In host Jared Fuller’s first solo episode, he shares his predictions for the upcoming year. Some of them are a bit gloomy due to the inflation rate rising, but overall there’s a lot of opportunity coming to the Channel. Here’s what we learned.
Partner influence is growing
This is the continuation of the trend we’ve been seeing for the past few years. Partners have been taking a more active role in managing a customer’s entire tech stack. This trend will keep continuing through this year and most likely the next.
B2B marketplaces boom
Instead of just listing out integrations, companies will start bundling their preferred partners’ services together into offers for their customers. This is part of a larger shift in the B2B world in which companies try to provide additional value to their customers instead of trying to push out new products.
Partner marketing will start offering
Instead of just using thought leadership content and lead magnets, Fuller predicts that start using offers to entice people to take their CTA. He predicts this will happen most with events in which companies may start offering a hat for attending their webinar.
Most of Fuller’s predictions are continuations of trends we’ve seen in the past few years, but there are a few that aren’t based on prior trends. Find the 30 min episode here.
Did you know that creating a complete marketing automation stack by yourself will cost you more than you think each month? And this isn’t the cost of building an entire marketing automation platform yourself. That would cost a lot more in time and money. We took a look at some of the most common marketing automation tools out there and, based on our research, estimated the monthly costs of each. We also factored in the additional costs of using it with your partners.
What you need to make your own marketing automation system
Have you ever looked at marketing automation software and considered doing it yourself? There are a lot of tools that handle various aspects of automation, and they also offer integration with each other. So, in theory, it shouldn’t be too difficult to put everything together.
Your marketing automation stack
A basic marketing automation platform offers email marketing, social media marketing features, learning material, a dashboard and sometimes landing pages and video.
The optional features like landing pages and video make it easier to create, host, and easily share these content types with your partners and customers. Email marketing automation makes it easier to set up emails and send them at the right time. Social media marketing features allow you to manage multiple accounts in a single place and post to all of them at once. You’ll also need learning material, especially to teach your partners about your products. Automation can help you keep track of your partner’s learning progress. Finally, having a dashboard pulls everything together so you can see all of your data in one place.
To put all of this together, you will need a minimum of 6 separate platforms that, hopefully, integrate with each other. Specific platforms such as Hootsuite, which offers social media features, help you automate a specific piece of your marketing. This is great if all you need to do is automate that one marketing piece. But, you’ll probably want to automate most of it.
Factors you need to consider
There are several factors you need to consider when setting up your own marketing automation stack.
Your set up time
Integration time and management
Your partners time
The MDF costs for your partner’s tech stack
The first factor you need to consider is obviously price. Buying individual platforms will be a lot more expensive than buying just one. Here’s a rough estimate of costs you can expect to see:
$129/month (3 users)
$129/month (100 users)
$250/month (30k emails)
$99/month (10 vids + $0.25/vid/month)
The cost per platform varies greatly. Some of these costs include users and some of them do not. If the number of users/emails/videos you need is greater than what the plan calls for, you’ll naturally pay more.
But, price is just one factor in setting up the stack. You also have to consider the amount of time it takes to learn and adopt all of these platforms. You may have to spend weeks training all of your partners on each of them. Some of these platforms may offer training, but that’ll most likely be an additional cost. You’ll also need to coordinate schedules, which takes time out of your day. You may also need to get executive buy-in, which means you’ll be spending time trying to justify why you need all of these platforms when you could be doing more important work instead.
There are also integration costs to consider as well. In some of these plans, the number of integrations is limited and you may need to purchase the higher tier to get the integrations you need. And once you integrate them, you can only use them for a certain period of time before the integration permissions expire and you have to renew the permissions. Depending on how things are set up, this could take a few hours to an entire day.
You may also need to pull your IT team away from their work to help with the integration, especially if it needs admin permissions. This takes them away from their own important work which could potentially slow progress on your company’s next big project.
Your partners will also need to set up these automations on their end, so they may be asking you and your IT team for help. This means you and your IT team may have to balance your partners’ requests for help with your own company requests. This can result in partner requests not being answered on time which leaves partners feeling neglected.
They may also submit MDF requests for the licensing costs as your plan most likely won’t cover them. This takes money away from lead generation activities your partner may be doing such as hosting webinars and attending trade shows. This may result in you needing to increase your total MDF budget which can potentially result in additional costs.
Why use a platform built for channel marketing automation?
Creating your own marketing automation stack is expensive, in terms of both money and time. Costs add up quickly, and those costs only increase with a large partner program. Basic marketing automation platforms tend to have everything you need for marketing automation and can save you thousands in monthly and annual costs. They can also save you time and effort and allow you to focus more on your partners than on setting up and managing your own marketing automation stack.
Take us, for example. We are a marketing automation platform specifically designed for the channel marketing space.
We give you:
Landing page and PDF creation
Social Media marketing features
Customized dashboards for you and your partners
Unlimited storage for all of your sales and marketing content
Email campaigns, video campaigns, event campaigns, landing page campaigns, and social media campaigns
A built-in LMS
Unlimited users for you and your partners
Most marketing automation platforms tend to be all-inclusive in their pricing model. This is a lot more affordable than being charged for multiple platforms and multiple features.
