If only channel marketing were as simple as direct marketing.
Don’t get me wrong. Figuring out how to convince people to buy your product is always a challenge, whether your target market is tween girls or multinational corporations. But for direct marketers, the only thing that matters is what end buyers want.
If you’re a channel marketer, your challenge is not just to come up with a marketing message that appeals to end buyers, but to figure out how to convey that message through a loose network of hundreds or thousands of autonomous IT resellers.
Your resellers may be “partners,” but they’re hardly subservient to your interests. They are likely busy selling products from a number of vendors and they’re often suspicious of collaborating too closely with a vendor. They fear that the vendor may use whatever it learns about the partner’s customer base to begin selling directly to the end buyer, cutting the partner out of the process.
Many vendors believe that the solution is to craft a marketing campaign and simply provide it to their partners, hoping that they will effectively deliver that message to end buyers.
Of course, that’s hardly ever the case. You may get lucky with a few partners that are large enough to have a full-time marketing staff, but for the most part, IT resellers don’t have the time or resources to focus on marketing your products. The result is that your message is often either lost in translation or never effectively implemented.
There are several important steps to creating a successful channel marketing campaign, all of which have as much to do with effectively collaborating with the partner as with developing a message that will entice end buyers.
For starters, you have to understand and take advantage of the value that the partners add to the process. Many end buyers rely on the expertise of a trusted reseller and will be far more receptive to a marketing message that is coming through that partner. To that end, you need to get your partners to develop a database of prospects that they will deliver your message to.
BUILD TRUST WITH YOUR PARTNERS
While you want partners to build that database, you can’t expect them to share too much of it with you. Indeed, you need to assure them that you won’t have access to their prospect list or any other data that might allow you, as the vendor, to either share it with other channel partners or try to sell directly to the prospects. If they suspect that you’ll do either of those things, they’ll ditch you.
CUSTOMIZATION AND AUTOMATION
The next part of the process is developing a marketing campaign that you can distribute to your partners. While you will be completely in control of crafting the message, it needs to be customized for each partner, so that end buyers will see a marketing brand that features both your brand and that of the reseller.
While customization is key, it’s unrealistic when you’re dealing with thousands of partners to customize each marketing campaign individually. You also can’t rely on the partners to put in the time to customize your campaigns. The best option for you is to leverage a through-channel marketing automation platform (TCMA) that automates that process, delivering a finished marketing campaign to the partners.
CONNECT THE DOTS
Finally, the key to improving the process over time is getting your partners to provide you with the data on sales produced by the marketing campaign. Again, automating as much as possible for the channel is a very good thing.
To ensure that your efforts are paying off, you have to see the data from the channel as a whole and not just a few cooperative partners. To do that, make sure the channel partners understand that collecting and analyzing the data is as good for you as it is for them. Having timely, accurate data will help you help them sell more services around your products, which is the ultimate goal of the partnership. Plus, having data that proves the benefits of your marketing campaigns will make it much more likely that partners will continue to fully embrace your marketing automation strategy. In short, it’s a win-win most channel partners can get behind!
Channel marketing will never be the same as direct marketing simply because you’re not interacting directly with end buyers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t deliver your message to them. Nor does it mean you can’t measure the effectiveness of your message. With the right technology and the right relationships with partners, you can bring the power of direct marketing to the indirect channel.