How to Design a Robust Channel Incentive Strategy

A guest blog from Del Heles, CEO/President Computer Market Research

Del is a global leader in Channel data management solutions and a software marketing automation executive with over 40 years of experience.  He brings extensive experience to the Channel including: Channel POS, inventory data collection, co-op/MDF management, deal registration, synchronized channel marketing (SCM), special pricing agreements, Channel gamification, SPIFF management, and more.

How to Design a Robust Channel Incentive Strategy

channel incentive strategy

The Channel is not for the faint of heart. Saturated with competition, jargon-infused technicalities, vague program guidelines, erroneously submitted rebate claims, unidentifiable end-customers, miscommunication — and a catalog of other complications — indirect sales can be frustrating. Thankfully when armed with a solid Channel incentive strategy, things look up – quickly.

Once mastered, if that’s possible, the Channel presents B2B companies with an embarrassment of opportunity; a corporate landscape littered with the potential to reach new buyers in market segmentation; an intangible vehicle that helps businesses enter overseas markets, reduce overhead cost of in-house sales, expand brand awareness, and remove purchasing obstacles for end-users.

If you’re in the early stages of designing an effective indirect sales model or struggling to establish yourself as a fruitful enterprise within the Channel, here are 4 tips you can implement into your Channel incentive strategy:

1. SWOT analysis

Before deploying an indirect sales program it’s imperative to develop a comprehensive understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that go into your offering.

Sample SWOT Analysis:

  • Robust incentive program(s) has the capacity to be tailored to fit into your Partner(s)’ unique business needs.
  • You provide excellent product training and suggest constructive best practices in go-to-market strategies.
  • Partner has an inexperienced sales team.
  • Incompetent Partner Channel Manager deflates productivity.
  • Your team has trouble monitoring Channel conflict.
  • Enter overseas markets.
  • Grow shareholder value, sales, and market share.
  • Your turnaround time for rebates is fast, which could lead to profitable referrals/recommendations.


  • Poorly designed Partner portal platform could cause miscommunication and diminish program enthusiasm.
  • Incentivized discounts may affect retail price.

2. Executive backing

When designing your channel incentive strategy and program you will most likely need approval. Before approaching C-level support, have a clear understanding of the program’s short and long-term potential. Answering these three questions will help formulate your pitch:

  • How will the program affect company profit margins, and cash flow?
  • What are the needs for additional employees, resources, and policies (e.g., credit policy)?
  • What is the value proposition and bottom line of your Channel incentive strategy?

3. Fine-tune your pitch

In addition to executive support, you need buy-in from Channel partners. Put yourself in your Partners’ shoes and consider:

  • What type of offering would enthuse your Partners to participate?
  • How does your Channel program(s) ensure a profitable opportunity?
  • What are the long-term benefits of partnering with your organization?
  • How will you assist in the sales (opportunity-lead-conversion) process? (Examples: product training, funds for marketing, assist in customer service)

4. Deploy the right Channel program

Each unique Channel partnership deserves a cohesive Channel incentive strategy. When designing and implementing yours it’s important to carefully review current Partners’ indirect sales history. In other words, it’s important to know:

  • Which Channel program(s) have they used in the past?
  • Which Channel programs present the most opportunity or failure?
  • Which areas of marketing do they struggle with?
  • Are there issues in turnaround time on rebates or claims?
  • What is their experience and knowledge in using a Partner portal platform?
  • Are they motivated by or interested in gamification?
  • What type of marketing support do they need do or want?
    • Online marketing kit
    • Demo units/test drive products/samples
    • Leads
    • Deal registration
    • Coop/MDF
    • Rebates/SPIFFS
    • Distributor claim management

Answering these questions gives the basic structure of how to angle your pitch with current and potential Channel Partners and executives as you move forward with creating a robust Channel incentive strategy.

Looking for more information on Channel Partner Enablement? Check out these blogs:

How to Use Channel Partner Programs to Better Enable Partners

3 Ways to Improve the Channel Partner Journey

How Recycling Content Helps your Partners

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