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Relayware Partner Relationship Management

Gamification: A Winning Way to Influence Channel Partner Behaviors

Posted on January 17, 2014 by Chris Bucholtz

I was once a skeptic when it came to the idea of gamification. The idea that people could be motivated toward preferred behaviors by badges, scoreboards and other seemingly trivial virtual tchotchkes at first blush can seem somewhat ridiculous.

However, at one company I know, the CTO, the director of product marketing and a sales engineer spent six months engaged in a cutthroat battle to see who could amass the highest Klout score. That’s the kind of gamification you don’t want, since it doesn’t lead toward a business benefit. However, it does demonstrate the power of competition – either with others or with yourself. If you can direct those competitive energies toward tasks that help the business, then the point of gamification becomes starkly obvious.

The applications of gamification in channel management have yet to present vivid stories of internal competition – but they will soon. That’s because the concept is great in some key areas of channel management, especially around training.

For example, Bunchball’s CRM-focused solution breaks training into “chapters,” a nice analog to the idea of levels in a video game. As you complete those levels, your personal scoreboard reflects your accomplishment. Further, the peers who have most recently completed a chapter are shown on the scoreboard in case you need help. If they help tutor you, they’re rewarded on their scoreboards.

How these ideas translate into a channel training program should be obvious.

The scoreboard itself is useful in ginning up competitive juices. The portal home page of one vendor shows as its primary element a list documenting the running total of deals registered by partners – the total value of the deals being the ultimate game score. Partners are immediately aware of where they stand, and many of them are eager to move up the list into a better position.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a new concept to the indirect sales channel. If you have gold, silver and bronze levels of partners, you already are employing a form of gamification. It’s not as granular as the training example, and the rewards are real-world rather than virtual, but it does embody the ideas of gamification: if a partner achieves certain things, that partner is rewarded.

So, as much as skeptics like me think that awards and placements on a scoreboard might seem inconsequential, they aren’t. They play off the impulses that we humans have built into our personalities. We like to play games, and making work more like play appeals to that aspect of our humanity.

The tough part of gamification isn’t getting people to play – it’s setting up the game so that they want to keep playing, and so that playing means they’re doing what will make them better and more lucrative partners.

The training example is just illustrative – it doesn’t have to end there. Gamification can be used in other areas as well – co-marketing, deal registration, lead generation, participation on communities or social networks, and so on. The real trick is to understand your partners, your partners’ motivations, and what behavior you can encourage that will make them better at achieving your objectives for them. If you understand these things, you can gamify these behaviors and understand how you measure those behaviors to see whether or not your efforts have been successful.  

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