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This Is No Time to Be Clueless About Channel Marketing

  • Written by Terry Moffatt, Channel Marketer Report
  • Published in Blog

If I'm wrong, please set me straight. But if you report up to the CMO of your company's org chart — or, for that matter, you are the CMO — chances are you're not in the loop on how your brand is being marketed through its channel partners.

“Channel who?” I'm betting many of you are asking. For those of you working at companies who rely solely on directly employed sales teams, being unaware of the legions of value-added resellers, system integrators, distributors, consultants and solution providers that are responsible for the lion’s share of all B2B sales is excusable.

And even if your company drives a significant portion of its revenue through indirect sales teams, you may be close to clueless about the impact that channel marketing has on its business.

This isn't your fault. As Jen Spencer, VP of Sales and Marketing at SmartBug Media, told me this summer, because most partner organizations tend to report up to sales, a couple of management layers can inhibit collaboration with marketing.

But if you want to stand out as a marketing rock star, or are thinking about greener grass at another firm, studying up on channel marketing best practices should be high on your list of things do.

Here's why: While channel programs are still something of the red-headed stepchild at many companies, businesses large and small are recognizing that their indirect sales programs are vital to the growth of their companies.

Xerox is a great example. When the company determined that the small and midsize business segment represented a significant opportunity for growth and that 75% of the overall market in the U.S. and Europe was served by the indirect channel — it recognized that its massive partner organization was in need of an overhaul.

Over the past couple of years, the company has made significant investments in its channel program, including the implementation of a state-of-the-art partner relationship management platform.

Earlier this fall, when ESET, an IT security company, announced a record 40% year-over-year increase in channel partner growth, it also heralded the launch of its new Partner Council.

The company said the advisory group would include 10 active partners initially who would participate in quarterly calls and get a first-look at new products and technologies. ESET would use the feedback to refine product roadmaps, help shape the supporting content and ultimately better enable its partners’ sales teams.

Start-Ups Are Also Talking Channel

This is worth repeating. As I reported in Channel Marketer Report earlier this year, a significant portion of those cool start-up companies that you may think would be a great place to work are going the indirect channel route. Start-ups participating in the 2017 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium’s Innovation Showcase said channel partners will play a key role in the sales and marketing of their products.

While most new companies rely on direct sales teams out of the gate, more start-up firms are considering indirect channels much earlier in their development, according to a TechTarget Network report.

Recognizing the growing importance of marketing to and through channel partners at more and more companies, our team at the B2B Marketing Exchange, a premier event for marketers managing the complex sales cycles and group buying realities common today, is expanding its 2018 agenda to include sessions and workshops on channel marketing.

As our Editorial Director, Andrew Gaffney, noted, “Considering that as much as 65% to 75% of all B2B revenue is generated through indirect sales teams, it's critical that all marketers have a better understanding of how to market to and through their partners.

“Our goal is to provide in-the-trenches channel marketers with up-to-date information on their profession’s best practices,” he said. “But we also want to demonstrate to marketers unfamiliar with channel practices” – maybe that’s you – “how partners can represent the greatest opportunity for companies to amplify their messages to drive demand.”

A presentation by Maria Chien, Service Director of Channel Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions, will anchor the channel marketing track. During her session, Rethinking Partner Enablement To Optimize Through-Channel Marketing, Chien will discuss how channel marketers are aligning partner enablement strategies with modern digital channel marketing automation technology to successfully manage their shifting partner landscapes.

The aforementioned Jen Spence has signed on to make this presentation: Applying Personas And Message Maps To Optimize To-Partner Marketing. During her session, Spencer will discuss how to implement persona research in the channel and what types of persona-based content will yield the greatest results for both recruiting and engaging channel partners. 

Additional sessions on channel marketing topics will be added to the agenda. So, if what you don’t know about channel marketing is keeping you up at night — or just wondering what you might be missing — think about joining us at the B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale this coming February.

If you are interested in taking an even deeper dive into channel marketing, why not subscribe to Channel Marketer Report?