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The Field of Dreams Fallacy & Your Channel Marketing

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The Field of Dreams Fallacy & Your Channel Marketing

“If you build it, he will come.”  In the movie Field Of Dreams, we’re never sure who the mysterious voice belongs to that guides Kevin Costner’s character, Ray as he plows his corn under and builds a baseball field in its place.  This quote is often misappropriated in business as “If you build it, they will come.”  We may invoke when referring to customers, partners or other desirable parties finding our new store, our new product or, as we’ll discuss in this article, our new channel marketing endeavor.

If you’ve seen the film Field Of Dreams, you’ll know that the people around Ray were really starting to worry about his actions.  After all: he built a marvelous baseball diamond, but apparently neglected to notify any baseball players of his commendable work and so the diamond sat empty.  Plus, he is supposed to be farming corn! 

The problem gets solved once Ray recognizes the incompleteness of his enigmatic initial instructions and takes action accordingly.  The mysterious guidance would have been better phrased as “If you build it and then let people know, they will come.” 

Do you see the metaphor as it relates to building out effective channel marketing incentives?  It’s an engagement problem and the fact is that if the your channel partners are not well engaged with your brand, they’re probably very well engaged with selling somebody else’s.

The Challenges

The tire industry comes with it’s own set of challenges where program rollout is concerned.  You may be relieved to learn that none of them are absolutely unique to this industry, but two of these challenges seem just a bit more amplified in the tire space: 

  • Many tire retailers have very high employee turnover.  This can make it difficult for your regional sales folks to build meaningful relationships with the front-line salespeople who are actually moving the products.  It can also make it challenging when it’s time to communicate your new program out to the field. 
  • The second problem is one that is improving quickly but will still take some time.  Due in part to the nature of the actual work of selling and installing tires, many of the RSA’s you may be trying to connect with are slow to adopt technology and some may not even have an email address.  

If you’ve been met with these challenges, there is a possibility that you have experienced some of the frustration that Ray felt in Field of Dreams.  You may think, “I’ve built an amazing program for these folks – where the heck are they?”    You are not alone.  We see these challenges across myriad clients when they start migrating their incentives to a “technology first” type of solution such as our platform.  The initial work of connecting to the channel is difficult, but it’s also where the gold lies.   The guiding principle here is to look for existing points of connectivity in your channel and then leverage those to communicate what you’re up to.  

Here are some tactics to help you get switched on and start getting some home runs:

Add Some Sizzle

Your brand may not necessarily end up being the next YouTube superstar to go viral, but one fantastic way to spread the word about your incentive programs is to produce a short sizzle video.  This way, everyone in the channel can access your messaging and hear it straight from you in a carefully structured and engaging way.  Your field sales folks can show the video right from their phones when they’re doing dealer visits and store managers can share it with their teams.  It’s a great way to prime the pump when you’re launching.

Train The Trainer

Another effective way is to identify who in your channel would make a great candidate for a train the trainer type of program.  Field sales reps are a great example of someone who is likely to encounter many of the people you’re trying to reach, especially at the dealer level.  As with sharing your message via a sizzle video, this tactic can scale really well: you can built out your training on an online Learning Management System (LMS) and even provide an incentive for people to take the training.  Some of our clients have had notable success in providing field sales managers or store managers with a SPIFF for each person they sign up for the program.

Print’s Not Dead!

Well-designed posters and other printed materials, placed in the staff areas of your dealer network have also proven effective for rolling out an incentive program.  Consider having your field sales reps personally attend as many stores as possible to ensure that the collateral is actually being placed where people will see it.

Skipping Straight To The Point…

Rolling out your programs with effective communications measures in place will help you get more program adoption with the folks on the dealer floors.  Greater initial engagement with these folks gives you the opportunity to build even more connectivity with them, delivering more training, more product knowledge and ultimately growing your sales in their locations. 

Start now!  You haven’t missed the boat - it’s still early days and there is competitive advantage to be had.  Brands have been using incentive programs to attempt to gather and parse channel data for years, but it has just never scaled well.  Data collected on thousands or millions of slips of paper is nearly impossible to get entered and organized within a timeline where it will make a difference.  Couple this with the inaccuracy problems associated with collecting data the hard way and you have a lot of hard work for limited outcomes. 

Digitizing how your programs run helps you skip data entry and get to the important work of measuring outcomes, gathering intelligence to improve your programs and products and connecting with your all-important front-line sellers. 

It arms you with the knowledge and connectivity you need to knock it out of the park with your next incentive program.

A lifelong technology entrepreneur, Jason Atkins is the founder and CEO of 360incentives.  360incentives is the world’s first integrated incentive software platform, allowing brands to run spiffs, rebates, co-op/MDF, and sell-through allowances all processed and paid with 100% audit and powerful analytics to predict what to do next. For more information, visit: http://www.360incentives.com.

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Previous | Published February 1, 2019

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The threat of more tariffs.
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