Serving customers in a way that creates a loyal following is hard. Add in the complexities created by an indirect go-to-market strategy and the degree of difficulty rivals the reverse 4 ½ somersault in the pike position (4.8 out of 5.0).
Why is such a strategy difficult? The main reason is that many of the actual interactions with the customers are conducted by your channel partners, not by your people. It also creates a more complex relationship comprised of several relationships as shown below.
There are several companies that have built a strong channel and leveraged that go-to-market strategy to drive revenues and create market expansion. Here are some of the ways in which these companies have created a strong customer experience with indirect customers.
1. Listen to your customers. It doesn’t matter so much whether the customers are served directly or indirectly, their demand is still driving your revenues. A strong Voice of the Customer program helps understand the customer experience from their perspective. Make sure to share the feedback and insights with your channel partners—much of the action and follow-up required might come from the partners themselves.
2. Listen to your partners. Lots to learn here. First, how can you improve the experience of partnering with you? How can you make it easier to work with you? How can you build a preference for your brand? How can we drive more business together, benefiting both our businesses and growing our market share?
3. Listen some more to your partners. Your partners are dealing face-to-face with your customers and they are learning from your customers every day. They are learning what it is like to experience your products, what unmet needs they have, and how they interact with your partners. These insights can help us to create the consistent experience we know customers thirst for.
4. Treat your partners like customers. I know we don’t think of them this way, but channel partners are customers. We sell to them (and through them), we invoice them, we collect from them. While they are a conduit to the ultimate customer, they buy from us and help us drive revenues. We need to treat them like customers and focus a little attention on them. Part of being customer-focused is being partner-focused.
The best way to deal with complex situations is to break them down into manageable pieces. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. In this case that means understanding all aspects of the channel and understanding how we interact and create an exceptional experience for channel partners and customers.