Another year has gone by, and this series on channel management is coming to a close. I covered a lot of ground this year with the intent of providing some mind fodder to consider as you develop and refine your channel management practices. I tried to bring a sense of tradition and the value of proven and solid techniques and ideas for customer outreach in this age of digital dependence. With that in mind, I think it makes sense to review where we've been and what we've learned and to draw some meaningful conclusions about this past year's columns.

Early on, I endeavored to press the point that modern digital technology, despite its advantages, does not preclude the basics of good business. To wit, reputation is everything, and maintaining and building that reputation through social networking channels requires foresight, constant management of your message and consistent response to feedback.

In the following column, I borrowed from Sir Philip Sidney to make the point that the balancing act between providing the right information and presenting it in a way that is pleasing and approachable to the target audience will create a more effective transfer of information than a dry, purely technical discussion.

Then, in the midst of the mid-year turmoil, we looked at the emerging iPad as a viable and increasingly popular means of distributing your channel message. The point was that simply applying old technology to new isn't going to take full advantage of the capabilities and added real estate of the new platform. Instead, the path for channel success with the iPad is a redesign of the web presence to take full advantage of the capabilities of Apple's new tool.

Midsummer turned this young man's thoughts to more pastoral concerns, and we took a look at applying the concepts and techniques of sport fishing as an analog for channel development. Picking the spot and presenting the bait to pull in a boatload of bass, we discovered, has much in common with managing and growing your sales channels — you need to know what you are fishing for before you throw your bait in the water.

A few too many late nights under deadline exposed me to the oddly mesmerizing phenomena of infomercials. The experience inspired the postulation that their quirky and surprisingly successful methods could guide the creation and development of channel sales, as well. Indeed, by using the broad-ranging capabilities of current technology and the time-tested techniques of the TV pitchmen, you can capture the attention of your target audience and hold it to build and maintain stickier relationships.

Lastly, we took a look at King of the Hill, that old kids game of command and conquer that we all played. Here again, a common and simple frame of reference worked as a baseline to anchor a discussion about the tactics of capturing, and more importantly, holding on to your customer base on the digital playground.

So, that's it. A few hundred words to summarize a year's worth of channel management advice, concepts and obtuse pontifications. If I were pressed to summarize what the overriding theme of this past year's columns were, I'd have to say that it was that as much as things change, they stay the same. Digital multi-media channel sales and customer communication are not necessarily revolutionary. Rather, from a relationship standpoint, I think that we're looking at a continuing evolution of communication tools and concepts. With that in mind, the successful channel manager would do well to remember that all of the technology in the world will not replace a sound business plan, a proven and consistent outbound message and, perhaps most importantly, nurtured and carefully managed personal customer relationships.

Have a great New Year!

DAVID MARTINA [] is the vice president of systems integration for NEPS, LLC of Salem, New Hampshire, a firm that provides solutions for the automation of document-intensive business processes.


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