Channel Partner Marketing is complicated, has a completely different set of problems when compared to corporate marketing, and is a function and team typically understaffed and underfunded even though the largest OEMs sell almost exclusively through channel partners. It’s a dilemma that just doesn’t make logical sense.
To top it all off channel partner marketers typically lack the staff and/or expertise when it comes to the largest marketing channel: digital marketing. All of the OEMs have their own channel enablement teams and pretty much all of them work with distributors, but much of the digital marketing is difficult to manage and execute once you get beyond email and webinars.
So, with digital marketing spend projected to surpass $105 billion this year, why isn’t a larger investment of resources being allocated to channel marketing?
I believe it comes down to these main reasons:
- Channel partner marketing isn’t easy. Partner enablement, partner content, MDF management, following brand guidelines, execution of marketing campaigns, trying to use whatever partner marketing platform that promised to make all of this easy (which it hasn’t). it’s why email and webinars are the two most used digital marketing tactics (because they’re easy to execute) and they don’t (in theory) cost anything.
- The marketing and sales functions aren’t working together. Don’t get me wrong, this is a difficult (and sometimes impossible) task within a single organization. Now think about scaling whatever is in place across dozens, hundreds, or potentially thousands of companies in different regions across the world with your channel partners. Tracking all the way from lead, through the marketing funnel, then through the sales funnel (which may take 90, 180, or 365 days), and seeing what comes out on the other end is daunting to say the least.
- Tracking the return on investment is difficult. Even seasoned marketers skirt the issue if there isn’t a view into every aspect of the marketing and sales processes. Also read the scaling across the global section above.
- Making content “partner ready” is the last thing on the OEM’s mind. They’re busy making their own content, and the “solution” of simply sticking a partner’s logo in the top left-hand corner of a document or landing page isn’t exactly elegant.
- There typically isn’t someone on the Channel partner side who is a digital marketing expert. IT’s typically managed by someone very adept in events since this is all a “field marketing.” Don’t get me wrong, if I’m asked to produce and manage a marketing event it’s probably not going to be very good because it’s not what I do. I don’t blame the sales leader or event marketing guru for not knowing how to manage the complexity that is Google Ads. That being said paid search represents nearly half of all digital marketing spend (upwards of $50 billion in 2019). Maybe there’s something there?
So how do we fix all of this?
- Hire an agency who has channel partner marketing experience who is focused on the digital marketing channels which aren’t easy: paid search, paid social, and display (which makes up more than 80% of all digital marketing spend).
- Focusing on generating leads and following those leads all the way through the sales cycle in order to produce a measurable ROI is how you determine value and scalability.
- Building out customizable marketing campaigns which follow brand guidelines so that the messaging is both partner-first and OEM approved makes everyone happy, as effective as possible, and working in lockstep when it comes to product offerings, messaging, and technical information.
- Reporting on everything so that everyone is aware of the value being delivered and the marketing and sales processes aren’t leaking potential customers and profits.
With nearly half of all MDF going unspent there is absolutely no reason why using the most effective and largest methods of digital marketing cannot be afforded and executed by channel partners everywhere.