You’ll also save time as you and your partners only have to learn one platform instead of several. You won’t waste time checking if all of your platforms are compatible with each other. You also won’t have to keep track of when you need to renew your integration permissions as all of the features you need are contained in one single platform.
You also don’t need to remember more than one login as most marketing automation platforms come with Single Sign-On, so you can access them using just your company login and password. With a platform made for marketing automation, you’ll save yourself money, time, and the frustration of having to keep track of all the different platforms you’re using.
When you buy a channel marketing automation platform, you get unlimited users for both you and your partners. This means that everyone on your team and your partners’ teams can have an account on the platform without incurring any additional costs. It’s all included. This means that your partners can stop submitting MDF requests for licensing costs and go back to submitting MDF requests for lead-generating and other development activities.
For more information about how marketing automation can help your business and how much you can save by using xAmplify, schedule a call.
Marketing automation is a great way to make marketing easier for you and your partners. But trying to create your own marketing automation stack often defeats this purpose. Creating your own stack will likely cost you a lot in time and money. You’ll need several platforms to do the work of a dedicated marketing automation platform, and you’ll need to purchase additional licenses for the number of additional users you have.
A basic marketing automation platform does the work of many, saving you time and money. as you typically pay for the platform plus a set number of contacts. There’s no need to worry about incurring additional costs as your number of contacts increases. Unlimited users are included.
So, ultimately, you can choose to individually set up your marketing automation using different platforms, in hopes you can easily integrate across them all, or you can simply save yourself hours of unnecessary work and potentially thousands of dollars by using a designated channel marketing automation platform.
I’ll tell you the answer straight away: channel marketing creates a revenue opportunity three times larger than whatever you’re doing now. When you think of sales, channel marketing probably doesn’t enter the logic tree in your mind. You probably think any given Company has a Product or Service that they market directly to their Customers. Their Customers buy from said Company and use their Product or Service.
And it looks something like this:
What’s shocking is that this type of sales (direct sales) accounts for only 25% of global commerce, as estimated by the World Trade Organization. The whopping majority — 75% — of sales happen an entirely different way.
What is Channel Sales?
This 75% share of the global marketplace is selling to customers indirectly, in what’s called channel sales. This means they sell through channel partners, such as resellers, value-added resellers, distributors, referral partners, independent software vendors, and a few other types. Generally, these partners have a large, established customer base and a trust relationship with end-users that a manufacturer can leverage to their advantage. And it’s a two-way street for resellers—the retailer needs the product because otherwise they’d have nothing to sell!
For instance, a manufacturer like Honda doesn’t sell cars directly to consumers. Instead, independent dealerships open up shop and ship in Hondas from Tokyo to sell to the end customer. In another example, a company like TOMS shoes uses both direct and indirect sales to get their product into consumers’ hands (and onto their feet). You can find TOMS at several retailers and department stores along with a variety of other indirect offerings. But you can also go to the TOMS flagship store in Venice Beach California, and other TOMS stores, to buy directly from the maker.
Not all companies are oriented to channel sales and thus are not in need of channel marketing. For instance, a nail salon, a restaurant, or a tattoo shop wouldn’t sell through channel partners. These types of companies will always sell directly to the consumer.
However, many companies that can sell indirectly just aren’t doing it. They may not understand that channel sales opens up an entirely new revenue stream with far more potential customers than can be reached through direct sales.
And that looks something like this:
Channel marketing is to indirect sales as marketing is to direct sales
I repeat, channel marketing is to indirect sales as marketing is to direct sales. Think about that. In today’s inundated marketplace, no company can reach its customer base without a solid marketing effort.
And when it comes to direct sales (again, only 25% of the worldwide sales pie), there are billions of marketing dollars allocated, and thousands of software solutions adopted, agencies hired, and advertisements placed. There are CMOs and SVPs and DOMs running huge teams of marketers, from your content managers to your email experts, plus your social media leads, an array of copywriters for long-form and short-form content, not to mention the team of designers responsible for your visual brand identity. And this doesn’t even include the people working at those software companies and agencies who help run this well-oiled direct marketing machine.
When it comes to indirect sales (again, the far larger 75% majority), most companies don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps this is why so many companies that can sell indirectly aren’t doing it. They don’t have the bandwidth or the knowledge base.
There’s not nearly the breadth of agencies and software solutions available for indirect sales as for direct, and advertising through channel partners is a mystery. Thus, companies allocate far fewer resources and money to channel; it’s like a can of worms most brands are afraid to open. Instead, they try a half-baked, low-risk, manual approach bound for failure or just stick to what they know: direct sales. Rather than really trying to understand channel marketing, rather than devoting some R&D budget to figuring it out, they mostly avoid it…and they continue missing out on that 75% of the marketplace.
