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Channel Matters Blog > June 2015 > Should Channel Organizations Give Up on Big Data?

Should Channel Organizations Give Up on Big Data?

by Rich Blakeman
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These days, the sales and marketing profession is all abuzz about using "Big Data" to build relationships with customers and prospects and close more business. As a channel professional, it's easy to feel a little left out. Since we don't sell directly to customers, it's hard enough to collect the "little" data like which customers bought which products.
However, as everybody knows, you can't manage what you can't measure. If we're going to get a handle on our channel business, we need to focus on data, both big and small.
Data gathering methodologies
Let's assume you're not in one of those few lucky industries like software where customers have to register their purchases. That means you have to find a way to get your partners to share their data with you. So, how do you go about it?
The first approach many vendors try is to demand the data from partners. They may even make it part of their partner program requirements, implying (if not actually stating) that partners who do not comply will be kicked out of the program. Channel partners know that no productive partner has ever been kicked out of a partner program for failure to provide data. All this approach does is bog channel managers down in an administrative nightmare.
When demanding data doesn't work, the next approach is to cajole partners into providing the data. Most often, vendor organizations appeal to the partner's ego by establishing award programs that recognize channel partners for volume – contingent upon data gathered. That usually works a little better than demanding the data, but eventually the novelty wears off and channel partners realize that recognition provides very little value in and of itself.
So what's a channel organization to do? Sweeten the pot for partners? Try a combination of demand/incent? Throw up their hands and give up on ever truly understanding their customer base?
The true meaning of partnership
The answer goes back to understanding and practicing what it truly means to be a partner. By the way, if this is sounding a little familiar, you're right. It's the same answer we gave to the challenge of discounting in the channel. We need to sit down on the same side of the table with our partners and create a data strategy that adds value to their business as well as ours.
Here are a few suggestions for what you might want to cover in your discussions:
­– What data are they gathering today? Partners will use a variety of systems, and some will be better at gathering data than others.
– How are they using that data? Like data gathering, not all partners are equally sophisticated at using the data they gather.
– Are there ways that we (the vendor) could leverage the data to improve partner opportunities? This question will start the partner thinking about why they might want to share their data with you.
– What could we collectively accomplish if we knew even more about prospects and customers? Here, we're keeping the win/win in mind but also looking for that extra level of data that will make the entire initiative worthwhile.
One of the fundamental goals behind these discussions is to get past the simple collection of basic information like who bought what. While that's valuable to the vendor, most partners already have that data, so any extra effort on their part to share it adds little value to their organization. The incentive comes when the partner and vendor come up with a strategy for using that data in a way that mutually benefits both parties.
You also want to be sensitive about using traditional metrics like customer satisfaction. Partners may feel like you just want to "check up on them." It's better to talk about metrics like Net Promoter Scores that take the emphasis off of the partner and put it on the customer.
Finally, you want to look at new types of data such as a prospect or customer's use of social media. Partners will probably have a ton of ideas for data that could be collected, but remember, you're not collecting data for data's sake. If you (or they) are going to collect the "Big Data," make sure it has a purpose, and in keeping in the spirit of a true partnership, that the purpose adds value for both organizations.
Last modified on 6/23/2015 5:51:17 PM
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