One way that distributors can improve their relationship with resellers is through partner networks, much like in the airline industry.
For example, Air Canada is part of Star Alliance, a network of 15 international airlines. This gives Air Canada Aeroplan members the option
of booking a flight on a partner airline, while still racking up their air mile points. This, obviously, works to the benefit of the airlines (as the customer doesn’t turn to a competitor) and the customer, who gets a tangible benefit for his or her “”loyalty”” to Star Alliance.
Tech Data has set up a similar alliance that rewards its vendor partners and reseller customers alike – not with air miles, of course, but with benefits such as additional services, offers and discounts.
Tech Data rolled out its Partner Affiliation Program last month, dubbed Friends of Tech Data, to offer specialized services from third parties. The program is featured on the distributor’s Web site with links to each partner’s site.
This allows resellers to take advantage of discounts on products and programs that are not directly available from Tech Data.
Though I’m no expert on the airline industry, partner alliances seem to be an effective means of retaining customers. In my case, I always try to book through a partner airline so I can accumulate air mile points.
While, in Tech Data’s case, this isn’t specifically a “”loyalty”” program, it works in much the same way by encouraging resellers to do business with “”friends”” of Tech Data in return for some sort of tangible benefit. It also helps foster new relationships within the channel.
There are currently eight “”friends”” that are part of the program, and resellers can contact any of them directly to establish a relationship.
With ActionFront Data Recovery Labs, for example, resellers can join a data recovery program. Bodkin Leasing can arrange flexible leasing for IT equipment and EBusiness Ventures can help resellers become a Web hosting provider and earn monthly revenues.
Tech Data’s channel marketing programs for 2004, announced during its annual Vendor Summit last month. The summit offered vendors several ways to improve their relationship with the channel.
Annual Programs, for example, are specialized programs that target specific audiences. One such program is TechSelect, which identifies obstacles to business growth in the SMB market and ways to overcome these obstacles. Bundle Packages contain a mix of marketing activities that provide discounts for up-front commitments, says Tech Data, and Core Vehicles and Activities include ways for vendors to customize their marketing mix.