Channel incentive programs during a crisis: 9 ways to keep your channel partners safe and engaged

With the current coronavirus crisis, companies have to keep a close eye on developments and adapt accordingly, not only to minimize the impact on their business but also — and most importantly — to ensure the health and safety of their customers and partners. If your company is currently running a channel incentive program, it may be clear that maintaining the status quo doesn’t make sense. Here are a few tips and ideas for how you can adapt your program to take your partner relationships to a new level — both during the crisis and after it diminishes — by keeping levels of empathy and engagement high.

Incentivize your channel partners to do online events. As your partners and customers remain in their homes for social distancing, give your partners extra points for conducting virtual events — encouraging continued customer engagement.

Spur the use of new engagement technologies, techniques, and learnings. For example, provide a “super incentive” for leveraging and sharing knowledge and templates for advanced presentation tools (like Prezi, Powtoon, and Haiku), virtual whiteboard software, and even virtual reality technology — encouraging not only continued engagement but the adoption of new forward-thinking engagement models.

Create a new incentive that guides your channel partners to farm. Of the hunter and farmer sales models, the latter will be more effective during this time. Because your partners already know your existing customers well and are intimate with their goals, needs, and architecture, they can communicate better with them “at a distance” than they can with new prospects.

Create valuable content on both how to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the actions your company is taking to keep its customers safe. Incentivize the consumption of this content by rewarding extra points to program members who access and/or share it.

Encourage collaborative thinking. Award points to channel partners who share ideas and feedback on how your company can better contribute to crisis relief efforts and continue to make your partners’ and customers’ lives productive during this moment of crisis.

Postpone points and claims expiration dates, with the understanding that, in these times, it may not be possible for partners to engage on all incentive program fronts to the same degree. Empathy for your partners is the highest priority.

Postpone tier downgrades. Similarly, there is no reason to penalize partners if they can’t keep up their previous engagement levels during this moment of crisis. Make no mistake: partners will remember that you understood their situation during trying times.

Open direct lines of communications between your partners and your business, giving partners the opportunity to get in touch and provide feedback and/or make complaints. Make sure these channels are agile and well-staffed, ensuring that your company can quickly and efficiently respond to partners’ concerns.

Your company must issue an immediate announcement containing each measure it plans to take to keep partners safe and support partners’ business during the coronavirus crisis. It is best that this announcement comes from a leading figure in your organization, and that it is delivered across your most visible channels — ensuring your partners receive the message and clearly understand your company’s position.

The changes you choose to take up will, of course, depend on the needs of your business and your channel partners. It may not be possible to implement all the changes mentioned above. But implementing even a few will not only help you keep your partners and customers safe; it will maintain critical business during this difficult time and foster the continued and enhanced loyalty of your trusted partners over the long term.