Channel marketing software versus direct marketing software
Reflecting the comparable ease of direct sales is the high number of resources the industry has produced to generate direct sales leads, automate direct communications, and track that customer data. There are hundreds of thriving CRMS and marketing automation tools to serve this purpose. Why is this so? Because data is the key to selling and automation is the key to delivery at scale. We can follow this same logic for channel marketing, and just add ease of use as the key to getting partners to participate in a co-marketing effort with your brand.
Fortunately, there are through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) solutions on the rise to fulfill these keys to success, but not all are created equal. If you’re ready to dive into channel sales, it’s important to know what you should be looking for when choosing a TCMA platform. Take the time to watch a number of demos and make sure you ask the right questions during those meetings.
If adopting a software solution still sounds overwhelming, try checking out a full service offering like xAmplify Sail. With this offering, we at xAmplify leverage our cutting edge software to act as your full service channel marketing team. So if you don’t find a product that’s right for your company, perhaps try a service to do it all for you. In any case, with the right resources in place, channel sales is likely to be a massive revenue driver for your brand.
A surprising number of indirect sales companies still function manually when it comes to co-marketing with their resellers, and have yet to adopt a TCMA platform (through-channel marketing automation platform). This seems to be most common among SMB and mid-levels unable to allocate budget to a solution and not quite foreseeing how a solution will actually enable them to rapidly scale. Lack of knowledge about evolving tech creates a huge missed opportunity.
These companies are blind as to:
The “who” (who needs TCMA?)
The “when” (is it time for my company to adopt a solution?)
The “why” (why do I really need this?)
And the “which” (which platform do I choose?)
Sound familiar? Then let’s fill in those blanks with an overview of the who, when, why, and which of channel marketing tools.
Who needs a channel marketing automation solution?
If you sell through indirect channels via resellers, distributors, ISVs, or VARs, you fit the “who” profile of a company in need of channel marketing automation. Doesn’t matter if you’re an SMB, mid-level, or enterprise. You fit the profile because these solutions are designed to help companies like yours scale your channel sales program, increase partner participation, extend your reach, and bring in more revenue via indirect pipelines.
When not executed through a TCMA platform, channel sales is an excruciating, overwhelming endeavor. If this overwhelm also sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, many SMB and mid-level companies don’t have a structured partner program in place because they’re limited by time and headcount. Things operate on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, day-to-day basis dealing with partners, and long term growth hasn’t made it into the business plan yet.
For companies that live on both direct and indirect sales, many of them just say “forget it” to channel strategy altogether. It’s too labor-intensive and tedious to build. So they focus on direct sales instead.
When should I adopt a TCMA platform?
For those who are trying to maintain a partner program, but have yet to adopt a technology solution, channel sales is a daily struggle, with looming pressure to close deals fast rather than nurture the pipeline, and a scramble to put out fires as they constantly catch. If this—yet again—is familiar, if channel sales is a cumbersome process you’re thinking about giving up on, then your answer to “when” is NOW.
The pain and struggle you’re suffering is totally avoidable and a solution would be incredibly low cost compared to the return on investment. Let’s put it this way… A day in the life of a channel sales organization that hasn’t yet embraced through-channel marketing automation might go something like this:
You blast an email with a new asset to every partner. You don’t have analytics in place to see who opened it, much less who’s leveraging it for redistribution. You cross your fingers and hope a sale comes in through a partner. When few or none do, you reach out over the phone… One. Partner. At a time… to find out how it’s going. Did you get my email? Did you download the asset? Did your designers add your logo? Our designer left a whitespace for your logo. Are you going to redistribute the asset? The sale ends Friday, so we need you to redistribute no later than tomorrow. How many prospects will you send it to—is there any way you can track opens and report back to me?
Gasp! (Coming up for air).
Talk about exhausting. No wonder most SMBs and mid-levels have given up! Imagine having that conversation twenty times a day. Your partners would start avoiding your calls, stoking a whole new bunch of fires.
Besides being an exhausting and off-putting channel marketing strategy, the manual way is inefficient. Hours of time have been wasted in this instance, and likely with little yield. A TCMA platform would have deployed that initial asset, had the metrics to track it to and through partners to show who’s redistributing and to reveal the desired open rate downstream. And it would have taken a fraction of the time for both the vendor and the partner.
If a day in this life sounds like a day in your life… it’s time to stop struggling.
Why do I need automation for channel sales?
If you’re in channel sales and don’t have a through-channel marketing automation tool in place, why you need one should be implicit by now. But if you’re still not convinced, let’s look at some numbers.
75% of global sales are made through indirect channels. Your marketplace opportunity is massive. But…
That means 80% of channel partners aren’t doing much, because they need more than a phone call from you hounding them about redistribution. They need more than an email with a single asset and a whitespace for their logo. They need their hands held.
If you hold their hands, or use the right automation tool to hold their hands for you, you tap into that inactive 80% of partners. Get those guys and gals pushing your message to their customers, and your sales will start to skyrocket.
Ultimately, a new TCMA platform in the marketing tech stack will not only pay for itself, it will save you time, scale your partner program, and drive revenue. That’s why.
