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Our Guide to Your Channel Incentive

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A Guide to Channel Incentive Best Practices

Channel Incentives are a proven way of boosting sales, growing pipeline, and skilling up partners in your channel. And whilst there is no written rulebook on how you should run your incentive programme, our experience in running incentives for our clients has revealed several channel incentive best practices you should consider when planning your next one.

Here are eight top tips from The Essential Agency to help you on your path to success.

Set clear goals

The first of our channel incentive best practices is goals! You are setting up a channel incentive for a reason so it’s important to establish a clear purpose that aligns with the goals of your organisation. Clear goals for your incentive will also help to:

  • secure the budget;
  • onboard internal team members and stakeholders;
  • articulate the purpose of the incentive to participants;
  • keep focus during the incentive’s duration; and
  • know what you are measuring in terms of the success criteria.

Use pictures in the onboarding

Often, you will need to ‘sell your idea’ internally before you can get your channel incentive programme off the ground. Explaining the channel incentive in pictures will help with this. Instead of giving your stakeholders the old ‘death by PowerPoint’, with 20 or 30 slides, they must read off the screen, why not see if your incentive idea or plan can be articulated visually in a couple of diagrams?

We have found that creating a visual concept for an incentive along with a process diagram is the fastest and easiest way to onboard your team and stakeholders. And the pictures help make the incentive ‘sticky’, i.e., less easy to forget.

Check your data sources

Another of our channel incentive best practices is DATA! All incentives require data and often from multiple sources. Data is key at every step to measure progress and calculate the success at the end. Whatever data you are using, check your data sources before you start. You will need to make sure you have all the relevant data fields, in the right format, and any filters have been set correctly. In addition, you will need to make sure the data is accessible at the times you need it, and that you have the capability to perform the necessary analytics to calculate the answers required.

Make sure the rules of the incentive are clear

Make it easy for your partners to understand how the incentive works, and what the rewards and the rewarding process is. This will mean that partners will take part in the incentive in the way you would expect and will minimise the queries you might receive from them.We strongly recommend you create a set of terms and conditions for your incentive to cover the rules of the programme in fine detail. This should include:

  • what the incentive is;
  • what participants must do to be rewarded;
  • what the rewards are and how to achieve them;
  • who is eligible to take part;
  • the incentive timescales;
  • how the prizes will be rewarded and when;
  • who is responsible;
  • what the rights are of those taking part; and
  • what information is collected and used?

The Ts and Cs are legal documents, and we advise you to get your legal team to review them before you publish them.

A process for registration

By creating an incentive registration process you can capture the details of participants and ask them to accept the terms and conditions, as described above. It also acts as the first real indicator of engagement. If you receive a small number of registrations, you know you’ll need to promote the incentive further to get the numbers up.

Registration will also help you to forecast results and allow your participants to opt-in to receive notifications from you about the incentive.

Don’t make it too easy

Your incentive needs to sit somewhere between ‘not too easy’ and ‘not too hard’. The rewards must be achievable and encourage your participants to do more than they would ordinarily be doing. If the goal seems unattainable it might put participants off from taking part.

Our experience has shown that if there is a way to cheat the system, your participants will find it. This is why you need comprehensive terms and conditions to clarify the rules with those cheeky rule-breakers!

Allow participants to track their own progress

During the incentive, you will be collecting data on participants’ activity in order to report to the wider team the progress of the incentive versus the goals set. Granting participants access to their own progress information takes things to the next level and encourages them to maximise their efforts to gain further rewards.

Incentive portals or leader boards are one way of providing this information, plus it has been proven to reduce the number of queries you receive on progress as partners can self-serve.

Timely communications

Communication is critical for every incentive, and it goes without saying the approach needs to be similar to most projects in that there are ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after’ stages of communication.


Awareness and promotion: your goal is to make partners aware of the incentive and entice them to register to participate. You need to communicate this via a number of different channels to maximise the reach of the message. These could include:

  • via email – a promotional email to your partner audience;
  • via your partner website – a dedicated incentive page with downloadable content and visibility of the Ts and Cs;
  • via webinar – if you run regular update webinars for your partners, include a section to highlight up-and-coming incentives; and
  • via Account Managers – equip your account managers with the necessary content to promote and discuss the incentive when they meet with partners.


Progress and encouragement updates: your goal is to update participants with progress information to spur them to do more, and earn more rewards. These updates should include:

  • status notifications – with the partner’s score, reward status or position on the leader board;
  • help and support – encouraging partners to reach out for advice or support if needed; and
  • reminders – on the rewards available, the process and the deadline.


Incentive summary and claim information: partners will be keen to learn how they did, what rewards they achieved and the process of obtaining those rewards. It is important to thank them for taking part and provide them with a summary of the impact the incentive had.

Get feedback

Post-incentive feedback is important and will help inform future incentives. Measuring how well you did is not just about the sales numbers or the engagement you achieved from partners. What did the participants think of it?

Raising brand awareness and loyalty from your partner base is one of the most common goals we see companies set. If you run effective and rewarding incentives for them, they are more likely to take part in future incentives. The only way you can truly gauge participants’ buy-in is by collecting their views and opinions on the incentives you run.

A post-incentive survey will help of course, but we also encourage reaching out to partners and talking directly with them. Add this information to the feedback survey along with any you received during the incentive and then leverage it when you come to planning the next one.

As you run more channel incentives you will no doubt create your own best practices formed through your own experience. These will help make the running of future incentives as seamless as possible.

However, if you don’t have the bandwidth to take on the task of running an end-to-end incentive, get in touch with us. The Essential Agency has been running incentives of all shapes and sizes for many years and we would be more than happy to lend a hand.

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