Fostering partner loyalty

Ian Hutchinson, global director, Channel Strategy at ICLP, talks about how the company is assisting Middle East-based IT vendors to develop and promote channel loyalty programmes.

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Fostering partner loyalty
By  Manda Banda Published  March 14, 2014

Ian Hutchinson, global director, Channel Strategy at ICLP, talks about how the company is assisting Middle East-based IT vendors to develop and promote channel loyalty programmes.

CME: Briefly explain what ICLP is all about?

IH: The Dubai office was established in 1996 and is a regional office covering the Middle East and North Africa region. We established the office for two reasons. Partly because we recognised the long term potential the region held for a specialist loyalty marketing agency. And partly in response to a client request. Working out of our London office, ICLP pioneered the concept of loyalty programmes in the Middle East with the design and launch of the first international standard frequent flyer programme in the region over 18 years ago. We understand the regional market intimately and have a proven and successful track record in consulting on and managing, customer loyalty programmes.

CME: As a specialist loyalty marketing firm, how do you see the ME channel landscape at present?

IH: The technology channel in MENA is undergoing the same transformational changes that other regions, mainly North America and Europe are experiencing. The transition from traditional hardware and software, and services to cloud is encouraging everyone in the channel to re-think, and for many re-engineer, their business models. How can vendors who now offer services direct to end customers still engage and build the trust from their channel? How can channel partners move to a recurring revenue model and what does that mean for the reseller sales person who is used to receiving a big commission payment on a sale? These are issues we tackle with vendors in the region.

CME: What are your core competencies and how are you working with IT vendors in ME?

IH: Being at the forefront of loyalty marketing for over 25 years, ICLP has extensive experience and expertise to help vendors craft meaningful value propositions to attract and retain channel partners. We also use the abundance of data generated in the channel to generate key insights for our clients to help drive, what we refer to as, “profitable behaviours”. We also design and manage channel communications and promotional programmes to keep channel partners engaged often through incentive and rewards.

CME: What are the main ingredients for developing a successful channel incentive, loyalty or rebate schemes?

IH: The list of ingredients for designing a successful programme is long, but one area that we have found can be overlooked when designing a loyalty scheme is the time it takes for a member to make their first redemption and tangibly extract some value from their involvement. Our experience and research has shown that the earlier a member can be encouraged to make a redemption, the more positive the impact on their behaviour with their transaction rate rising measurably in the months after.

CME: In your view, what do reseller partners look for when selecting a partner programme?

IH: When deciding which vendors to do business with, a reseller or partner needs to have trust in the vendor’s products and services as well as their brand reputation. So assuming the above criteria is met, a reseller, regardless of geographic location is looking for ease of doing business. If vendors don’t make it easy for resellers to engage, they will simply go to their competitors.

CME: How is your company helping resellers to invest in partner certifications and programmes?

IH: Whilst we are finding that more investment decisions and channel strategies are being made at an EMEA or worldwide level, our clients value that ICLP can represent and provide local and regional insights from having clients and offices around the world. If resellers are not investing in channel programmes, we can help vendors understand the reasons behind this behaviour and determine what changes are needed to ensure resellers determine the commercial value that will result from investing in programmes.

CME: What are you finding challenging in the Middle East channel at the moment?

IH: One particular challenge is to ensure that programmes, campaigns and content are specific and tailored to the region so that they remain relevant to the local markets and are delivering commercial value back at EMEA or worldwide level. We are addressing the challenge by ensuring the concerns and requirements of the Middle East channel teams are being represented and heard at regional or global levels.

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