…But only if you nail the “which” part….
Which solution does TCMA the best?
There are a dozen or more platforms out there claiming to be TCMA tools. Many of them are portals and/or PRMs (partner relationship managers) that have been around for several years, and have retrofitted their platforms to “automate” co-branded messaging.
If your main need is real automation, through and through, then be extremely judicious when you come across companies like this. Until very recently the standard channel marketing practice was to hire one of these portals or PRMs as a common ground for vendors to store content—from whitepapers, to logos, to price sheets, to design assets. These platforms would deploy an email to partners letting them know when the vendor added something new, so partners were aware they could come collect.
And that was about as far as the automation went. From there, it was up to partners to log in to the portal (a single space shared with the vendor and other partners), download the content, add their own logos, upload and configure the campaign in whatever emailing software they were using, and redistribute.
There was still a ton of work required on the part of the partner. And there were still no metrics for the vendor. Not entirely helpful.
As this problem became more and more evident and technology evolved, new solutions started to emerge. Some are cohesive tools with end-to-end content storage, automatic co-branding, same-platform email functionality, and metrics included. This type of platform provides each partner with their own individual user instance, login, and dashboard so that list uploading and segmentation are secure and unlimited—which renders metrics and redistribution more accessible than they’ve ever been.
However, for PRMs and portals that existed previously and have now retro-fitted outbound automation (the email delivery and metrics aspect of co-marketing) the fact that they still simultaneously function in their old capacities makes them largely faulty; partner list uploading and same-platform email deployment are not compulsory, meaning metrics are non-comprehensive and unreliable.
If simple, end-to-end automation is what you’re looking for, schedule a demo with xAmplify, which was created at the turn of the TCMA revolution and designed specifically for through-channel marketing automation, not to function as a portal.
Industry is undergoing a huge change. A new era of business is being ushered in for supply chain management, with the adoption of industry 4.0 applications. These applications have the metrics insight to change the game when it comes to channel sales inventory, eradicating “just-in-case” warehouse supply and letting “just-in-time” inventory rule. Less waste, stable pricing and more profit.
The first companies to embrace this change and adopt this shifting technology will be the winners of tomorrow. They’re the ones using today’s cloud technology and software automation to communicate and forecast across inventory, manufacturing, and distribution. They’re the ones shrinking inventory margins and making optimization and streamlined corporate behavior necessary.
Just-in-case inventory is used by manufacturing companies that lack the ability to accurately forecast sales. They have to determine how much product they need to meet demand with the projections they have, which are based on incomplete data, economic patterns, or industry predictions. In other words, these numbers are estimates at best. Furthermore, they do not account for the demand of through-channel marketing, which results in indirect sales. A company that is unable to accurately forecast sales generated via channel marketing ends up producing this just-in-case inventory. This surplus results in wasted resources and warehousing space, and erodes the value of current inventory with the inevitable need to move that surplus product.
Alternatively, a company able to accurately forecast by leveraging comprehensive, through-channel metrics allows their business operation and supply chain to become one well-oiled machine. This results in producing far more just-in-time inventory. Just-in-time inventory is the most optimal position for a company. Before automation, IoT, AI, and data management applications, just-in-time inventory was almost impossible to achieve at the enterprise level. Today, just-in-time inventory is possible for all companies no matter their size, as long as the right metrics tool is in place.
The TCMA solution to your “just-in-case” supply
To put it simply, when the supply chain knows where both direct and indirect sales are coming from, they will know how much to supply. How can one get that kind of information? TCMA.
Supply chain teams with an optimal tech stack leveraging true automation can close the gap on just-in-case inventory by capturing comprehensive, through-channel data. And with the industry 4.0 era, there are TCMA software platforms with metrics features that not only track partner opens and redistribution of marketing materials, but also track and collect data on downstream customers. This indirect sales activity can be harnessed further upstream with the right visibility.
More accurate channel sales attribution, more profit
Furthermore, the fact that leads, opportunities, and deals are properly attributed with trackable data also resolves channel conflict across the board. With no channel conflict, companies know exactly where sales are coming from and what volume to expect. These supply chain companies will eventually incorporate revolutionary TCMA tools like xAmplify into their product management to accurately forecast supply and save billions of dollars they would otherwise waste on surplus. Change is constant, and innovation is key.
With the use of a full force TCMA platform, supply chain companies can see immediate snapshots of the health, inventory, and up-to-date manufacturing and production issues. Having insight will help streamline shipping and warehousing, resulting in the most optimal inventory outcomes on a day-to-day basis. The companies that are most efficient will have an inherent competitive advantage over their competition.
It’s not easy to onboard channel partners. But when your partners succeed, you succeed. Quick and effective onboarding of partners is a big indicator of long term success for any channel program. Fast, successful onboarding means more revenue, greater ROI in every channel partnership, and higher retention. Thus, prioritizing your partners when you adopt a new TCMA tool is particularly crucial. It’s not enough to sign up for a platform, then dole it out to channel partners and expect them to invest the time and budget in learning how to use it.
