As business models and channel partnerships change based on the shifting expectations of users and customers, the needs of channel management and marketing technology expand. Channel software companies pouring into the market clamor to offer the latest, greatest solutions. Which ones actually empower channel marketers, and which are just smoke and mirrors? Finding out requires quite a bit of research and discovery, throughout which you should keep your standards high and ask about certain features. To cover every category of channel software is beyond the scope of this blog, but let’s focus on one type of channel software in particular: through channel marketing (TCM) software. Before we conduct a through channel marketing software comparison in this post, let’s first define what TCM is and what it does.
What is Through Channel Marketing Software?
The purpose of through channel marketing software is to enable brands’ channel partners to execute more granular, effective marketing campaigns. A through channel marketing (TCM) program may be part of a partner program or portal designed to be a one-stop shop for companies doing business with each other. Partners such as vendors, distributors, resellers, or service providers can connect with each other to collaborate on sales and marketing initiatives. They can also access resources from the supplier brand such as proprietary data, pricing info, case studies, technical support, training materials, etc.
Through channel marketing software is B2B’s answer to B2C marketing automation software such as Hubspot, Pardot, Marketo, etc. However, marketing automation software is built for marketing directly to customers. The “automation” part—implying faster, easier campaigns—doesn’t extend to the complex needs of channel marketers. Automated features don’t help channel marketers specialize campaigns for local markets, create diverse content, or attribute revenue to specific partner segments and campaigns. Expect through channel marketing software to have features that do help with those things.
Through Channel Marketing Software Features
Channel marketers’ role is more complex than sending blast emails about Black Friday deals or offering generic 10% discounts to all new customers. For TCM technology to be a wise investment for channel marketers, it should offer the following features:
Lead Data Upload and Clean-Up
Partners should be able to utilize a tool within the platform that allows them to upload their customer or subscriber lists. They will need to own and maintain these lists, as it’s the best way to ensure clean, up-to-date contact info. Additionally, a TCM program should have automatic data clean-up that filters out invalid contact information.
To make channel marketers’ lives easier and gain access to significant data insights, TCM software should integrate with other channel sales and marketing systems such as partner relationship
management (PRM), channel incentives management (CIM), and sales enablement platforms. Integration into other systems allows the TCM software to become a more integral part in their sales and marketing tech stack.
The B2C buying experience has conditioned B2B buyers to expect personalized experiences that are informed by their purchase history, needs, and interests. Your channel partners are closer to the customer, often able to access more up-to-date customer data. This data can help them contextualize customer experiences. Your TCM program should not only allow you to segment your partners to offer them relevant experiences with your platform, but equip partners to segment their customers, delivering specific messages, campaigns, and information to targeted audiences.
Content Marketing Services
Through channel marketing software itself doesn’t contain the most crucial piece of channel marketing: content. You can task your own marketing departments with writing content, outsource it to agencies who are likely juggling dozens of other topics and clients in various industries, or work with a TCM program provider who offers content writing services. Set your sights on a content writing team that’s specially trained in partner marketing content and creating a diverse blend of thought leadership, industry insights, and product education.
It’s important to know the value and effectiveness of channel marketing efforts. A TCM platform should offer easy-to-access, real-time dashboards and analytics that show you detailed performance data about your marketing efforts. This should extend deeper than simply open and click rates, but allow you to draw direct correlations between marketing campaigns or messages and the revenue they earned.
An effective TCM program depends on efficient technology, compelling content, as well as partner behaviors. Incentives help motivate partners to complete tasks such as uploading customer lists and sending invoices to prove program effectiveness. Whether it’s a debit or gift-card based program that yields immediate reward funds that can spent nearly anywhere or a points-based system in which partners can spend points in a vast online reward catalog, the incentives should be exciting and suitable to each individual’s personal interest.
Partner and Support Services
A TCM program should enhance channel marketing efficiency for your channel partners. This includes easy-to-use, intuitive features as well as fast, responsive support—in multiple languages and time zones, if you have an international channel partner base. The TCM solution provider should offer partner services that recruit and onboard partners, as well as execute marketing campaigns on their behalf.
Ease of Use
While not a singular feature in itself, ease of use is absolutely essential to TCM program capability, due to the limited time and marketing resources so many channel partners are working within. Extu’s research has found that only 12% of partners use vendor programs, on average, due to oversubscription and lack of time/resources.
Through Channel Marketing Software Provider Comparison
With these features in mind, let’s take a look at four leading TCM program providers to see how they measure up. Each listed feature includes the provider’s capabilities as described on software directories such as G2 and Capterra, reviews and testimonials from clients, as well as in the providers’ own words.
|Lead Data Upload/Clean-Up||Lead uploading, management, profiling, and prioritizing.||Partners can upload lead and contact lists.||Lead upload and allocation.||Upload, organize, segment and maintain contact lists.|
|Integration||Easy integration with existing sales and marketing software and strategies.||Integrates with established systems.||External systems communicate through secured APIs.||CRM and PRM integration; single sign-on (SSO) with authentication apps; APIs content integration.|
|Personalization||Segment partners and utilize Extu support teams for each one.||Segment assets and campaigns; unique portal experiences per partner needs.||Simple tools for segmenting partners with various parameters.||Customizable partner experience adaptable to different partner segments.|
|Content Marketing||A library of evergreen content along with industry-specific thought leadership articles, e-books, infographics prepared by professional content writers every month.||Robust content library.||Documents library management with the ability to upload and share content file.||Searchable content library; tailored content based on partner criteria.|
|Performance Tracking||Comprehensive campaign analytics and closed-loop reporting that provides attributable ROI.||Track and manage pipeline health.||Real-time reports across your programs, campaigns and partner activities.||Dashboards with actionable, at-a-glance views of marketing and sales performance; self-service and custom reports.|
|Incentives||Extu is partnered with channel incentive management (CIM) provider Incentive Solutions.||Zift is partnered with incentive program provider 360Insights.||Reward points distribution and redemption feature.||N/A|
|Partner & Support Services||Team of marketing and sales professionals assist with executing campaigns.||Guided onboarding; support in 23 languages.||Partner onboarding, marketing, and lead management; global support in 26 countries.||Concierge partner services to recruit, onboard, manage tasks, and execute campaigns; UI supports 19 languages; real-time tech support.|
|Ease of Use||Data and services drive 80% monthly partner participation; partners spend about five minutes a month on the program.||Easy-to-navigate partner portal with drag and drop configurations and starter templates.||Mobile-first platform architecture; user-friendly DIY tools.||Fully-customizable UI with DIY marketing and sales automation.|
If you’re looking to implement a TCM program, the software provider you choose should offer not just the technology and tools that help you structure and analyze campaigns, but the services and expertise that make your channel marketing compelling, time-efficient, and cost-effective. The features and services that matter most will depend largely on your unique needs and goals. Make sure you’re clear on these points going into discovery and demo phases of the decision process. Hold TCM providers to a standard of fully understanding your needs and helping you meet your goals with provable results. That’s the best way to ensure you’re maximizing TCM software’s ability to boost your channel marketing efforts.