This is the second in a two-part series about elements of a successful product launch through the channel. Click here to read Part 1, which covered the following success factors:
- Articulate a compelling partner business proposition
- Develop a comprehensive channel readiness plan
- Build a robust partner launch communications plan
Here we will cover three more keys to a successful launch with partners:
4) Provide the right partner sales, marketing and support resources
Partner (and customer) experience and satisfaction with a launch can hinge upon whether the right partner resources are available. This includes sales assistance and tools, marketing materials, guidance vs. competitors’ offerings, technical assistance, and sales incentives, among other things. Ideally, resources should be available to support partners throughout the sales cycle, and guidance should be provided on when in the cycle to leverage each resource.
Simply having a variety of resources is not enough, however. You must ensure that the content behind these resources is robust. To guide content development, it is important to identify the key partner/customer scenarios that you need to support. This will help ensure content is designed for the likely situations a partner will encounter, and makes it easier to provide prescriptive guidance to partners.
Another consideration in developing resources is when and how to integrate information on other products. For example, if there are key opportunities to cross-sell or up-sell other products or solutions, this should be clearly and consistently communicated throughout the launch resources. Similarly, if an older version of a product is being retired in conjunction with a launch, the product end of life plans should inform launch resources, and there should be a clear transition path that partners can communicate and support for affected customers.
These are a few key examples of the considerations that should inform development of partner launch resources. The nature and scope of the launch will dictate the elements that should be incorporated into resource planning – and the same is also true for partner program planning.
5) Thoroughly assess and plan for programmatic integration needs
Product launches can affect numerous elements of a partner program, from program requirements to channel incentives. To successfully incorporate a new product into your partner program, it is important to conduct a thorough impact assessment, including identification of key risks and mitigation strategies.
Below are a few key things to think about as you conduct an impact assessment:
- Program requirements – Do requirements need to change? If so, for what program tiers? Will requirements attainment measures (e.g. exams) need to change?
- Program benefits – Will new benefits be provided? If so, what requirements must partners meet in order to get the benefits? Will the benefits differ by program tier? Are there system changes needed to support the new benefits? Will existing support offerings or processes need to change?
- Partner profitability and channel incentives – How will the new product affect partner revenue opportunities? Will it result in significant new costs? Are there partner behaviors related to the new product that should be incented? If so, which incentive programs should the new product be integrated into? Will there be special incentives for that product or related solutions?
The list above is a starting point to illustrate the kinds of things to consider in an impact assessment – it is not meant to be exhaustive. Ideally, every component of your partner program should be evaluated to reduce the likelihood of planning gaps. The outcome of this assessment will then be a solid foundation for building programmatic integration plans.
Your programmatic integration plans will need to be regularly re-visited throughout the launch cycle. Product launch timing, messaging, tactics and other elements are subject to change, so it’s important that the partner program plans remain aligned to the launch plans.
It is also important to consider when and how to communicate programmatic changes to partners. If there are significant changes, partner should be provided with ample advance notice so they can properly prepare. Read on for more about launch communications timing.
6) Evaluate partner behavior and needs when scheduling launch communications
Partners play a pivotal role in helping customers understand their options and make decisions. So to effectively support customers and drive desired customer behavior, partners must be equipped with the right information about new products, at the right time. Partners also need to be able to plan ahead for product and program changes so they can appropriately adjust business practices and investments. This means partners’ needs and behaviors should inform not only the content of your communications, but also the timing.
While many factors influence launch communications timing, below are a few important things to consider from a partner perspective:
- Magnitude of the launch-related changes – Does the launch involve significant technical changes to a product? Major licensing or pricing changes? It’s imperative to evaluate the scope and complexity of the changes, as that will help you decide what information partners need by when. With a complex launch, partners should receive more advance notice; with a simpler launch, less notice is needed.
- Lag time between product announcements and product availability – New product and launch timing information will affect partners’ guidance to customers, which could result in delayed or accelerated purchase decisions. The more lag time there is between product announcements and availability, the greater the risk of changes in partner and customer behavior. While a shorter lag time will reduce these impacts, it is important to balance this against the need to provide sufficient notice of changes.
- Industry and competitor events – In planning communications, it is important to be aware of key industry and competitor event schedules and likely announcements. Partners have limited mindshare, so you should understand what else will be competing for their attention at a given time. In some cases it may be appropriate to align communications with existing events, but this should be carefully planned.
Are there other best practices you’ve discovered that help drive successful launches via the channel? We’d love to hear about them!