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June 4, 2019
By Joel Montgomery
In recent years, IT brands have begun to realize that the traditional approach to channel marketing doesn’t do enough to engage small and midsize channel partners. Providing partners with assets through a partner portal and expecting them to craft and execute the campaign on their own is unrealistic. SMBs lack the time, resources and expertise to handle marketing on their own.
As a result, many brands are taking matters into their own hands with through-channel marketing (TCM), where they craft and execute the campaign themselves. All the partner has to do is approve the campaign each month. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
And yet, it can still be challenging to get partners to participate in marketing efforts, even with a process as simple as TCM. A recent survey of North American channel partners conducted by Forrester Research found that only 12% of channel partners utilize brand-provided marketing platforms.
Here are a few of the assumptions that can inhibit the success of a TCM program.
1. Partners will figure out the platform. It’s not a given that every partner will be able to navigate the platform to approve the campaign. They may not have the patience to figure out where they need to click and what information they need to provide. If it’s not readily apparent what they have to do, they’ll likely blow the whole thing off.
Partners have a variety of abilities and experience. Some will quickly understand the platform, but many others will require additional assistance. Brands need to be prepared to hold their hand and guide them through the process of learning the TCM platform.
Right now, brands are clearly not doing enough. A lack of support from brands was the most common challenge cited by partners in the Forrester survey, with 58% identifying it as a challenge and 32% calling it a significant challenge.
2. Partners are happy to share brand content. While IT channel partners make their living by selling a brand’s products, they have their own identity and specialty. Therefore, they may not be inclined to take part in a marketing campaign that they view as little more than advertising for the brand.
There are two key elements to avoiding this trap. The first is to make available co-branded content that highlights the partner’s logo and contact information. Second, brands need to offer a greater mix of content, notably brand-agnostic thought leadership material that will appeal to end-buyers at different stages of the buying cycle. Such content helps partners establish themselves as trusted technology advisers.
3. Partners have the time to work with the platform. At the risk of being repetitive, these are small businesses. They do not have dedicated marketing employees. The few workers involved in the company are likely involved in every aspect of it, and their time is already consumed almost entirely by servicing their existing customers.
To convince all of your SMB partners to engage in your TCM program, you need to make the process …
… as streamlined and efficient as possible. Partners shouldn’t be expected to spend more than five minutes per month to execute a marketing campaign.
4. Through-channel marketing eliminates the need for incentives. Making the marketing process as easy as possible is obviously a major benefit to channel partners. But they may not immediately appreciate the opportunity you’re providing them. Their specialty is in sales and customer service and they’re often reluctant to consider devoting attention to other types of work, especially if they don’t see an immediate impact.
Incentives are an effective way to nudge partners to spend that necessary five minutes a month to send the campaigns. They offer a way to provide an immediate benefit that even those who are skeptical of marketing will appreciate.
Partners will respond positively to a wide variety of incentives. In our surveys of channel partners, we have found that cash incentives are the most popular, but a large number of resellers also voice interest in other tokens of appreciation, including additional marketing support. Brands would be wise to offer both: monetary rewards and marketing support to boost utilization.
While partners may demand incentives to participate in marketing at the beginning, over time they will begin to see and appreciate the impact of the marketing campaign. As a result, you’ll likely be able to dial back some of the incentives, since their main motivation to participate will be the leads generated.
Joel Montgomery is founder and CEO of OneAffiniti, a partner marketing company with closed sales tracking that he started in 2008 in Sydney. He expanded into the United States in 2015. You can find him on LinkedIn at Joel Montgomery.
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