Fine-tuning the channels for a clearer picture
Relationships with customers are often limited by the channel technology used for dealing with them. The top five ways to make those channels work effectively have been highlighted by InfoNow Corp, a global provider of channel management solutions...
For many business-to-business companies selling through complex channels, relationships with end-customers are usually limited by the roles of the channels employed. It is easy to overlook the importance of an effective enterprise channel management strategy, which can encourage collaboration in your sales channels and also reach and serve customers using new technology.
InfoNow suggests that CIOs can maximise the effectiveness of their investment by considering five key strategies before deciding on an enterprise channel management solution:
- Give partners a role in creating the solution so they are part of its success. According to industry analysts, Gartner, businesses seldom involve their partners when they create channel management solutions but, if partners are involved from the beginning, they have a better understanding of the system, an easier time adopting it and a vested interest it making it work.
- Add e-commerce through the channel to increase sales and insight into end-customer preferences. Building in e-commerce through channel partners increases both sales and brand awareness, and gives a better insight into customers' buying activities. Even if sales are completed offline, a point of sale feature can track them, detailing which partner made sales, at what prices, to whom and at what frequency. This can then be integrated into CRM, leads management and partner profiling systems, so the enterprise can better assess the effectiveness of its past and future marketing campaigns and product configurations.
- Have partners update product & pricing information. Empower your partners to quickly and easily maintain their own online catalogues and even co-branded storefronts so that end-customers see real-time, tailored updates for specific products, prices and services.
- Monitor end-customer satisfaction. Many companies with a channel network can't really see a good 'picture' of what customers are really experiencing. A channel management solution should have the ability to carry out customer surveys - either via email or through a web site - to help the business evaluate its products, its market needs and the performance of its partners.
- Keep tabs on partners, and make it easy for them to close sales. Every channel management programme should do exactly that: manage channels. Whilst boosting efficiency by giving more power to the partners, don't forget to promote communication with partners through online tools like partner surveys and aggregate performance reporting.
These channel management tips are drawn from InfoNow's experience of delivering software and services for customer profiling and referrals, lead generation and management, multi-channel e-commerce and partner relationship management, for high-profile corporates such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Visa and Bank of America.