Vendors need to be there every step of the way to ensure the investment in a promising new piece of tech can realize its full potential.
Making channel partners a priority
According to CSO Insights, one-fourth of vendors or manufacturers say partners take a year or longer to become active in their channel marketing strategies. So… a whopping 25% of indirect sales companies and/or teams land new partner contracts—and then allow them to go stale for more than 12 months. Why put in all that effort to land a new strategic channel partnership, only to let it slip through the cracks?
With 75% of global sales being transacted through indirect channels, this hands-off behavior squanders a valuable resource. It not only wastes the partner relationship, it also inevitably misplaces MDF among the channel sales and marketing team, and undermines their value add to the organization (which may also have a direct sales team they’re competing with).
This painful 12-month onboarding turnaround can be easily fixed. The problem we’re facing is the disconnect between vendors and partners, resulting in a deficit of knowledge, access, and capability for partners. From our research and conversations with customers, this all stems from a combined lack of 1) the proper marketing tools, 2) product and application training, 3) communication and 4) quality control.
Let’s tackle these one by one:
1) Proper channel marketing tools
Having the right tools to help onboard your channel partners swiftly and easily makes a world of difference. There are TCMA platforms designed to take this burden off your hands and do the heavy lifting on your behalf. Our own platform, for one, completely automates the through- and to- channel stream of communication, making it friendly and intuitive for partners to participate. Not only that, but our platform has onboarding training built in for vendors and partners.
In other words, the platform itself has a number of step-by-step tutorial videos within its dashboard to show users how to upload contacts, segment lists, upload content, create beautiful email templates, launch campaigns, share data, and review metrics.
Using our platform or another such TCMA tool will pay for itself—and much, much more.
2) Solution and application training
If you’re using a PRM or partner portal, odds are the solution doesn’t come with onboarding materials, so you’ll have to do this part yourself. It sounds like a lot of work, but just think—you’ll be expediting the 25% of partners who’d take a year or more to push your product to market in a world where 75% of global sales are indirect. Taking the time to produce partner success content is worth the investment.
Allocate a budget, a team, and a month of development to creating process documents, videos, and other training materials to send to every new partner. Schedule Lunch and Learns to get them excited about pushing your product and to answer any questions. Effectively training partners on how to leverage the collaboration tools you’ve put in place only makes it easier for them to consistently redistribute, extend your reach, and increase their own revenue as well as yours.
3) Communication with channel partners
Talking to people one on one goes a long way. Not only does it make people feel valued, but it also allows for personal pain points to be expressed and received. Use the metrics features of your marketing automation tool to check in on who’s redistributing your marketing collateral. (You should be using this anyway to determine priority partners and high-impact campaigns.) Reward the active participants with SPIFs, and reach out to the ones who aren’t participating to learn what’s holding them back. This leads us to quality control…
4) Quality control for the channel partnership
When you see certain partners aren’t participating in your co-branding efforts, follow up. Get feedback and find out what pain points are keeping them from participating. Then take that feedback to heart and try to fix the problem.
And if the PRM or portal you’re using doesn’t offer comprehensive partner and downstream metrics, it may be time to upgrade your tech stack to one that does. (Like xAmplify. 🙂 Just sayin’.)
When you think of “influencer marketing” you probably imagine some young fashionista on Instagram or Youtube wearing, eating, drinking, using, or repping a B2C brand that paid for this endorsement. The value exchange here is that the brand gets access to the influencer’s sizeable and carefully curated audience—an opportunity to put their product in front of thousands of targeted customers.
What you probably don’t think of is how this advertising model so readily applies to your B2B distribution channels. If you’re in channel sales, today’s trend reports put you in a power position to dominate influencer marketing. The beauty of this trend for channel marketers with a successful co-branding strategy in place is that you’re already doing it!
…Well, for the most part. You understand partnerships and have already forged those important alliances with other companies. Now, with a few slight adjustments, you can easily turn your channel marketing into full-on influencer marketing using your partners as influencers, or their customers as influencers. The former is similar in time, attention, and principle to account based marketing. The latter takes a bit more work of course, but if you do have steady alliances with resellers or distributors, B2B2C influencer marketing is well within your grasp.
For now we’ll review the first, more accessible scenario and how to implement it in five steps. The following instructions assume you have solid distribution channels in place with the proper automation and metrics tools.
Using your channel partners for influencer marketing
Step 1) Find a reliable influencer ally among your distribution channels
You’ll need a channel marketing data analysis tool to collect this information. Some PRMs and portals have begun to build partner engagement metrics into their platforms. But not all of these are reliable or comprehensive, because not all partners use the email or social media feature of said platforms to carry out redistribution. This leaves a big unknowable gap in metrics tools retrofitted to a portal.
If you’re using xAmplify, you’ll have access to all the data you need with our Two-Tier metrics, because sending co-marketed email and social media campaigns from within the platform is compulsory for partners. Thus, the first tier of our metrics shows you a comprehensive view of which partners are redistributing your campaigns to begin with. This answers the question of who will be a reliable ally.
