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Adapt, Optimize, and Innovate: Highlights from Channel Focus 2024

Adapt, Optimize, and Innovate: Highlights from Channel Focus 2024

This year’s Channel Focus ended up being a goldmine of insights for refining your channel strategies.  

Whether you were there in person but found yourself forced to multitask (it happens) or missed the event altogether, don’t worry. We’ve compiled detailed notes to bring you the highlights. 

Throughout the speaker sessions and breakout groups, we kept coming back to main themes: adaptation to change, optimization of performance, and innovation in partner relationships.  It’s no wonder that all three were common threads throughout the conference — they all speak to a pivotal shift in how organizations approach and enhance their evolving channels ecosystem. 

Key Theme #1: Adapting to Change 

Nothing is shaping how we conduct business today more than AI. It’s not only transforming communication, and altering tech stacks, but it is also creating a frontier of innovation that’s exciting, albeit a little intimidating at times.  

Businesses need to take advantage of what AI has to offer to remain competitive. But as was underscored at Channel Focus, it’s important to approach the adaptation to change with calculation.  

Viewing AI as a catch-all is an oversimplification and overestimation. As Mary Beth Walker, Head of Global Channel Strategy, put it, “It’s easy to see AI as a solution rather than a starting point.”  

Trying to do too much at once can make your efforts muddled and frantic. Stephen Orban, VP Migrations, ISV Google Cloud advised, “There's a risk of falling into analysis paralysis when trying to leverage all the benefits of AI simultaneously." 

Instead, you should approach the tool with precise urgency. Here are three important considerations to help you strike this balance and make AI your friend: 

  • Improve partner engagement with AI: Utilize AI to enhance your traditional partner portal by transforming your knowledge base into a custom trained resource using your own data. This allows partners to access information quickly and independently, taking the load off your human resources. 
  • Prioritize AI education: Ensure your team knows how to leverage AI tools effectively for their specific roles, understand what conversations to have with which customers, and discern what level of information each individual needs to know. Initial education about AI should lead to increased productivity, and subsequently, increased sales. 
  • Enhance AI security: Be aware of potential data poisoning. Prioritize security within your AI systems by teaching your team how to identify trusted sources. Also, it's crucial to review AI's output for accuracy and relevance before using it. Remember, the implementation of AI is not the end, but just the beginning. 

Key Theme #2: Optimizing Performance 

If you’re looking to optimize your channel performance, deal registration is a great place to start. Often described as the bedrock of every partner program, deal registration provides partners with exclusive rights, incentives, and an incumbency advantage. Plus, it is worth noting that deal registration is a leading indicator of partner engagement and channel-sourced business.  

Here are some of the tactics we discussed at Channel Focus 2024: 

  • Make deal registration a fundamental part of your partner program.  
  • Reward partners with exclusive rights and incentives upon deal registration: This is a fantastic strategy for boosting partner morale. It's a system that motivates partners and stimulates them to register more deals.  
  • Utilize deal registration as a measurement tool for partner engagement and channel-sourced business: This optimizes performance by providing a clear overview of the business trends, engagement rates, and the overall health of your channel-sourced business. 
  • Highlight the benefits of deal registration to partners in a way that leaves no room for doubt: Emphasize the incumbency advantage and the potential for increased revenue to make it a no-brainer for partners. They will be motivated by the direct positive impact deal registration can bring to their business, revenue, and growth. 

Key Theme #3: Innovation in Partner Relationships 

The relationships you build with partners are the lynchpin to your channel success. From onboarding to business development to co-selling and everything in between, it's crucial that your partners know the game plan and have the tools for success.  

Here are some things to keep in mind: 

  • Partners are unique: Partnerships aren’t one-size-fits-all. Assess partner needs individually to understand their current position and support requirements. Specifically, look for gaps in marketing capabilities that you may have to accommodate for down the line. This can help you identify and strategize where and how to allocate your resources.  
  • Make sure you’re aligned: Are you on the same page with your partners? Set clear expectations and align goals by emphasizing profitability, tailored support, consistent communication, and proactive solutions to challenges.  
  • Educate and incentivize: Your partners can only do what you teach them. Empower partners through education and support initiatives, leverage community knowledge, live training sessions, and tailored resources for mutual growth. Incentivize their learning journey to enforce high performance where you really need it. 
  • Pre-emptively overcome hurdles: Think through your processes from the perspective of your partners. Where are things bumpy? Identify and simplify known roadblocks in processes like Market Development Funds (MDF) utilization. Then, bring in solutions to address these pain points that align with your partners' capabilities and business objectives. 

By implementing these strategies and focusing on innovation in channel partnerships, your organizations can forge stronger, more collaborative relationships with your partners, leading to mutual growth and success in the competitive business landscape. 

In a nutshell: Adapt, optimize, and innovate within your channel partnerships. These principles, when embraced and implemented effectively, pave the way for mutual growth and success.

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