For small businesses looking to leverage the channel to bridge geographic boundaries and improve sales, there’s one key recommendation that cannot be overlooked: plan, plan, plan. Without a proper business plan in place, how can we possibly know what to expect or seek out in the channel? Like embarking on a road trip, it is important to know the destination before departing – and it’s no different with channel management.
Failing to create a distinct business plan with your channel partners leaves them with little idea of what you expect from them – or what they should expect from you. What’s more, when working with partners that are scattered over a large area, it can be very difficult to remain constantly updated about their business driving activities. This is why, in reality, joint business planning should be a requirement between the vendor and the partner. This accountability frees you of having to micromanage each individual outside your direct control.
The Importance of a Business Plan
A proper business plan accomplishes multiple functions:
- Lays entire framework for you and your partners
- Details accountability of both parties
- Provides visibility into channel activities
- Motivates and promotes hard work
- Describes consequences for failing to meet expectations
But how do we go about actually creating such a business plan? Both the vendor company and its partners should feel some sort of responsibility in the process of creating the business plan itself, but the vendor company needs to develop the initial guidelines. After all, the partners are selling their product. And while it’s good to push you partners, be vigilant about creating realistic goals at the same time. You don’t want to demotivate your partners with lofty goals before they’ve even begun the venture.
Once you have the business plan in place, it’s critical to constantly monitor the results to what was initially proposed. In other words, leverage the benchmarks and accountability measures you and the partners first created. Doing so is not only key to the here and now, but also to your future success. Consider how powerful it is to know that your product doesn’t sell as well in the third quarter because of the industry you are in. With continuous benchmarking to our initial plan, we can create a valuable feedback loop.
A strong business plan also contributes to getting newly acquired partners up to speed at a faster rate. New partners will have a learning curve, but if there is an established, effective business plan already in place, they’ll be able to jump on board more quickly and with greater confidence. The new partner will feel that they are performing tasks that have been tried and successful in the past.
In short, the business plan is the foundation of any successful business operation. Without it, we have no map to lead us in the right direction. That being said, creating a business plan certainly does not guarantee success. What it does guarantee, however, is that you are setting expectations for your partners, measuring those expectations to real results, and getting your newly acquired partners up and running at a faster pace. Don’t let your lack of planning hinder the results you could be achieving.