How to use your partner program to build your channel community for competitive advantage

Community. It’s that sense of belonging, of being with like-minded people, sharing information and experiences, helping each other.

Neighbourhoods might once have provided that community, with advice and tools – or that obligatory cup of sugar – shared over the back fence, and neighbours keeping an eye out and supporting each other.

Today though, there’s plenty to be said for communities as part of your business – and building a channel community around your business could just be your competitive advantage.

From forums to events (online and in-person) and gamification, there are plenty of ways to build your channel community and maintain engagement as part of your partner program. And there are even more benefits to doing so.


The benefits of building community

At its heart, building a channel community is about building trust, relationships and being able to see channel feedback and sentiment in real time.

Building community can seem less tangible than some other aspects of your partner program, but done right the rewards, for both you and your partners, are significant.

Forrester noted in 2019 that some partners rank visibility and community involvement highest on their criteria for partnership – even higher than product, pricing or margin potential.

Get your finger on the pulse

Communities enable groups of like-minded people – even competitors – facing similar experiences and issues to collaborate, share advice and support each other. They give your audience the chance to connect with both your brand and each other and, because they are built by the membership, they are often seen as more democratic, open and honest.

As a vendor or distributor, you want to know what your partners are thinking, good or bad. Building a community allows you to keep your finger on the pulse and get direct communication from your community.

Add some support

Human beings are fundamentally social creatures, a factor communities tap into, providing interaction and belonging.

But beyond that the open, honest engagements and unfiltered information provided by communities will nearly always outweigh information you provide via official channels, such as white papers. Advice from a community of peers going through similar issues can be invaluable and enable members to raise – and answer – questions on a much wider range of topics around your offerings, sales and any challenges members might be having.

In turn, those discussions can provide you to tailor further training, or guide members to the right resources to enable them to expand their knowledge.

Be visible. Every day.

Making sure you have the right members in your community and that they’re regularly engaging and sharing insights and experience, is vital to building a trusted, valued community.

Equally, community members will rebel if they see content which in their eyes isn’t adding value – product pushing being one of the most obvious offenders.

Add some fun

Cool rewards and member merchandise is always a fun way to build community belonging. It’s about creating the community and using marketing elements to bring that community closer together to benefit all.

Building a strong community is a great way for you to engage with your partners, learn about and resolve problems more quickly and get sentiment from your community fast, while providing partners with the opportunity to engage with, and draw support from, other like-minded people, while learning and having fun.

Here at Hachiko, we often help clients build their channel community through programs, using forums, events (online and in-person) and gamification as a supporting function to drive incremental engagement and additional support for your members.

It’s a cost-effective way to business growth: When your community feels valued and empowered they become more loyal, and by returning frequently to your site to access the forums, webinars and other information you’re providing, they get even more exposure to your brand and any new developments.

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