Cultivating a channel partner initiative can be exciting for any business. It's always energizing to imagine the possibilities of increased sales and revenue when engaging resellers, sales agents, vendors, and solution/service providers.

 But before you start bringing in new experts, it's a smart move to make sure your culture is aligned with the channel partner projections. Any new business transformation has a better opportunity for success if the human aspects of culture are considered.

According to Bard Papegaaij, research director at Gartner, “To reap the benefits of digital business, leaders must take a 'culture-first' approach to business transformation.” 

“Most change management focuses on the business context, process and role changes, and transitioning employees through training and new measurements,” said Mr. Papegaaij. “This approach may be fine for addressing the organizational ‘machine,’ but it doesn’t adequately address the human aspects.”

Why is corporate culture so important?

Quite simply, your culture is your persona. It's the code you operate by. It shows the world what matters to you. Your employees exhibit the human qualities that define your culture, and you rely on their consistency to bring your brand to life. You expect them to behave a certain way, and you want to make sure that any new employees—including channel partners—work and behave in the same manner.

Channel partners will represent your business out in the world, so they must understand your brand and culture to act appropriately.

Five Ways to Align Channel Partner Marketing with Your Culture

An engaged channel partner will be one of your most valuable assets. So how do you get them aligned with your brand so they can advocate for your business right away? Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Match Your Core Values to Your Channel Partners
    Never partner with a company whose image or brand values clash with yours. Even if the partnership seems exciting, never borrow trouble and stray too far away from your values and way of operating in the business world. You want new sales opportunities, but you have to be comfortable with how you get there. There will only be conflict and mixed priorities paving the way to disaster if you work against your established culture.

  2. Define + Share What Makes You a Great Company, and Your Partner a Great Fit
    Finding common ground with channel partners will make the engagement and relationship much easierIf you share a service philosophy, for example, quality engagement will be more fluid. Find the similarities you share in your culture, and you'll be steps ahead of the alignment game.

  3. Providing an Onboarding Plan for Partners
    It may sound simple, but sharing sales tools, aligning on marketing strategy, and creating shared metrics and expectations at the front end will alleviate wasted time with partners who can't meet your needs or become a drain on your resources. Training and enablement are extremely effective ways to quickly get your channel partners up to speed on your brand culture.

  4. Recognize + Amplify the Wins
    When channel partners realize that you have a culture of respect and recognition, they will work consistently to stay in a mode of recognition. Everybody loves to be recognized and singled out for distinctive work. If you cultivate recognition in your culture, it's a win-win for everyone involved. So share the parameters for recognition early. Don't be afraid to overdo it when letting channel partners know they're valued in your brand culture, and cascade those successes across your partner community.

  5. Enhance + Optimize Your Strategy Ofter
    The most direct way to engage your channel partners is through encouraging conversations. This is especially true if you are in a leadership role because new members will appreciate the line of communication and the fact that they will get authentic information about the company and the brand. Use your learnings, good, bad, or indifferent, to make your entire community better. Candid feedback is required. Fostering two-way dialogue allows for input from channel partners so that you can take away valuable field input on how your brand is faring in the marketplace.

Building a Channel Partner Program

Companies that develop strong cultures achieve high levels of effectiveness, but it's the human aspects that will attract and retain critical channel partners. Any culture and brand investments should keep this principle top of mind for long-term success. There's a turnkey effect, too, when channel partners feel included in a successful culture. They will feel comfortable with what you stand for, they represent the relationship subconsciously ahead of other partners and opportunities. If you've got a channel program in place or are starting to build one out, grab our Partner Marketing Maturity Quiz. We've pulled best practices together to help you measure and benchmark the partners you are working with or the manufacturers you are working for.

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