Exploring the underutilization of through-channel marketing programs

Exploring the underutilization of through-channel marketing programs

Alli Campofranco

In late 2018, Extu commissioned a survey of 100 IT brands and channel partners by Forrester Consulting, the internationally-renowned market research agency. In a series of blog posts, we will examine the key findings of the Forrester study, such as:

  • The top challenges that partners face in executing marketing campaigns
  • The importance of incentives in motivating channel partners to conduct marketing
  • The important role that services play in driving partner engagement
  • The high demand from channel partners for digital marketing solutions

In this post, we’ll focus on perhaps the most significant conclusion of the Forrester study: the persistently low utilization of brand-provided through-channel marketing platforms by channel partners.

The results of the study reaffirmed what many in the industry have long-suspected: brands are not doing enough to make their platforms accessible to time-strapped partners. Furthermore, brands are not providing nearly enough assistance, from technical training to premium content, to jumpstart partners’ marketing efforts. Here are some of the biggest pain points that the study highlighted.

Brand-provided platforms are not user-friendly

A large percentage of partners (40%) says it’s a challenge just to access brand-provided platforms. Some of those partners persist and eventually gain access, but inevitably a portion of them throw their hands up and decide not to bother with marketing. Of the ones that do gain access, many partners (37%) encounter problems navigating the platform and 44% say it’s a challenge to find and use tools. More than half of partners (52%) complain of inefficient processes and workflows within the platform and even more (54%) describe integrating the platform into their existing systems as an issue.

Partners need better content

Much of the content provided in TCM portals is geared toward promoting the brand. However, many partners would like to include other types of content such as neutral thought leadership content that would be interesting to end-buyers at different stages of the buying cycle. Many are also looking for content that aligns with the identity of their business, which may be very different from that of other types of channel partners.

Nearly half of partners cited a lack of downloadable sales and marketing content when explaining their reluctance to use a brand-provided platform. Similarly, a whopping 71% of partners said they would be more likely to use a TCM platform if the brand made more content available and 66% said they want more content that is customized to their specialty.

Partners & brands are not deriving maximum benefit from through-channel marketing

A large percentage of partners who are using brand-provided platforms are not fully realizing everything through-channel marketing has to offer. They are still using it mostly as a strategy for communicating with existing customers, rather than acquiring new ones.

While 59% reported that although the campaigns improved customer retention and increased customer references (47%), relatively few reported increased sales/revenue (35%). That means that most partners are not using TCM platforms to drive growth, a troubling situation that brands need to address if they want partners to fully realize the benefits of TCM.

How to improve the situation with through-channel marketing automation

Looking at the current situation with through-channel marketing automation, we notice that certain areas require improvement. The best through-channel marketing automation tools are made to be as perfect as possible, but it’s still not enough to draw certain businesses in.

Each business wants to build brand awareness and effectively manage its marketing campaigns, a process that requires lots of time and care. On top of that, an efficient partner network requires the business to fulfill the needs of local partners.

As we’ve seen in Forrester research, through-channel marketing automation still hasn’t popped off as it should.

Enabling partners to create exceptional marketing materials and eventually bring in new customers is crucial. Small business owners are especially encouraged to create channel partnerships that let them expand those businesses quicker.

So, how can TCMA solutions become even better and more accessible to those who want direct and indirect execution of their marketing strategies? There are two main concerns that prevent marketing teams and partner sales reps from choosing through-channel marketing tools.

Additional marketing templates

The Forrester study has shown that most businesses avoid using through-channel marketing automation tools due to a lack of marketing materials and vendor content. Although there is plenty of both when it comes to brand promotion, TCMA solutions aren’t very equipped to deal with specific and cohesive corporate marketing campaigns.

Because of this, distributed marketing management is more difficult, considering that certain essential channel marketing tasks simply cannot be completed.

