What if you’re not Walmart or a channel member with a great deal of power? How do you build relationships with channel partners and get them to cooperate with you? One way is by emphasizing the benefits of working with your firm. For example, if you are a seller whose product and brand name are in demand, you want to point out how being one of its “authorized sellers” can boost a retailer’s store traffic and revenues.
Oftentimes companies produce informational materials and case studies showing their partners how they can help boost their sales volumes and profits. Channel partners also want to feel assured that the products coming through the pipeline are genuine and not knockoffs and that there will be a steady supply of them. Your goal is to show your channel partners that you understand issues such as these and help them generate business.
Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot—retailers have to convince the makers of products to do business with them instead of the other way around. Beauty.com, an online retailer, is an example. Selling perfumes and cosmetics online can be difficult because people want to be able to smell and feel the products like they can at a department store. But Beauty.com has been able to convince the makers of more than two hundred upscale cosmetic brands that selling their products on its Web site is a great deal and can increase their revenues. To reassure sellers that shoppers can get personalized service, Beauty.com offers the site’s visitors free samples of products and the ability to chat live online with skin and hair care consultants. 1
Producing marketing and promotional materials their channel partners can use for sales purposes can also facilitate cooperation among companies. In-store displays, brochures, banners, photos for Web sites, and advertisements the partners can customize with their own logos and company information are examples. Look at the banner in . Although it looks like it was made by the grocery store displaying it, it wasn’t. It was produced by Boar’s Head, a meat supplier, for the grocer and others like it.Figure 8.10 Boar’s Head creates in-store displays like the banner shown here to help its channel partners sell its products.
Educating your channel members’ sales representatives is an extremely important part of facilitating cooperation, especially when you’re launching a new product. The reps need to be provided with training and marketing materials in advance of the launch so their activities are coordinated with yours. Microsoft is a company that does a good job of training its partners. Before launching operating systems such as Windows XP and Vista, Microsoft provides thousands of its partners with sales and technical training. 2
In addition, companies run sales contests to encourage their channel partners’ sales forces to sell what they have to offer. Offering your channel partners certain monetary incentives, such as discounts for selling your product, can help, too. We’ll talk more about incentive programs such as these in Chapter 12 "Public Relations and Sales Promotions".