Episode 26 - Gaining an Edge - Another Lesson from Nick Saban


Gaining an Edge

This year Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will not be making an appearance in the college football playoffs thanks to Auburn’s stunning victory in the Iron Bowl.  But you can count on Coach Saban to be there just about every other year.  He has many secrets to being at the top including the undying support of his university and the alumni, a huge budget and good coaches.  We have focused our college football MicroCast series on why he has been so successful, and today’s episode is about Saban’s willingness to use technology to get an edge.

A few years ago, Alabama began using a GPS system to track the performance and workload of its players.  Without getting too technical, this GPS system tracks a player’s top speed or acceleration in practice with his past performance.  Saban is looking to see if that player is getting worn out during the season.  Alabama lost to Clemson in the final minute of a national championship game, prompting Saban to consider that his team was tired.  Once he started using the GPS system to crunch the number, the data showed that the Tide had a performance drop off in post season, so Saban adjusted practice to keep his players fresh.  

So, if we take a play from Saban’s playbook and use technology to get an edge in our channel program, what technology should we be looking at and how can using that technology help us recruit better, run our program better and get more deals?

Start by using the data to be analytical about the ROI for each partner you work with.  I’m sure Saban’s GPS was relative complex, but once he used it after losing to Clemson, he won the national championship the next year after adjusting his strategy.  Your program likely has quite a bit of data that you need to use to determine what adjustments should be made in your partner strategy.  Look at the number of referrals and quotes to closed deals to see if the partner is sending in junk or real opportunities.  Look at what it is costing you to recruit and support a partner and adjust if the cost is too high.  Geolocate where you have the best partner traction and spend more time going to those locations. If you are in the Convey Channel program, run a catalog report to see which partners are engaged and what they interact with.

Create digital experiences that engage partners when you’re not with them.  You’ll never have enough staff, money or time to go everywhere and that’s where digital experiences come in.  Technology, particularly Convey’s Channel program and partner portals, enable you to educate partners online, be present when partners are doing their research and starting their journey to find the right services and ensure that they are aware of your latest and greatest financial incentives.

Use technology to automate your processes.  Channel programs have a lot going on, never enough money and almost always are understaffed.  One way to get around this dilemma is to invest in a partner portal to make your staff more efficient and do more with less.  If you were using one of our portals, we would automate partner onboarding, managing your data, regular messaging and outreach and provide assets for marketing and campaigns.  Without automation, your program will never grow and may even have a hard time being relevant and surviving.

Leverage technology to make sure partners show up.  Saban believes that a full stadium is essential to keeping player morale up and winning games.  However, when the Tide is far ahead by halftime, students tend to leave, and the stadium starts to empty.  Technology has stepped in to encourage students to stay longer with an app called “Tide Loyalty Points”.  If students stay through the 4th quarter, they earn points toward priority access to post-season games. 

I’ve been to a number of partner events that sponsoring vendors spent big dollars on just to hear crickets when partners fail to show.  Or webinars that they work hard on that has only a few people there.  Leveraging technology can get partners to show up.  Drip email marketing campaigns with registration links get partners to notice you, then register their commitment to be there.  Consider adding text reminders that are opened within a few seconds of being received.  Convey is working on launching that technology early next year. Or get creative like Saban with an app and “loyalty points” for participation that can be translated into prizes.


Many people may think that a GPS-tracking system to monitor a player’s steps or technology to track students and motivate them to stay for the whole game is over the top.  But you can’t argue with Saban’s success.  Technology is simply a tool for partner programs to leverage.  Take the data out of your systems to track partner behavior to see if it is what you are looking for.  Make sure that all of your education, marketing assets and spiffs are online and easy to find.  Automate your processes by investing in a partner portal to take the stress off your staff.

Here’s another “Roll Tide” to Alabama for being forward-thinking, using technology tools, and staying ahead of the competition.