The first step to bringing the TCMA software market closer to the average company is increasing the number of available content and marketing templates. A TCMA platform needs to be robust enough to accommodate the requirements that will satisfy a business’s local partners.

User interface overhauls

Ease of use and user-friendliness is, unfortunately, not a common sight in the TCMA platform market. As evidenced in the Forrester research, most users have trouble finding the right tools and buttons and navigating the platform itself.

Maneuvering the numerous marketing resources needs to be easy on a marketing automation platform. If too much time or effort is required to efficiently utilize through-channel marketing automation tools, then users, and subsequently their businesses, will turn away.

The path forward necessitates the existence of a winning customer experience for those who are using through-channel marketing automation tools. Especially now, when we see world trade flowing indirectly and local partners taking the reigns of sales and marketing.

How to use through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) to amplify your marketing strategy and marketing tactics

One interesting talking point that we’ve not seen mentioned so often is that TCMAs, albeit unpopular, aren’t being used to their full potential. While this isn’t an industry-wide syndrome affecting every partner-relationship management system, it’s still common enough to give it some thought.

In its essence, a through-channel marketing automation solution is equipped with virtually everything one needs to improve their marketing portfolio and fulfill consistent customer expectations.

And while there certainly are issues surrounding through-channel marketing automation solutions, it’s evident that many quit using them before going through everything they have to offer.

Some of the main questions about TCMAs are whether or not the brands’ benefit is large enough, how it can improve lead generation and social marketing, and if the partners’ benefit can be realized fully.

Finding out how marketing automation is an ideal choice for channel-partner relationship management stems from understanding its many key features, all of which complement through-channel marketing automation.

Through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) key features

Analytical variety

Reaching the local market and creating localized marketing strategies wouldn’t be possible without a precise analysis of current market trends. Generally speaking, customer actions and emotions are taken into account and are considered types of marketing resources.

TCMA software can easily determine the usual patterns related to a business’s customers and can be used to adjust the local marketing strategy accordingly. On top of that, partners benefit from this information by using it to improve revenue generation by keeping existing clients and acquiring new ones.

Streamlined marketing automation and workflow

Partner relationship management hinges on the successful planning and the correct use of marketing channels. A business can achieve a sales and marketing transformation by leveraging TMCAs’ ability to create a streamlined, automated workflow.

Distributed network for sharing brand marketing automation assets

Distributed and localized marketing can be enhanced by using through-channel marketing automation solutions. Overall, most TCMA platforms allow for quick and easy exchange of assets with which the partners can leverage vendor content.

Marketing campaigns are often encompassed with strict deadlines because meeting consistent customer expectations requires quick but efficient actions.

Brand management customizability

Your current corporate campaign may revolve around promoting social media posts (as an example), but what happens if you wish to make a switch and start to sell competing products? Well, you’d first need some marketing funds and a channel program for partners.

TCMA platforms allow business owners to customize their brand management style, which, in turn, lets businesses create new brand-compliant marketing materials with relative ease. This is a critical component of business expansion and growth.

Cost-effective marketing solutions

Through-channel marketing automation reduces the amount of work that both the company/brand and their partners need to do. Automating certain processes helps businesses switch the focus of their teams and resources to other jobs.

For example, small companies usually prefer local markets due to time or financial constraints. Still, TCMA platforms make it easier for them to branch out into distributed marketing.

Effective partner management

Lastly, partner marketing and management are simpler with the use of TCMAs. With a steady workflow and an efficient marketing and sales campaign, each partner will easily be able to understand what is being asked of them.

Closing words

It’s evident that through-channel marketing automation can (and should in some cases) be used to elevate brand compliance, increase sales, and provide more context and resources to partners.

With that said, some changes to how TCMAs function needs to be made to maximize the use of said platforms by companies and businesses from various industries. As it stands right now, through-channel marketing automation isn’t quite a popular choice as one would expect, but we’re confident this will change in the future; if anything, it will be due to the convenience of automating certain processes.