Loyalty Beyond Discounts: How Manufacturers Can Engage Channel Partners

Learn how to capture both wallet share and mindshare with manufacturer loyalty programs.
February 18, 2021. 5 MIN READ

Manufacturers used to rely on two basic tools to create lifelong relationships with partners: face-to-face meetings and volume discounts to seal the deal. Over time, incentives like volume discounts became pure transactional moments — far from the glue of long-term relationships. At the same time, in-person meetings were already getting harder to come by due to the gradual shift to digital. The pandemic further accelerated the need to engage channel partners through digital channels and put in-person interactions on hold.

Manufacturers need to reimagine their relationships by finding new ways to connect and strengthen partner channels. This involves catering to evolving expectations and values. It takes the kinds of engaging incentives and special rewards that show a deep understanding of their partners’ businesses and a commitment to their success. This is the only way to capture wallet and mindshare.

84% of business buyers are more likely to buy from a company that demonstrates an understanding of their business goals. (“State of the Connected Customer Report, Fourth Edition,” Salesforce Research, 2020.)
Here are ways to go beyond discounts and create engaging loyalty programs that improve relationships and boost everyone’s bottom line.

How has the loyalty game changed?

The consumer experience is influencing expectations in B2B relationships. Everyone has grown accustomed to the level of service they enjoy with Amazon, Uber, or DoorDash — and the loyalty programs that keep them coming back to their favorite brands. As B2B expectations become more aligned with that of consumers for convenience and personalization, manufacturers need to take note. In manufacturing, this translates to active engagement and rewards that generate real value for your partner’s business.

This requires a shift from product-centric to customer-centric sales and marketing. When you do this, loyalty becomes the direct result of showing partners that you understand their business and want them to succeed. Cost becomes secondary (within reason, of course).

85% of business buyers say the experience a business provides is as important as its products and services, but 73% still say that most sales interactions feel transactional. (“State of the Connected Customer Report, Fourth Edition,” Salesforce Research, 2020.)

That’s why manufacturers need to expand incentives beyond volume or renewal discounts in ways that show they know how to support their partners’ businesses. This takes a complete view of data.

Most manufacturers, however, have historically grappled with siloed data from disparate, legacy systems. As a result, transactions were the only way to reward partners for their loyalty — without really knowing if discounts moved the needle. Without a complete view, they cannot properly target, reward high-value partners, or see the return on investment (ROI) of a loyalty program. It’s time to course correct.


Transforming loyalty management

  • Transactional engagement → Active engagement across the partner journey

  • Static rewards → Rewards that generate value for your partners and your business

  • Wallet share → Mindshare

  • Partner retention → Partner engagement and advocacy

What goes into a successful manufacturing loyalty program?

Ninety-eight percent of top performing manufacturing companies believe that the right reward and recognition programs give them a competitive edge. Tie rewards to engagement rather than transactions in the following ways:

Think beyond discounts

Rebates and volume discounts offer an immediate incentive, but they should complement activity-based rewards that focus on long-term relationships. Consider offering co-marketing funds or exclusive training and events. Help partners give back by transferring points to a good cause. For example, a consumer goods manufacturer may give points to a retail partner for not only purchasing more products consistently, but for taking training and completing surveys as well. The retailer can convert their points into dollars to support local food shelters.

Drive product adoption and awareness

A holistic approach transforms loyalty programs because it enables manufacturers to be more strategic in how they engage and develop relationships with channel partners. Incentivize partners to carry broader product lines, drive consistent ordering patterns, and increase volume and sales by giving additional points, discounts, and vouchers. Reward partners for providing product feedback as well.

Reward partners with targeted incentives

Offer rewards based on engagements like completing onboarding, training, or certifications that help to improve partner performance (and by extension, your business performance). This helps to expand mindshare with your partners through more consistent, mutually beneficial interactions. Boost advocacy by capturing channel partner mindshare, and even reward them for referrals.

Manufacturers that continuously improve channel partner engagements and expand reach like this are able to build brand advocacy, grow sales, and expand the product portfolio that their partners carry. At the same time, partners are more inclined to refer your business to others, which helps you to build up your network.

How to build your loyalty programs

Solutions like Salesforce Loyalty Management help manufacturers engage partners beyond transactions with a flexible software as a service (SaaS) model. Built on the Salesforce platform, manufacturers can connect Loyalty Management with their sales data to better understand the efficacy of their loyalty programs and the impact on channel sales. APIs connect data across customer data platforms (CDP), third-party data sources, and other systems of record for a complete view of partners, distributors, and even end-consumers (for manufacturers who sell direct-to-consumer).

Loyalty data is readily available to sales reps and service teams so that they can better navigate their partner relationships. With the most up-to-date information and a complete view of the partner, you can take the following steps to build personalized, experiential programs that capture mindshare:

Identify target members: Determine the kinds of partners that your loyalty program should cater to. Are you targeting high-volume distributors in order to push consistency in order patterns, or are you acquiring partners to carry a broad product line or sell more more of your services?
Configure your program: Use your data to define the loyalty incentives that are most likely to appeal to partners, such as an exclusive event, rebate, or a co-marketing fund. Tier customers by key behaviors, lifetime value, revenue, and more to offer the most relevant rewards. Get started quickly with out-of-the-box processes for managing your loyalty program. (Note: If you have your own direct-to-consumer relationships, make sure that end-consumer and channel partner initiatives are aligned by managing both programs on a single platform.)
Streamline onboarding: Make it easy for partners to enroll in and engage with your program. Clearly communicate how partners can earn points and emphasize the value that you can drive for their business with incentives like co-marketing funds — or for their community through donations. Provide a portal for partners to easily track and redeem their points.
Evaluate program ROI: Review program analytics to track your most valuable partners and assess program profitability. Evaluate product adoption and determine if the loyalty program justifies its cost, and then make changes on the fly to ensure your program is generating ROI for your business.

Capture mindshare to build lifetime value

Trusted, long-term relationships have never been more important. Loyalty in manufacturing goes well beyond transactions to include the tailored benefits and engaging rewards that make partners feel valued and happy to work with you. And their success benefits your business.

With a foundational data and loyalty strategy, manufacturers can design loyalty programs that capture both wallet and mindshare. To take your next steps, learn more about Salesforce Loyalty Management.


Maximize Your Partner Engagement

Learn how to design a winning partner program to make faster and more efficient sales. Simplify Partner Engagement: A Guide for Manufacturers explains:
  • Challenges in delivering partner programs
  • Six phases to unleash the full power of partnerships
  • How to get started

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How to Manage All Aspects of Your Partner Ecosystem
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