July 12th, 2012
Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, starring Mickey Mouse, is a perfect metaphor for losing control of your indirect channel. Many execs incorrectly refer to channel partners as customers, and this is part of the problem: channel partners are not customers.
Channel members are business partners, proxies, charged with doing your job: conveying products and customer service, and buttressing your brand, to customers.
Picking low-quality partners and failing to control them, therefore, will kill your brand.
In Disney’s animation, based on a German poem by Goethe, Mickey Mouse improperly casts a magical spell, attempting to emulate his absent sorcerer boss, to empower a broom to do his water-carrying chore. Like too many vendors, Mickey falls asleep and loses control of the broom, whose self-guided actions flood the house’s basement.
Upon awakening, Mickey panics and attempts to remedy the chaos by chopping the broom into pieces. Unexpectedly, each piece becomes a whole water-carrying broom, completely overtaking Mickey’s authority.
Eventually, the sorcerer returns home to find his basement submerged in water. He removes the spell, the water disappears, and he punishes his contrite apprentice.
If Your Dealers Stink, You Stink
A friend asked me to help resolve a situation with her broken tractor. The unresponsive, incompetent dealer who sold her the tractor — now out of warranty — was willing to take money but unable to fix it. After a lengthy period of disregard, I urged her to bypass the dealer, to contact headquarters directly. The ensuing exchanges are presented below:
HQ’s first response came from a woman in “customer care,” via email, who announced that she had tossed the ball to our regional “service” manager.
The regional “service” manager contacted us, also via email, having spoken to our original dealer, with an inaccurate regurgitation of our problem and a recommendation: find another dealer. He wrote that he had tried to call, but we had no voicemail from him, nor did he post his phone number in his email.
Shocked, I called the customer-care rep. After some verbal volleyball, during which she repeated her you’re-out-of-warranty, I-can’t-really-do-anything posture, she asked what I wanted her to do.
My response: Find us a five-star dealer, not a one-star dealer, and pay this dealer to diagnose the tractor’s problem. Then, once we know the problem, with verifiable specificity, we will purchase the parts required to fix it. We will not waste another penny guessing at the solution. Been there, done that.
Her response: We don’t know, and can’t know, the quality of our dealers. They are independent and do what they want.
My response: I can’t believe what you just said. Your dealers are extensions of you. If your dealers stink, you stink. You must know how well they perform. You must manage them to represent you properly. We customers don’t distinguish between a dealer and headquarters. Your reputation is at the mercy of your dealers. How can you operate this way? We will tell everyone we know — and there are many ranches and farms around here — never to buy your products.
Her response: I’ll summarize your concerns and send them to my management.
This tractor vendor, through its attitude and (in)actions, ran its brand into the ground. Such a scenario is more common than not common. Does it sound familiar to you?
Rx from the WhiteNoise Doctor™
Our vendor stinks because its dealers stink. Its dealers stink because it stinks. A vendor must set an example of value, then drive that value down through its channel.
In our politically correct, team-oriented world, control is a bad word — and that’s why few companies have it. But, as Mickey Mouse demonstrated above, losing control causes chaos, destruction, and anger.
A dealer — a member of your indirect channel — is an extension of you. Independence is unacceptable. Passing the buck is unacceptable. You must control your channel, or it will control you, drive your customers away, and kill your brand.
Is your channel killing your brand? If so, learn from the sorcerer: fix it — now!
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2012 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.