millennial channel partners expect their communication with distributors to be instant, engaging, relevant and omnichannel. Modern incentive programs include cloud-based software platforms to provide distributors with tools to engage, educate and communicate with their channel partners.
IMPROVING ENGAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION
Incentive program platforms give distributors a digital hub where channel partners can connect. This digital hub can be accessed on desktop or mobile, and can generate a single sign-on between the distributor’s incentive program, customer portal, LMS or e-commerce platform. Combining a seamless user experience with the opportunity to earn millions of exciting rewards will keep customers coming back to your site.
Incentive program communication tools allow distributors to communicate with their partners via email, SMS and push notifications. Clear communication and frequent engagement help distributors keep their brand top-of-mind with their channel partners and keep them informed of their latest promotions.
FUELING THE NEED FOR DATA AND ANALYTICS
The success of today’s B2B marketing efforts depends on having clean, accurate data and being able to use that data to provide personalized value-adds to partners throughout the channel. Data points generated and collected through the incentive program give distributors more insight into account engagement and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
This data can be integrated with their CRM or ERP, enabling their internal reps to provide better support to their channel partners. For instance, if one of your contractors participated heavily in a promotion for HVAC units, are there other products in your supply mix, such as piping, that would make for a relevant cross-selling opportunity? Or, if an account is frequently accessing your rewards site but has yet to participate in your promotion, that’s an opportunity to reach out to them and see how you can enable them to advance in the buyer’s journey.
FACILITATING AN EFFORTLESS DATA EXCHANGE
Maintaining a clean database is often a challenge in the PHCP and HVAC industries. According to our internal metrics, 56% of eligible participants have to be removed from channel partner promotions due to inaccurate contact information.
The registration process for the channel partner program is an important opportunity to collect current contact information for the dealers, contractors and sales reps in your channel. Participants will be more motivated to supply accurate emails, phone numbers and addresses so they can receive the rewards they qualify for. You also can use registration forms or participant surveys to collect firmographic or demographic data to target your marketing to each account.
Warranty registrations, rebate submissions and sales invoice uploads are another opportunity for distributors to collect data about their channel partners and end-users. However, PHCP and HVAC distributors face a unique challenge when it comes to gathering these data points. Often, the dealers, contractors and other sales reps who help them go to market spend significant portions of their time in the field. Supplying them with mobile-ready document attachments, plus upload and verification tools will improve the quality and consistency of the data you receive.
ENABLING PARTNERS TO SELL YOUR PRODUCTS
Ultimately, there is one surefire way to become your channel partners’ preferred supplier: set them up for success. Providing your channel partners with the right education, enablement and training will make it easy for them to sell your products.
Our clients use their incentive programs to tackle this challenge in a variety of creative ways. These include:
Creating a series of interactive quizzes based on content or training videos. This gives contractors and dealers the chance to earn reward points or achievement badges for learning more about product features or differentiators.
Encouraging channel partners to redeem their reward points toward travel expenses to important tradeshows or conventions. Often, clients who use this strategy will offer big point bonuses for attendance.
Requiring channel partners to attend virtual or onsite training in order to qualify for an incentive promotion. Try creating certifications for “Certified Contractor” that your contractors can use in their own marketing.
Using fun, daily trivia to keep customers coming back to your e-commerce website, where they will receive more education from repeated exposure to content.
Last but not least, rewards help to solidify your relationship with your channel partners. Non-cash rewards serve as a tangible reminder of your brand and create the sort of emotional impact that distributors, in particular, struggle to achieve.