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Channel sustainability – from creation to retention

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The importance of creating a clear and sustainable channel strategy and the implementation thereof relies on many strategic processes that, if not well thought-out and executed, can cause short-term dissatisfaction but ultimately long-term disaster. This the opinion of Scott Gilbert, Jabra South Africa.

As such, it is essential for a company to align itself with the correct distributors and ensure that the end goal is always top of mind when doing so. This selection is firstly reliant on distinguishing between the B2B and B2C markets, especially if the company is aligned with both, and then moving forward, to decide who those customers are and the basis on which suppliers will be selected.
Firstly, defining between B2B and B2C markets is not a mammoth task as the products themselves are easily distinguishable. There is a slight overlap where individuals would use what is normally considered B2C products for the workplace, however, these are usually purchased from the B2C channel distributor and used at the consumers own discretion for the office.
Unfortunately, this differentiation will become ever more blurred as technology advances and the need for convergence becomes more important in the working world. An example is that of wireless headsets or VoIP solution providers. As this technology becomes more pervasive in the 'traditionally' defined consumer and corporate sectors and as a result become more accepted in South Africa, channel strategies and the resultant approach needs to be revised and a clear 'business-to-end user' channel strategy will need to be deployed.
Secondly, deciding which markets the organisation would want to distribute to, gears towards selecting their channel partners. This selection is vital to the successful distribution and sales of their products and information, and is more often than not focused in geographical areas where there is no local knowledge but the need to sell to the end user locally. In the selection process, it is valuable to understand the channel partners own partner network as well as their access to end users, to better quantify their potential value to the product buyer, as well as to the organisation concerned.
Furthermore, the partner needs to be a specialist in the market the company wishes to penetrate to ensure Return on Investment (ROI) and to maximise efforts. For this to happen, the selected partner needs to have a strong and well run sales team that encompasses solid relationships to ensure quicker turn around times on product sales. This clarification can be obtained through researching and reference checking the company concerned.
Once a partner is selected, it is important that expectations are set around pricing, supply, terms and conditions and other relevant principles which impact the relationship to ensure the quality of this relationship is unquestionable. These relationships will also allow for quick access to a non-core market through the relevant distributors, adding value to the sales channel and consequently the distribution process.
To ensure these relationships are solid at all times and to enhance the customer offering it is vital that the company Web site is used as a tool for creating customer awareness, through valuable information, product updates and other customer relevant company information. The Web site also serves as a supporting arm for all marketing, PR and brand awareness initiatives.
Certainly, to build and sustain any business relationship be it channel or individual, it is essential to ensure that the strategy is solid and the relationship is upheld through constant communication around product changes, upgrades, pricing etc. Once these relationships are successfully accomplished, the channel and customer process is complete. Difficult? Not at all.