Step 2) Discover which of your most reliable partners have influence
The second tier of xAmplify’s Two-Tier Metrics answers the influencer part, because you’ll be able to see how many leads your channel partners are generating by redistributing your campaigns via email. You’ll be able to see if their pipeline customers are clicking, watching videos, and how long they’re watching for.
Due to strict social media regulations on consumer data and privacy, Two-Tier metrics does not cover social media analytics. But there is an easy solution to get data on click volume and region for social media redistribution; simply make sure your campaign includes a different trackable link (such as a bit.ly link) for each of the reliable partners you engage in this discovery. You’ll be able to see from this third party account which partners are pulling in the most clicks, and from what region or city.
Sussing out this engagement is the key to leveraging partners’ influence. Once you’ve got these pieces in place, watch and learn who has real influence as the data rolls in.
If you don’t have xAmplify, you’ll need to get your most reliable partners to share their own social media analytics reports with you. You may need to grant them some nice MDF to make this happen. Once you’ve collected the data, you can compare results to learn who’s generating the most leads with your content—and who is therefore the most influential.
Step 3) Initiate an influencer partnership
Once you know who of your distribution channels is reliable and who has influence, your next step is to propose the influencer partnership. What should this proposal and ensuing relationship look like? In the world of B2B marketing, the sales cycle takes a lot longer than in B2C, so having an influencer spread your word will take longer than the here-today-gone-the-next promotions you’re used to seeing with those Instagram fashionistas. All that to say—expect this partnership to last a year or more, and to have the MDF budget to incentivize a “yes.”
Step 4) Create content for your influencers
You’ve now set up a beautiful partnership, which will next result in highly targeted content being fed directly into a high ROI pipeline. You need to create said content specifically for this influencer partner and their unique audience.
This could mean partnering on a guest blog, a webinar or an ebook, asking this influencer to appear in your video content, speak on your podcast, or co-host one of your events. If the influencer partner is not a person but rather a company (likely the case with channel marketing), invite the founder or a highly visible company executive to be the “face” of this content.
Step 5) Target your influencers’ most successful platform for content distribution
Once the content is ready to go, carefully plan which social media platform your influencer will be using to blast it to their audience. If they have the highest following and engagement numbers on Twitter, curate your distribution in the form of Tweets. If they get amazing results on Facebook, then let it be linked posts. If Instagram is their bread and butter, make sure your visual content game is strong.
Keep feeding the influencer marketing machine and continue nurturing the influencer relationship for at least one year. Watch your channel sales soar.
In today’s automated, tech-driven world, channel marketing has remained one of the last holdouts due to its continued dependence on manual labor. The concept of a manufacturer leveraging distribution channels for indirect sales is age-old, but the actual process of equipping and supporting those channel partners with simple, actionable strategy has scarcely evolved over the decades.
Well, until now. New software platforms have begun to prioritize the partner journey, and it’s about time. If you’re a vendor or manufacturer, partners are the key you’ve been searching for.
And with this emergence of tech to combat antiquated channel sales methods, automation has finally caught up to the partner problem. Now it’s time for you to adopt these digital solutions and get your idle distribution channels moving. Prioritizing partners is the greatest channel marketing strategy you could dream up, and here’s why:
Making partners a priority is tangible, actionable, and straightforward, rather than conceptual.
When partners are a priority, more of them will participate in your co-marketing initiatives.
When partner participation increases, your reach, visibility, and revenue increase too.
3 pillars of a good channel marketing strategy
If you’re a vendor company that relies on distributors or resellers, you know all too well the pain points of getting a channel program off the ground. Whether you’re a company that sees channel partners as a critical move in scaling your brand, or you started building a partner program into your sales infrastructure at the very start, the story is the same.
You need to provide sales enablement tools and initiate co-branding opportunities in a way that makes it easy for your distribution channels to redistribute.
So, for starters, you must:
1) Develop your channel marketing strategy with your partners in mind.
Because they’re the ones you’ll be relying on to deliver it, remember? This may seem obvious, but it’s incredibly common for vendors to forget the needs of their channel partners in achieving success. They expect channel partners to, indeed, do all that old-school manual labor. The truth is, 80% of them won’t.
So don’t retroactively build your partners into your plan. Instead, plan to meet their needs and requirements during your initial blueprint phase, so you’re always keeping them engaged and they feel they were always part of the plan—not an afterthought. This will take more manual labor on your part (unless you’re ready to adopt a platform that takes the heavy lifting off your hands) but absorbing some of that hard work on the front end can have exponential results for your distribution channels.
2) Provide marketing collateral via a platform that makes co-branding and redistribution easy.
In an attempt to assuage as much manual labor as possible, the widely accepted approach to channel marketing has been for vendors to adopt a partner portal or PRM. It’s likely you already have one of these, so you’re familiar with using such a platform to drop off your branded content—like design assets, data sheets, price lists, landing pages, infographics, etc—then let your channel partners know it’s there and expect them to come collect, co-brand, repurpose, and redistribute all on their own.
