Before launching the next promotion in your channel incentive program, you’re going to want to establish clear objectives so you can gauge its level of success.

If you try to implement your systems without making clear to all parties what you’re trying to accomplish, there’s a good chance you’ll get mediocre results. The folks participating in your promotion—dealers, distributors, contractors, etc.—may not be motivated to actively participate, resulting in wasted time and money on your part. And you’ll be unable to accurately measure the success of each incentive promotion if your goals were wishy-washy in the first place.

Further, most companies these days rely on cold hard data to make savvy decisions and look for ways to beat out their competition. “In the past, companies could get away with going on gut and ignoring the right statistics because that’s what everyone else was doing,” notes Michael J. Mauboussin in Harvard Business Review. “Today, using them is necessary to compete. More to the point, identifying and exploiting them before rivals do will be the key to seizing advantage.”

With that in mind, consider these tips as you strategize and plan the next promotion in your channel incentive program:

  • When possible, look at previous promotions as case studies. How did they perform, what factors were involved in those performances and what should change with the next iteration to achieve improvements?
  • Establish goals that are achievable and realistic, but still somewhat challenging for your channel partners. Ideally, your system will involve everyone from rookies to top performers, fostering a sense of excitement and/or competition that motivates them to take action on your behalf.
  • Think in terms of important business objectives you’ve had difficulty achieving in other ways. What characteristics of this promotion would change the results that you’ve seen previously?
  • Consider which audience behavior must change to make your plan successful. Is that behavior likely to change under the tenets of this specific promotion, or is that too lofty a goal?
  • Consider how much training and support of your channel partners will be required to meet your objectives. Are the logistical and financial requirements feasible?
  • Think about the possible consequences if you’ve set your goals either too low or too high. How easily can your firm adjust?
  • Create flow charts that detail exactly what you’re trying to do, how you’ll provide support, products and/or services to participants, what they must do to earn rewards, and how and when those rewards will be bestowed. These will be extremely helpful to those partners or reps who’ve never participated in a channel incentive promotion before and don’t really understand how they work.
  • Be strategic about “rules of the game.” For example, boost engagement among participants by establishing minimum qualifiers and ensuring rewards only kick in for achievements beyond base goals. You might also arrange rewards by tier; a partner boosting sales 10 percent may reach a higher classification of rewards than one reaching a 5 percent increase.
  • Communicate with partners frequently throughout the program, letting them know where they stand, egging them on and providing tips and encouragement.

Finally, don’t hesitate to switch around your goals and objectives in future iterations of your channel incentive promotions. Because your overall program relies so heavily on human beings—and have a lot of other moving parts—you may need to adjust different elements to find the process that works best for you.