Understanding your channel partner options

How you present yourself in a new market is critical. You’ve done the research, you know there’s a profitable international market opportunity, now you need to either be on the ground selling there or find the right partner to represent your business. You’ll want to get this right. Your partner will be an extension of your business. They’ll be your brand, and they hold your success in their hands.

Invest time and resources getting the relationship right. Trust us - the short-term pain and cost now will deliver you long-term gain. Many small New Zealand businesses sign up with the first distributor that shows interest in them without going through the process of qualifying them first. More often than not, this leads to lost time, no increase in sales, and money wasted. Get it right, select the right distribution and channel partner and you’ll be good to grow.
"They are representing your interests within that country; they’re holding your hopes and dreams of growing your business and achieving more volume within that country so that partnership and finding that right distributor is really important." James McLeod, Made4Baby.

Understanding your channel partner options

This Export Essentials guide takes you through the key elements of understanding your channel partner options. You’ll find information on:

  • Types of channel partners and how each relationship works
  • Tips for choosing a distributor
  • The information your potential channel partner will need from you
  • Selecting and qualifying a channel partner
  • How to conduct due diligence

Download our free guide on this page to read more.

Watch this three-minute video of Paul Dibbayawan, NZTE Beachhead Advisor and James McLeod, Made4Baby sharing their tips on selecting and working with a channel partner to help your business grow in new markets.

If you want to learn more about how to select and qualify the right in-market partner for your business, register now for the next Export Essentials Workshop. We’ll give you practical tools and techniques to take your business global.

Paul Dibbayawan: What a Channel Partner means to me is the person or the entity or the organisation that’s going to help you get to the end consumer of your service or your product. 

James McLeod: Look, it’s important to select the right partner. Look, they are representing your interests within that country. They are holding your hopes and dreams of growing your business and achieving more volume within that country. So, that partnership, and finding that right distributor, is really important.

Paul Dibbayawan: The wrong Channel Partner could kill your brand before you actually before you’ve even had a chance to make it work if they are not the right fit from a brand culture perspective.

James McLeod: So, as a part of the criteria in selecting a brand distributor we send them a questionnaire, and there’s a bunch of questions on that questionnaire that will give us an outline of how serious and actually what their understanding of the market is. So, the questions are things like around their marketing strategy, their sales strategy, their existing distribution capabilities through the network that we’re looking for whether it’s baby stores, you know, health shops. So, it’s their understanding of the market.

Paul Dibbayawan: It’s important to have an assessment criteria when you’re selecting the Channel Partner because, as with anything, if you do the right level of homework and research you’re going to find the right partner, and that has to come back to you understanding what you want in the marketplace so that when you do get here you’re not just randomly selecting “Well, here’s a big guy, let’s just go with him” because that person may not be right for you if what you really want to do is get it to a niche market and they’re getting it to a mass market. So, the three tips that I would give for an exporter looking for a Channel Partner is firstly, pick the Channel Partner that understands the vision and the direction of where you want to go. Secondly, make sure that the Channel Partner understands where your brand is and where you want it to go in that marketplace. And thirdly, make sure you pick a Channel Partner that wants a relationship and a long-term partnership with you.

James McLeod: Look, one of the tips that I would give to someone who’s exporting for the first time, if you’re selecting a distributor ensure that they have established distribution networks first. Passion is not enough, love of your product is not enough, established distribution networks is so important.

Selecting and Qualifying Channel Partners

  • Core criteria and questions to consider

    Before you even start looking for a potential partner, it pays to define what you’re looking for. Use this list of questions to clarify what your business needs, and build a criteria list to measure potential partners against.
  • Partner evaluation tool

    The final step is to rank each criteria according to how well the potential partner meets it.  The final score will be a combination of the ranking plus the weighting and will help a business to make a well-informed analytical decision in response to business needs.

  • Partner profile weighting tool

    Once you have decided on the criteria you want from a market partner, you need to measure each potential partner against your criteria on a scale from 1 to 3 (3 being “crucial”, 1 being “nice to have”). This will form the basis of any decisions you make from here on in.

  • Partner roles tool

    Once you’ve selected a partner, you’ll move into the negotiation phase. This tool will help you think through how to divide up the roles and responsibilities – clarity around this forms the basis of a solid working relationship.

Exporter guide

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  • I want to find an in-market distributor for my business
    NZTE doesn’t maintain lists of distributors for specific products and markets. We encourage companies to do as much of the initial search process as they can for themselves, while bringing in professional help where needed.

    You’ll find useful information on researching, finding and selecting the right distributor for you in our Export Essentials guide to understanding your channel partner options.
  • I want to find out about trade shows or events overseas
    If you’re looking for key trade shows in a particular market, you’ll find a lot of information about trade shows and events through online searches. There are several good online directories of international shows. We suggest 10times, EventsEye and Trade Show News Network (TSNN) as possible starting points.

    It’s a good idea to also look up local or national trade promotion organisations in your target market. Many of them have online calendars of major events and shows.

    Get in touch with any business councils or trade associations within New Zealand that deal with your target market, as they may have knowledge of good shows to attend (or ones to avoid). 

    Don’t overlook learning from other New Zealand companies - ask around within your networks for others who are targeting the same market and get their impressions on shows they have attended or visited before.

    If you’ve found a trade show overseas that looks right for your business, you can also contact us to ask if there’s an official New Zealand stand or pavilion planned, or to get insights from NZTE staff and other companies’ experiences in previous years.
  • I'm visiting my market. How can NZTE help me?

    If you’re an NZTE customer, please get in touch with your Customer Manager to discuss your plans and possible areas of assistance. If you don’t have a Customer Manager, contact our Advisor Team for more information.

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