While this removes some of the manual labor for you, it’s not doing much for your partners. And it’s been this way for decades. (Hence why we said in the intro that this evolution has been slow and scarce.) The most recent SaaS technology available truly battles this issue by bridging the labor gap between you and that 80% of your partners who can’t or won’t do all the work you’re expecting.
3) Incentivize and reward your highly active distribution channels.
As your partner program grows, there will be varying degrees of partner engagement and you’ll want to prioritize those most engaged by incentivizing them with MDF and SPIFs. But again, today’s most common channel marketing approach requires the partner to proactively use the partner portal or PRM to retrieve collateral and generate campaigns on their own.
So aside from remaining a manual and time consuming process, this approach makes it nearly impossible for you to determine which partners are truly engaging. There are no metrics tracking who’s doing what, making MDF management a blind undertaking.
Engage your channel partners with today’s tools
Fortunately, according to Forrester, there’s been an evolution in technology to assist today’s vendors and manufacturers with their distribution channels. These through-channel marketing automation platforms are considered the “third stage” (in other words, the future) of digital marketing. But like most solutions, not all are created equal.
When your channel marketing team is ready to adopt a more modern and intuitive platform, be sure to search for TCMA tools that truly automate old processes and deliver your messaging with ease through partners and onward to their pipeline. The ideal solution will make it simple for both you and your partners, and will empower you to effortlessly deliver consistent, co-branded campaigns while providing insight into your partners’ activity.
CloudStride is a small cloud security and data warehousing startup that serves India as its core service region. The lifeblood of this business is its channel sales, with big distributors (who have their own resellers) as its channel partners. The founder, Sumith Satheesan, noticed his digital channel marketing strategy was a tedious, labor-intensive process. His distributors took several months to engage in co-marketing, if they did at all. There was no fast, easy way to do the work, and he was understaffed.
Most importantly, the strategy he was able to get across his distribution channels had no trackable data to give insight on campaign performance or quarterly forecasting.
“It’s futile to send content when you can’t see who to follow up with,” Sumith told us during our case study interview. “It’s a blind cycle.”
“It’s futile to send content when you can’t see who to follow up with. It’s a blind cycle.”
Sumith Satheesan, CloudStride Founder
The CloudStride Interview
Let’s dive into the case study interview itself, which covers Sumith’s major pain points and how xAmplify was not only a solution for him—but is now also a solution for his distributors, who found the platform so game-changing they’ve since adopted it for their own businesses.
Channel marketing pain points for CloudStride
Ease of redistribution to scale rapidly
Data insight for campaign optimization
Following up with qualified leads to convert to sales
CloudStride had some channel partners in place, but Sumith was having trouble sharing campaigns with them and activating redistribution on a large scale. Sharing content was the main objective.
He would deploy his usual email campaigns, make the followup calls, and so forth. But his marketing team was investing time that he felt was a waste. They couldn’t see how the downstream end users were behaving. He would just wait and hope for a positive outcome. Taking matters into his own hands, Sumith would even attempt to interact with the resellers of his distributors himself. But many would never reply to his follow up emails and calls–and he was never certain if his distributors had even redistributed his campaigns to them in the first place.
The channel sales solution for CloudStride and its channel partners
Metrics to view partner and end user activity
Rapidly increasing sales (30% within the first 3 months)
Easy co-marketing campaigns for him and his distributors
Solidified distributor relationships
Expedited onboarding of partners (now takes only 1.5 to 2 months)
Using xAmplify, Sumith got a more robust solution than he ever imagined. The first thing he boasted to us about were the Two-Tier Metrics. “xAmplify gives you qualified leads,” he laughed. “I now know who to call first! My team calls them [after we see their interaction with our campaign] and converts them.”
With these metrics and the ease of redistribution, his lead generation rapidly increased and his channel sales skyrocketed by 30% within only three months using the platform.
Sumtih added, “The campaign has such an effect that we’re getting results from the very first email to go out in an entire campaign sequence. The end customers are responding to my distributors and asking about CloudStride.”
“The end customers are responding to my distributors.”
The most surprising outcome for Sumith was how xAmplify has helped solidify his existing relationships with distributors and bring on 49 new reseller partners. He reported that the platform played a major role in this acquisition because the distributors found it so useful and intuitive. As soon as he onboarded his distributors, xAmplify in turn made it much easier to communicate to and through their resellers. Now he has these new partners lined up who want to use the xAmplify platform. “They’re obsessed with it,” Sumith laughed again.
And the icing on the cake? An onboarding process that used to take several months getting his distribution channels to engage in co-marketing strategies now only takes 1.5 to 2 months on average.
The partner experience should be at least as important to your channel management team as customer experience is to your company. But how do you ensure that all your channel partners feel valued, supported, and important even as you scale your program? Your channel program must always be expanding to cover the turnover of partners leaving or the lack of engagement from a percentage of partners (that 80/20 rule generally applies accurately to channel partners, although true TCMA has the power to change this). And yours certainly isn’t the only channel program they’ve signed up for, which is why your program needs to be one of the best.
