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When Is It the Right Time to Pilot in Channel Marketing?

Mike Moore, Averetek

There are times when running a pilot is the best way to move an idea forward.

Calling something a pilot gives it a particular connotation.

A pilot is an experiment. A pilot is temporary. A pilot involves risk.

Your internal standards for approving budget may be different for a pilot versus a full-fledged program.

The external reception for a pilot may be more forgiving.

But you may also see hesitation when recruiting participants.

Why get too invested in a pilot program that may never come to fruition?

Some people are more likely than others to try new things.

In my experience, pilots are good for campaigns or programs, but not for infrastructure or systems.

Infrastructure is like the foundation and walls of your home while systems are things like your heating, plumbing, and electrical.

Pilot campaigns and programs are more like decorations for various holidays. They come out for a period of time, but everyone knows they're temporary.

When it comes to channel infrastructure like partner portals and systems like channel marketing automation platforms, your internal teams and your channel partners have certain expectations.

Partners expect basic tools from all of the brands they work with. A partner portal and a marketing engine are core components of any channel program. Without these systems, it’s hard for channel partners to do business with you and for you to do business with them.

We’re sometimes asked about running a three or six-month pilot of Averetek’s channel marketing automation platform, and my response sometimes catches people by surprise.

I tell prospective clients that if they aren’t ready to run the platform for at least a year, it’s probably not the right time to work together.

We’re happy to set up a trial of our software so the brand and their team can experience the features and figure out if they’d like to use our software instead of other options available in the market.

But I consider a trial to be different than a pilot.

A trial is related to a decision about whether to subscribe to our software. A pilot is a partner-facing program.

Partners can be involved in trials, but the input from partners should relate to the ease of use and capabilities of the software. Involving partners in a trial of a platform like Averetek's to ask them "would you use software like this or not?" sets the wrong expectation. Partners should expect to use marketing tools and you should expect them to want to.

If your partners consider marketing optional, then it's time to have a more strategic conversation with them.

You wouldn’t usually roll out a partner portal or marketing platform and then turn it off after six months. Portals and platforms require too much effort to setup and load with content to treat those projects like pilots.

Once you have a portal or marketing platform in place, you may run a pilot for a specific program, like a through-partner event series to host lunch and learn events with exclusive content and a fun event kit.

To be successful, you need to make a long-term commitment because results are rarely seen overnight.

A long-term commitment reflects the confidence you have in your strategy. If you believe your strategy is right, then you need to invest in it, not just dip your toe in it.

So, pilot when and where you must, and set the foundation with infrastructure and systems to power your long-running program and support your pilots. Your partners will notice the difference and reward you with loyalty and results.

Channel Strategy

Mike Moore, Averetek

Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek

Mike Moore serves as Averetek's Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. Mike has spent twenty-four years in the IT channel as a channel partner and as a channel and field marketer for software companies like Microsoft, GE Healthcare, and Progress Software.

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