What is the Channel Partner in Your Print on Demand Business
Marina Vasilyeva, Client Manager in Multi-Programming Solutions • 10 min read
For many POD services, the fastest and most efficient way to expand their market coverage, increase sales and improve brand recognition is to follow the channel partner program best practices. Building a solid network of e-commerce assistants, which help to merch your goods to the end customer, is one of the wisest decisions if direct strategies don’t gain profit anymore.
This article outlines what is a channel partner in business, describes different types of possible cooperation, and provides tips on how to encourage alliance members to sell your products.
Table of Contents
What is a channel partner?
You’ve probably faced a situation when you can make both airline and accommodation bookings through an online travel agency, simultaneously saving time and costs. In this chain, users get a better experience, hotels benefit from cost-effective customer acquisition, while agencies keep the clients’ retention from the added value to their service. This is one of the examples of best practices in channel partner management, where all the participants win.
Unlike direct sales, where the POD company should manage the entire merchandising cycle, including distribution, alliance partners take responsibility for marketing, attracting the target audience, and reselling your goods (or increasing their value). Think of such relationships as an extension of the corporate team, which will help you vend, manage, deliver, and promote your product.
Types of Channel Partnerships
Different types of channel relationships help enterprises leverage their strength and capabilities to achieve significant goals. Find which partner will better suit your needs.
Value Added Resellers (VARs)
This is the most widely used channel partnership for small businesses that want to expand into regional or global markets but need help with their own marketing campaign and increasing sales.
The majority of VARs implement the newest technologies and have a broader customer base in specific locations or niches. They can help printers to enter new markets by reselling their products with added value to the target audience.
Service delivery partnership
This type of print on demand channel partner can make your items more attractive to the end user by providing host or consulting presale services. They don’t resell your stuff but rather make it more valuable and suitable for customers’ needs.
Such relationships will be crucial for POD businesses that want to improve clients’ satisfaction and experience but don’t have their own experts or enough high reputation to make it in-house.
Technology alliance partnership
Depending on the stuff or service your company offers, you may find channel sales partners with complementary software or features. Two products integrated together can bring new business opportunities to both sides. Third-party organizations don’t resell your stuff, but the results of your cooperation may interest customers more than if you work separately.
Unlike previous channel partner sales, this one usually doesn’t add additional value to your products. Instead, other company helps you to cope with order fulfillment. If you want to grow your business faster and enter markets you can’t afford to work with independently, high-velocity vendors will contribute to your goals. Your brand will significantly increase sales volumes while still keeping operational costs low.
Cloud service providers
You may start building a scalable brand with a successful channel partner program based on cloud hosting. Providers don’t resell your print on demand stuff directly but can implement IaaS, Saas, or PaaS solutions to make your turnover fast, secure, and flexible. Cloud technologies will help to develop a digital workspace for your company, improve internal communication and simplify the way you connect with the end customer.
White label partners
If you focus on gaining profit more than brand recognition, you may consider a channel sales model with embedded partners. Allow vendors to merch your customized products under their own brand, and you’ll get a relatively quick way to increase sales. You may work both with wholesalers and dropshippers. The only requirement for this partnership is - you shouldn’t be mentioned as a supplier on the stuff or packages.
When your business is ready to transform from a small-size POD company to a high-profit giant with international coverage, you may need global system integrators. Such partners will build a complex computer system, including hardware, software, digital storage, and networking, to help you break into the massive worldwide market.
Managed service providers
While the delivery partners make an initial setup of the channel partner management software, service providers carry out the maintenance of the company's IT infrastructure in real time. They can add or delete program features to simplify customers' experience, ensuring faster adoption and better retention.
Channel partners vs. direct sales
Those willing to grow, access new distribution areas, and manage operational costs focus on the channel partner management strategy. Instead, the typical company which sticks to direct sales (right to the end customer) usually has a set of common characteristics. It is interested in immediate customer feedback, has a complete sales and marketing team in-house, and operates in a limited market, not looking for scaling.
Both business models have their pros and cons. But let’s figure out the direct vs. channel sales differences. If your POD organization plans merching right with the end consumer, you should be ready to take responsibility for the whole process, including hiring, marketing, fulfillment, and customer service. Direct sales will help to forecast potential revenue. And also, you’ll be the one to keep all the profit because you won’t pay affiliate fees or commissions.