You need to support and empower your partners with clear sales enablement tools, mutually beneficial co-branding material, up-to-date content and regular communication, all the while making it easy for them to engage and redistribute. Simply put, deliver your co-branded strategy to them in the most functional way possible and you’ll not only gain more partners, but you’ll see higher retention among the partners already in your program.
There are three simple ways to achieve this using a bona fide TCMA platform like xAmplify. But first, let’s quickly talk about the current shift in technology.
Channel marketing technology: past and future
Traditional PRMs and portals never made the channel marketing process “easy” for partners, and now, with the rise of outbound solutions, these platforms are becoming antiquated. An outbound approach to the partner experience is a more thoughtful way to earn partner participation, as opposed to hosting a portal where partners must download your assets and do all the co-marketing work themselves.
A true through-channel marketing automation platform leverages delivery to and through your partners to simply, seamlessly provide them with everything they need. Using one such TCMA solution, you can attract new partners, onboard them faster, and retain them longer.
Here are three methods for gaining and retaining channel partners:
#1—Expand your channel program through personalized outreach
The first step in starting or growing a successful channel is to determine what type of partner will be best for your product or service.
Are you developing an ecosystem of solution partners that offer additional tools to round out your solution, like value-added resellers (VARs) or independent software vendors (ISVs)? The value message here is the access they’ll have access to your client base and a co-branding opportunity to sell their solution through your sales team. You’ll need to provide co-marketing campaigns that strengthen their branding and tell the story that their offering is an integral piece of the full solution.
Or are you primarily looking for resellers and/or system integrators (SIs)? The value message to this type of partner is more straight-forward—increase their revenue by adding your product to their portfolio.
You could also be in need of referral partners, who simply refer your solution to their client base and get a commission for doing so. Similar to an ISV or SI, except with no integration, the value here is that they’re pointing their customers to a known and trusted solution which their platform doesn’t offer.
Finally, you might also be looking to attract distributors. You’d traditionally have a closer relationship with this type of partner. Distributors will rely heavily on regular communication, sales enablement tools that you provide, and channel marketing material that you develop and deliver.
Once you’ve determined your ideal types of channel partners and created a list, follow these tips for initial outreach using an outbound platform:
Take that list of ideal partners with whom you should be doing business and enter it into the software as a new segmented list of Potential Partners – you could further segment the list into ISVs, Resellers, Referrals, Distributors, or SIs
Create the content with the value message that applies to each type of potential partner. Think about the qualifying questions they might have for you, and answer them before they have a chance to ask. For example:
For referral partners:
How large is your client base?
How many sales people could be introducing them to your client base?
How often do you run programs to introduce partners to internal sales teams?
What type of co-marketing programs do you run and how often could they take part?
What are the requirements for co-marketing opportunities?
For reseller partners:
What is the average sales price, time to close and close rate?
How much revenue could a standard partner generate?
How much training and co-marketing do you provide?
Create the templates and campaigns with personalized content, ready to be sent to your corresponding partner lists at any time. Of course, be sure to include a Request a Demo link and create an auto-sequenced series of targeted follow-up emails.
#2—Onboard channel partners faster than ever before
The faster you onboard partners, the sooner you’ll both see the mutual benefits of the partnership. As soon as they’ve signed up for your channel marketing program, cover the introduction basics:
Leverage your segmented lists again to ensure that their welcome and continuing journey with you feels personal.
Let them know their participation is appreciated and they will soon be rewarded.
Remind them of why they signed up in the first place—that redistribution will be easier than ever because you’ll be delivering campaigns in true automated through-channel fashion.
xAmplify makes this whole introduction incredibly simple and functional by allowing you to build nurture campaign templates and launch them from the same platform your channel partners will be using to redistribute. Not only do partners feel welcomed, they’re simultaneously becoming familiar with the platform they’ve just adopted… The faster they become familiar, the faster they onboard and begin putting the platform to use for mutual benefit.
#3—Use your TCMA platform for to-channel initiatives, too
The incredible thing about compulsory outbound solutions like xAmplify is that they force various and previously scattered pieces of channel marketing strategy to happen in one platform. This makes the first half of the TCMA acronym—the through-channel portion—an unprecedented model for success. With ease and simplicity, partners participate, you get insight into never-before-seen metrics, and you can dole out MDF (the reward you promised earlier) knowing that it’s going to partners who’ll put it to the best use.
This may all be enough to keep channel partners from leaving your program. But don’t forget that there’s a “to-partner” mode in addition to the “through-partner” mode.
Using this alternate mode allows you to keep that initial introductory momentum going by delivering check-ins, newsletters, videos, case studies, white papers, educational materials, current sales enablement tools, product highlights, SPIF campaigns (more reward!), and more straight to their inbox. No portal or PRM login necessary.
Plus, with data insight to show you how often they’re opening, clicking, reading and watching, you’ll know exactly when to pull back and when to keep reaching out.