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October 20, 2021
By Simon Hjorth
Global IT companies dedicate enormous resources to supporting their largest channel partners around the world. These partners enjoy the benefits of a truly aligned effort to regionalize and localize value messages and lead-generation campaigns. This level of coordination and investment by brands has paid dividends for many years.
However, there’s an order of magnitude difference in how brands coordinate with midtier and smaller partners. The next frontier in rolling out global programs is for brands to help the next-level partner in a non-English speaking region sell more effectively. What’s been missing until now is the ability to manage this process with high levels of consistency, efficiency and effectiveness across markets.
Overcoming the numerous challenges of selling into other countries – including language differences, unique cultural requirements and vertical market nuances – can hinder brands from investing in sustained programs for valuable partners that may exist lower on the food chain. Even more daunting, some of these regions have regulatory landscapes that are increasingly difficult to navigate, with strict data privacy policies and rules around using incentives. All of these challenges may deter brands from activating programs, particularly when timing and budget are also key metrics — and they always are.
One additional challenge that’s often underestimated by brands is to recognize that smaller partners work differently. For midtier and smaller companies, their selling situations are so drastically different from their larger counterparts that channel partner support built around a technology solution is much less valuable and goes underutilized by a staggering percentage. While brands acknowledge this problem for the most part, they often fail to understand how different the needs for smaller companies really are and, more specifically, how to address them.
Up until this point, the answer has been oriented around technology. But even with more technology, more automation and more customization using AI and other advanced methodologies, it’s virtually inconceivable to believe that technology alone can solve the many layers of complexity that exist in global channel sales. Brands have to do more than simply offer access to increasingly powerful, yet complex, partner portals. Likewise, they cannot simply translate product briefs and ad campaign materials and think the job is done.
Layer on top of this the dramatic shift toward “self-service” selling that has accelerated across global markets due to the global pandemic, and partners need even more specialized support today. Midtier and smaller partners need a combination of technology tools, relevant content, the right selling approach and dedicated, on-the-ground support steeped in local market understanding.
Cracking the code for how to produce right-sized, and yet effective, channel partner support for midtier and smaller companies has been elusive not only because the requirements are different from tier-one partners, but also because brands, by their very nature, are driven toward standardizing. This is the misalignment with the absolute requirement in global marketing for customization to fit local requirements.
Given the entirely different ecosystem these companies operate in, the issue for brands isn’t as simple as scaling down their marketing support but instead customizing it to fit the needs of these types of partners — while scaling these programs to fit hundreds or even thousands of partners. It also has to make sense from a budgetary and resource perspective. A workable solution cannot burden the brands’ already overloaded channel partner teams.
The answer, for many, is …
… outsourcing this function to businesses that understand midtier and smaller partners’ requirements, have local resources spread around the world and can deploy a combination of technology marketing knowledge, and the services and language assistance required to bridge the gap between the brand and their partners.
Using an intermediary can also address trust issues that often exist between smaller partners and brands, particularly when it comes to sharing customer and prospect lists. There are also many instances where the attempts by brands to force partners to adhere to particular selling approaches is met with frustration on both sides. Having a local resource invested in mutual success is often a tremendous benefit for brands.
The value of having a global channel marketing capability goes beyond the localized support. While having resources in non-English speaking regions may solve some issues for their midtier and smaller partners, it’s key for brands to be able to rely on a single global resource that leverages regional and market experts on the ground to create or customize content, digital marketing assets and communicate directly with the partners.
Also, having regulatory compliant automation systems (including GDPR) to mitigate risk, keep costs in check and provide monitoring and reporting represents a quantum leap forward. As of now, this combination is available from providers across Europe, Asia and Latin America.
For partners, having dedicated support from a trusted organization to help them build campaigns and create timely and regular contact with customers is critical for success. Having access to single-click tools that they can control with customized templates and relevant content brings a new dimension to their business. And although they will be encouraged to share sales data from these campaigns in a constant effort to improve and adjust methods, there is a buffer between sharing this information directly with brands.
For brands, it’s a game changer to have access to established, proven and affordable marketing methodologies, using proven technologies that scale with their global requirements. While it’s important to note that some brands have made some systems available to smaller partners for years, they often have staggeringly low participation by partners because of the time requirements and technology hurdles. In those cases, eliciting engagement from those partners is the value.
While customized for the unique requirements of smaller partners, these new platforms still offer sophisticated automated workflows, dynamic content distribution, API integrations and multicheck localization capabilities, all requiring minimal human input. Aside from the dynamic content distribution options, the reporting and workflow capabilities are enterprise-class.
As global brands continue to seek ways to activate and support partners around the world, more focus will be on leveraging midtier and smaller partners. Historically, they deliver greater margin than larger partners, but they have specialized requirements, which is why they’re often ignored. With new global through-channel marketing options, these companies can be empowered to carry brand messages and deliver bottom-line revenue.
Simon Hjorth is chief operation officer at OneAffiniti, where he is responsible for the delivery and operations of global through-channel marketing solutions for brands such as Cisco, Dell, HP, HPE, Lenovo and Microsoft. He is a veteran global marketer who has delivered revenue growth solutions across Europe, APAC and North America for Fortune 500 companies the past 20 years. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @OneAffiniti on Twitter.
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