Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek /
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.
So how will channel partners grow? They must commit to digital marketing. Digital marketing will attract the interest of prospective buyers and generate sales opportunities.
Despite the efforts and assistance offered by their brand partners, many channel partners aren't adopting digital marketing, and if they are, they're doing it slowly. Many still rely heavily on events as their only form of marketing. Channel partners who resist being pulled into the world of digital marketing are at risk of becoming obsolete in the modern digital economy. They won't immediately die off, but they also won't grow at the same rate as partners who do market digitally.
I expect that marketing digitally for partners will come to revolve around a singular goal of driving prospective customers to their website to read insightful content, to learn about products and services, and to engage salespeople and that makes sense. Partners will care less about engaging in marketing that sends prospective buyers to the brand website and care more about programs that help them build traffic to their own websites.
For many channel brands, it will be the end of Channel Marketing as we know it as a new partner-centric wave of digital marketing takes over. I had fun talking about this topic with Dede Haas, Founder and Channel Strategist of DLH Services, who invited me to speak about the end of channel marketing in her Channel Sales Chat podcast. You can listen to the episode here or on a podcast platform of your choice.
I've included my prepared notes for the podcast below.
Why is it the end of channel marketing?
- The Buyer’s journey has changed to a digitally-driven journey and partners are changing, too. They’re embracing the digital journey and putting themselves before their brand partners.
- Channel partners who resist digital marketing might survive, but they’re resisting growth
- The more successful channel partners are embracing digital marketing. As Larry Walsh from the 2112 Group wrote earlier this year, it’s time to embrace a Darwinian approach and let some partners be. You’ve made a strong case for digital marketing. If they don’t want to participate, you can’t force them.
How important is channel marketing and can it be saved?
- Brands will continue to play a role in channel marketing, but they’ll stop putting so much effort into pulling partners into the present-day world of digital marketing.
- How they attract interest and earn an opportunity to contribute to partners’ campaigns will change.
- CompTIA’s annual State of the Channel research shows that partners value traditional partner program benefits like training and certification less and less as solutions are delivered in the cloud.
- What they rely on more and more are the sales and marketing benefits offered by brands.
What replaces channel marketing?
- Partner-centric marketing will be the new orientation.
- By embracing digital marketing, channel partners are realizing the value of establishing their own brand, their own website, and their own content
- Channel marketing has been the main dish for many partners where they are an ingredient.
- As we reach this inflection point, brands will pivot to become an ingredient and the channel partner will become the main dish.
- Help partners tell their story. Help them establish their website. And try to earn a seat at the table to have your story told as part of their campaigns.
What is your prediction for the future of marketing for, with, through the channel?
- Programs will be split into “growth” and “lifestyle” segments and resources will be allocated to the growth segment. Brands won’t work so hard to drive the lifestyle partners. For some partners, this will be a wakeup call. For most, they’ll continue their current path.
- As programs are reshaped around a digitally-driven growth partner base, content for with and through-partner marketing should improve in quality because the partners who participate will be better positioned to tell a more sophisticated story.
Brands should start thinking and acting in this way to make better use of limited resources and drive growth with partners who share this vision. I talk about this concept throughout the opening section of Marketing Multiplied: A real-world guide to Channel Marketing for beginners, practitioners, and executives.