As for disadvantages, it takes more time and effort to scale if you manage the entire selling chain. Compared to the channel partner strategy, entering new markets and increasing the customer base is harder. Moreover, the company will spend more money being responsible for all processes, from hiring to implementing and maintaining the CRM system.
There is no straightforward answer to what is best: direct sales or alliance partnership. The decision depends on the business model, your internal resources, the target audience, and brand objectives. You may use both formats or move from one to another when the time comes.
Ways to Successful Channel Partner Management
When you define a channel partner to help your business grow and gain revenue, it’s crucial to maintain lucrative relationships for the long term. For this purpose, your should train, support and motivate your colleagues by following a few essential steps.
To run a successful channel partner marketing, you should train your salespeople about all the aspects of your POD production and service. The more they learn about your brand, the better they will close deals. Customers can always notice whether their consultants/sellers are confident about the stuff they distribute. Deep knowledge and understanding of the products’ importance and pain points it can solve leads to easy communication and fast sales.
Your POD partner should be aware of the value the commodity brings to the end customer and the benefits for both alliance members from each deal. Tell your outsourcing companies about the competitive advantages of your stuff and ensure their managers can satisfy all the users’ pre-buying questions.
After you finish the pre-sales training, don’t stop educating your team. Provide new opportunities to support further improvements and build the most profitable channel partner program. Your assistants should have free access to all the necessary documentation and sales collateral. Presenting the materials in a catchy, eye-pleasing form will inspire workers to learn and apply their knowledge in sales.
You can prepare videos and webinars with selling tips, brochures, flyers, fact, and price sheets, information about main competitors, customers’ stories, and other training materials.
Being always at hand, support documentation can help out your partners please the demanding buyer.
Keeping in touch
Find a better way to provide channel sales management with a good communication network. Your affiliates may be too busy to read long descriptions of your products or company’s value. It would be better to prepare a short promotion, possibly in the form of a video, to raise the interest of your partners within 30 seconds.
Highlight the most important part of your offerings and give a link to your website or more detailed documentation. A tip sheet or marketing presentation should engage your dealers. If you make a promotion understandable for partners, they would better transfer the information to the end customer and advertise it correctly.
Building a supportive environment for the mutual exchange of ideas and problem-solving is one of the best practices in channel partner management. Your distributors should feel that you care about the strengthening of business relationships and provide an opportunity for further development.
Create as many ways to help and share thoughts as possible. It can be social media groups, webinars, team-building events, sales contests with a leaderboard, coffee breaks, etc. Your business goals can become easily achievable if dealers have a chance to discuss personal insights and ensure their voices matter.
What are channel sales without honesty and respect? These are just empty words that won’t bring prosperity and solid relations to the alliance companies. If you can’t guarantee fairness to your partners, they will find another POD provider to work with. So be punctual and precise, set clear expectations for your collaboration, and give transparent information about your promotions.
Using software solutions
When it comes to developing the best channel partner programs for POD businesses, resellers and wholesalers are the primary applicants capable of helping you with scaling. Among the highly crowded market with hundreds of similar print on demand providers, you may get a competitive advantage by offering distributors specialized tools like Podza. This MPS solution allows entrepreneurs to launch a multichannel dropshipping business, connect all the partners' online shops and organize an automated fulfillment process.
By purchasing a one-time software license, you’ll receive a one-stop solution for efficiently managing your print on demand fulfillment service and warehouses. You’ll create new product collections with printed artwork and detailed descriptions and export them to affiliate stores within several minutes. Orders from your partners will be redirected for fulfillment within a second, so they won’t have to do any manual work. With Podza, your customers can easily calculate discount prices, monitor invoices, generate profit reports, and receive tracking information about the parcels.
Channel partner benefits are evident for POD companies willing to scale, discover new markets, and top up revenue at minimum costs. Despite less control over profit forecasting and marketing challenges, building strong relationships with affiliates can help your company thrive in the industry and explore international sales.
With channel partners, even small businesses can succeed and continuously grow. But to make third-party organizations interested in your brand, you should offer more than your rivals: fairness, excellent support, straightforward communication, and innovative technologies, like Podza solution, which can alleviate selling flows and benefit both sides.