If your organisation has a distributed sales model, you know how integral channel partners can be to your growth and continued success. You also probably know how difficult it can be to engage and enable partners to take the actions necessary to drive that growth and success.
To compel partners to be more proactive, brands often exert extra attention and time to “pamper and pressure” their partners into compliance. They handhold their partners, run the marketing campaigns for them and even provide them leads. Then, when the partners still aren’t meeting expectations, the brand pressures them to meet a quota in order to remain a partner.
But why “pamper and pressure” when you can “engage and empower” your partners? Partners don’t see themselves as a marketing arm of your organisation, they see themselves as brands. They are looking for real support—tools, content, and support to grow their business, not just marketing elements that promote your products. If you can “engage and empower” them by giving them what they need, they are more likely to give you what you need.
Partners don’t generate their own leads
Although providing your partners with qualified prospects is common, if your partners make little to no effort to generate their own leads and instead depend on you to develop and deliver a list of qualified buyers, you are working for your channel, rather than working with your channel.
Companies and partners are negatively affected when lead generation is the sole responsibility of the brand instead of a shared responsibility of the channel. Companies waste resources generating and qualifying leads, and partners have little incentive to expand markets and win new customers.
If you are going to provide partners with leads, ensure you have a centralised prospect database that can be divided based on geography, market segment, and other factors. Also, empower partners to take lead generation into their own hands by providing them with ready-to-run marketing content with built-in lead collection capabilities. Consider investing in a distributed marketing or through-channel marketing automation technology to streamline the distribution of content, data, and marketing funds, and make it easier for partners to market and generate leads.
Can you see results from your channel investment?
If you are investing in your channel marketing programs, but don’t have visibility into the activities or results, you may be over-investing in ineffective programs, tactics, and partners. When companies attempt to add layers of control to assure compliance with distributed marketing rules, they often make the programs costlier and cumbersome. And if partners raise concerns about the requirements, many companies loosen restrictions or offer discounts in place of marketing spend.
Shared information leads to efficiencies and greater sales—communicate that to your channel. Better yet, implement a closed-loop marketing system that brings together functionality for marketing execution, partner engagement, fund management, and lead management into one platform.
By bringing all the pieces of channel marketing together into one place, you can automate the tracking and reporting of the activities and results of your programs, ensuring you have the right data to inform and strengthen future programs.
Ensure that your chosen technology enables the controlled allocation and management of funds. Your channel platform should allow you to govern which programs are funded, which partners receive certain funds, and how those funds can be used. This allows you to ensure that local marketing dollars are being spent on approved programs.
Partnership and alignment drive profits
Marketing through your channel can be a successful way to increase sales and grow profits, but all too often the expense and hassle outweigh the benefits. For some companies, the answer is to eliminate or reduce dependence on the channel. For others, the answer is to funnel more resources into inefficient and ineffective strategies.
At Aprimo, we believe the answer is in alignment: adopting channel marketing strategies based on a “shared success” model, which means acknowledging that both company and partner will benefit from the relationship by selling products and building both brands. Those companies that effectively align national and local brand management and demand generation will outperform those companies that continue to pursue traditional and flawed channel strategies.
Strong, long-term channel relationships remain one of the most viable ways to increase market share, manage costs, and improve customer satisfaction, but these relationships must be cultivated. Companies should not feel compelled to pour resources into “pamper and pressure” strategies to drive performance. Instead, they should strive to invest in programs that “engage and empower” to realise a sound ROI.
By Jon Williams, international senior vice president at Aprimo
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