Once the purview of large multi-national corporations, the expansion of revenue-generating Channel Partner Programs have expanded into small- to medium-sized companies.

A look at the current business environment points to several factors that have opened up opportunities in a variety of fields, especially IT, Public Affairs, Digital Marketing and Public Relations. As opposed to other service industries such as legal and accounting, these firms don’t have to be located in high-profile cities like New York, Chicago, London, or Los Angeles. Due to the Internet, smaller organizations are now global and can essentially provide comprehensive services at a lower price point than larger competitors. And in this case, digital marketing is like the NFL – speed kills. Be sure to select a responsive vendor when signing up for a Channel Partner Program.

These factors have opened doors for Channel Partner relationships that are increasing revenues, improving retention rates, and leveling the competitive playing field. But keep in mind, the sponsor of the Channel Partner program must build into its agreements the same criteria used by larger organizations.

The first step, of course, is to select appropriate candidates to participate. For a digital marketing firm there are several obvious choices such as IT and advertising/public relations firms. Likewise, the Channel Partner organizer must offer solutions that can directly benefit them and are not among the services they offer. These could include:

  • Website development
  • Video production
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Pay Per Click campaigns
  • Social media campaigns with Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Linkedin

But it’s also important to think outside of the box for referral sources that may not be obvious. As we became more immersed in building our program, other businesses emerged that were involved in marketing.

For example, sign companies have become fertile ground. Their businesses have changed over the years in that they must now create signs that are appropriate for marketing on a 2” X 3” Smartphone screen rather than a massive billboard or the side of a building or bus. Same with printing companies. We can assist them and usher their businesses into the digital age. In addition, these types of companies are also asked for additional marketing advice and services. They can now be rendered through a Channel Partner.

But there is one major difference when dealing with small- to medium-sized businesses for all participants. Most of it centers around trust. Keep in mind that many covet long-term clients and customer acquisition costs are expensive. Many Channel Partners may, at first, view this type of relationship with skepticism.

Consequently, these relationship must be approached and cultivated gradually. Relationships with customers should also be flexible. For example, the participating partner may want to stay involved in a variety of ways:

  • Be included in meetings, conference calls and strategy sessions
  • Review products prior to submitting work to client

These are understandable requests and should diminish once they are confident that their customers are being treated well and they have confidence in your abilities.

But there also must be specific levels of accountability among Channel Partners. One obvious criteria is the number of leads provided during a certain period of time. For example, is it one a month or a quarter?

Other points that should be built into contractual agreements include:

  • Guidelines stipulating that clients won’t be pirated by either party
  • Mutual protections of logos, licenses, and domains
  • Terms of payments and frequency
  • Confidentiality clauses

While there are differences between how medium-sized and major corporations structure relationships, it’s important to convey a level of professionalism which will enhance trust and explain accountability.

At the end of the day, it’s all about improving revenues and client retention by offering new and innovative levels of service. It’s also important to always recognize that Channel Partnerships are two-way streets. Each party must benefit within a structured environment of trust, accountability, professionalism, and confidence in each other.

Todd Paton is Founder/President of Paton Marketing, a digital marketing firm in Pompano Beach, Florida. The company has created an innovative Channel Partner Program. For more information, visit https://www.patonmarketing.com/become-a-channel-partner.