Channel stewardship is the most effective way of realizing success in channel-dependent businesses, especially if amalgamated with other management solutions. Nowadays, majority of hi-tech companies are keen on investing substantial amounts of money to promote and sell products and services via partner portals and channels. However, such a multi-channel strategy is difficult to keep track of, hence the vital role of channel stewards in the distribution chain.
A steward is usually the dominant company in the channel value chain and has the responsibility of participating proactively in the design and execution of a company’s go-to-market strategy. They extend the intra-enterprise framework which allows the various partners and end consumers to conduct business easier and more efficiently. This move increases brand equity, market share and profitability. The role of stewards rests on critical elements like coordination and influence; the different roles in the channel distribution network; excellent response to end consumer demands and needs; and return of investment and margins to all channel partners. But what are the specific strategies that stewards employ to guarantee effective channel management?
Channel stewardship makes use of three strategies which are Partner Portals, eMarketplace and Volume Channel.
• Storefront or eBusiness Partner Portal – This strategy grants companies the ability to create portals that are especially dedicated, customized or personalized for the members of the channel and their customers. These portals enable partners by offering self-service tools that can be utilized to browse catalogs, research product information and details, configure solutions, view change orders, track shipments and receive pay invoices. Additionally, they offer a certain set of product catalog and pricing information that are based on the needs of partners and customers. It is deeply integrated into the channel procurement system. Usually, larger customers and affiliates prefer this approach.
• eMarketplace – The reality is that it is expensive and practically unmanageable to propose partner portals for each every channel partner. This makes it critically important to bring down the number of product segments through standardization of platforms and functional modularization. These would then be offered through an eMarketplace, which is most suitable for organizations that are ahead in their value chains. Usually beneficial to mid-sized companies that serve small and medium businesses, this strategy is a single platform for order fulfillment and it provides flexible means for partners to enable brokering to bundle products with various accessories, services and the like.
• Volume Channel – This approach focuses on the efficiency of operations in the distribution of product knowledge and the seamless process of quote orders and returns. To ensure the successful execution of the model, it is important to bear in mind the key elements which are lower complexity and range of offered products, high partner and customer self-service and close monitoring of Key Performance Indicators and Distributors, and ODM/CM Service level Agreements. This is most useful during scenarios where the complexity of products is low.
The real challenge, however, is choosing the appropriate strategy or approach. This calls for the need to conduct a thorough assessment of individual businesses before making a decision. The choice should be grounded on a framework that is dependent on factors like relative size and dominance of partners and customers, existing business relationships and product complexity.