Many manufacturers wonder why their channel partners are not delivering the sales results that they expected when they were initially recruited and onboarded. Few manufacturers have the honesty to point the finger back at themselves and admit that part of the reason is down to their own weak joint business planning with the partner in the first place.
Perhaps a joint business plan was created at the initial onboarding stages. Perhaps it is even revisited once a year. But that is simply not enough. Worse still, many channel management professionals have no formal training in joint business planning and their employer may not even provide joint business plan templates for them to use.
Joint business planning between manufacturers and channel partners is at the very heart of a successful channel strategy. The joint business plan acts as both a guide and performance evaluation tool, making it clear to both parties what they need to do in order to achieve success whilst also acting as a benchmark to determine whether success or failure has been achieved.
Joint business planning delivers many benefits to the partnership. Firstly, it aligns both manufacturer and channel partner in terms of business goals. It clarifies the reason for the partnership in the first place and ensures that future plans are based on realistic expectations. Most importantly, it enables both parties to consider the future allocation of resources to the joint effort, including marketing, sales, operational, financial and technical resources.
The goals of a joint business plan include:
- Understand each others’ Vision, Mission & Strategy.
- Align where possible, minimize conflicts.
- Set joint business objectives & KPI’s.
- Set strategies and action plans to achieve the objectives.
- Define budgets to achieve the action plans.
- Set and review measurements to ensure the strategies are on track.
The plan should be a “living” thing that is constantly updated and refined and should therefore include a review schedule. Both parties should agree whether monthly or quarterly reviews are most appropriate, but certainly it should be more than just once a year.
Certain key areas must be addressed with the plan, and for channel managers to be able to craft an effective joint business plan may require channel management training to be undertaken. These key areas include:
- Partner-specific data
Documenting a clear overall picture of this individual channel partner, their key market and technology focus areas, strengths, weaknesses, company size and so on.
- Joint Marketing Plan
- Joint Sales Plan
- Review & Renew Plan
Within these areas, the following topics need to be addressed:
- Partner & Vendor S.W.O.T
- Identify overlaps, synergies & gaps
- Partner core competencies & differentiators.
- Joint value proposition.
- Target audiences.
- Performance milestones.
- Specific, measurable outcomes.
- Specify successful completion criteria.
- Future investments based on achieving these.
Once the plan has been agreed and documented it is time for the channel manager to take a step back and move into a supporting role. Micro-managing every aspect of the relationship is neither healthy nor efficient. If you have hired the right partner in the first place then they should be able to run with their part of the plan by themselves from now on, albeit with reasonable support from you along the way.
A critical aspect of the joint business planning process is to make sure that all parties are held accountable for delivering the results and that there is an escalation or rectification process established if actions are not being completed in a timely manner and / or if results are not being achieved.
Joint business planning is at the core of any manufacturer and channel partner relationship. It is the rudder by which the entire relationship is steered. Investing the time and resources to get this right will pay enormous dividends not just in terms of partner loyalty, but also in business success.
About the Channel Institute:
The Channel Institute is the only training body in the world that provides business training and certification specifically for the channel profession through a syllabus validated by a vendor-independent Industry Advisory Council. The Institute currently offers three certificate courses supporting channel managers, channel marketers and channel resellers:
- The Certificate in Channel Management
- The Certificate in Channel Sales
- The Certificate in Channel Marketing
- The Certificate in Digital Co-Marketing