Trust. It's the most fundamental element of any business relationship and particularly partner relationships. Partner loyalty is the bi-product of that trust manifested through multiple touchpoints, experiences and events. Loyalty is easy if your product is terrific, your processes seamless and your communications clear.
Partner Loyalty Programs Designed for Trust
Trust is earned through consistent, flawless day-to-day execution supporting partners. And it's arguably as powerful, if not more powerful in some circumstances, than competitive differentiation created through product innovation. Perhaps that's why partners consistently prioritize ease of doing business nearly as crucial as product considerations.
And when it comes to ease of doing business, that judgment rests entirely with the partner. Vendors relying on partners for most or all of their revenue must walk the walk every bit as much as they talk the talk. Every step of their go-to-market strategy and execution should be designed to ensure partner success first; otherwise, it's easy to fall into the trap of assuming partners will 'do what we want because they want to do business with us.' Trust us, that's no way to a sustainable partner business.
Designing and delivering partner incentives is an excellent case example to demonstrate the point. Partner incentive payments can vary from partner organization level incentives such as partner rebates or joint development funds for marketing (MDF) or business development (BDF) to partner rep incentives (SPIFFs). Maintaining partner trust and ease of doing are particularly important for successful partner rep incentives.
First and foremost, incentivizing partner reps must align with both the partner's business and the partner rep's goals; simply put, they cannot be a distraction. This includes distractions created by reporting mechanisms that demand a rep's time and attention, time better spent with customers and prospects. Doing so is best done by capturing the performance data to confirm the desired behavior and calculating the incentive from existing data flows such as deal registrations or other pre-sales activities leading up to and including closing the sale and/or renewal. Automation is essential for ease of doing business and reporting transparency critical to maintaining partner and partner rep trust.
Creating Effective Incentive Payments
All too often, the final step -- issuing the incentive payment -- is an afterthought in program design. The result can be disaffected partners and disappointed partner sales reps. For maximum impact, incentive payments should be paid as close as possible to the event (the desired behavior). Immediately, even instantly if possible. Embedding direct payment capabilities using digital wallets within the incentive automation tools makes this possible. Making sure these embedded payment capabilities can scale to meet the moment requires a digital payment platform with global reach and multi-currency capacity to support global partner programs. From the incentive Payer's perspective, of course, turnkey payment processes would also incorporate regulatory and tax reporting compliance and relieve them of the burden of capturing taxpayer ID and bank account information.
For Payees, partners and partner reps, that means the ability to be paid in local currency. Multi-currency digital wallets enable currency exchange in realtime, streamlining the receipt of funds. Beyond speed, digital wallets also enable partners and reps to share incentives with deserving team members on their terms using wallet-2-wallet transfers without the need for vendors to over-design program rules to empower these outcomes. It can happen organically as payments are received with just a few clicks.
And while Payees also appreciate speed and flexibility, they also prefer the control afforded with the ability to choose the payment method. Transferring funds directly to their bank account or prepaid debit card remain, by far, the most popular options. However, converting to digital gift cards is frequently used to create fixed value rewards for key team members. Whatever the reason, this shouldn't be a surprise. Choice is nearly always near the top of desired features when incentive program participants are surveyed.
All of these elements should be factored into the 'last mile' of any incentive program -- the delivery of the reward payment itself. Building and maintaining trust depends on them.