As we prepare to end the year, it’s always interesting to look at the year in review and see what content on our website was most popular with channel marketers like you. Our most popular blog posts, eBooks, and webcasts of 2018 appear below.
Channel partners, many of whom are launching digital marketing activities for the first time, can often put too much thought and planning into their campaigns which can lead to delays or a complete failure to launch. They often overthink marketing because of their inexperience. There's very little risk to launching a variety of activities and then waiting to see what prospects respond to. In your planning, you should consider how you can help partners move forward. By addressing common concerns and issues, brands can help channel partners create more marketing activity and start to realize the benefits of a multi-threaded digital demand generation campaign.
As you plan for next year, you may find that there are large, blank stretches on the calendar where nothing much is happening. Product launches, customer and partner conferences, and industry events dot the calendar, much like holidays did for you as a child (and likely still as an adult).
So, what do we have to look forward to? How do we break up the time? The answer is simple. There are three types of channel marketing programs you’re going to want to run next year. But before we get into the programs, it’s important to consider the needs of channel partners and how best to engage them with support and direction.
The way brands and channel partners think about marketing together is changing. The change is being led by the modern digitally-driven buyer who does much of their research online rather than through sales engagement, as has been the case previously. Brands continue to get a ton of traffic on their websites through their own marketing as well as receiving contributions from their channel partners' efforts.. Brands collect leads but generally don't share them with channel partners as many sell direct as well as through-partners.
For many channel partners, their entire marketing strategy is based on hosting events. Steakhouse dinners, golf outings, and sporting events account for the majority of their "marketing" activity. There are at least two ways to evaluate this approach. From an optimistic point of view, the events can be looked as a fun way to engage prospects. From a more pessimistic point of view, these events can be seen as a huge waste of money and time on an unqualified audience.
Whichever side you sit on, these events don't support scalable growth because of several fundamental flaws:
To assist with planning for next year, SiriusDecisions, a global business-to-business research and advisory firm, has published the research brief, Channel Marketing: Planning Assumptions 2019.
Attendance for monthly partner update calls is at an all-time low. And it’s no wonder. Channel partners, like everyone else, have many priorities competing for their time. Why should they spend an hour with you once a month or even once a quarter? Why not just wait for the recording? We’re all so used to Netflix binge watching and other on-demand content that there’s very little need to gather together for live experiences.
But when people do gather together, live, there’s an opportunity to share energy and that’s the number one thing you should be trying to do with your partners.
When it comes to Artificial Intelligence, there are several applications that are becoming common due to the low cost and accessibility of AI-based platforms from Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Amazon. Among the many opportunities for sales and marketing, chatbots and virtual assistants are emerging as a way for companies to provide better customer service at a lower cost.
For brands who go to market with and through channel partners, chatbots can be utilized to service your channel partners and their customers and prospects.
With mainstream awareness of blockchain-based products and services increasing thanks to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, there’s a lot of buzz about the decentralized technology but very little understanding of what it is and its potential as a disruptive force.
I have been spending some time thinking about what blockchain-based channel tools could mean for brands and their channel partners. All relationships require trust to be successful. And transactions of any kind between two parties require trust, but it’s not always easy, especially given the ups and downs of typical business relationships.
According to Mike Orcutt writing for the MIT Technology Review, “the whole point of using a blockchain is to let people—in particular, people who don’t trust one another—share valuable data in a secure, tamper proof way.”
Blockchain-based systems are potential game-changers for indirect channels. They offer the potential for transparent, trusted and accountable partnerships. But they don’t exist yet, so for now, it’s interesting to consider the possibilities.
No matter what role you hold in your company, having the support of the C-level executive you roll up into makes your job easier, especially when it comes to securing funds and resources for programs and campaigns. But before you go make your pitch, it’s important to consider who you’re presenting to. A common theme I’ve noticed among channel marketers is that they say their Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) fall into one of two categories: CMOs who “get” the channel and those who don’t.
CMOs who “get” the channel understand the role of channel partners as they relate to the strategic aspects of partners as a route to market as well as how best to leverage channel partners specifically for sales and marketing execution. These CMOs typically have a background where they have worked with channel partners at some point in their career, whether their past roles were in field marketing or in a specific channel marketing role that put them in close contact with partners.