Partner Enablement Must Be Top Priority, Say ChannelWeek Presenters

by Terry Moffatt, Editor, Channel Marketer Report
Republished with permission from Channel Marketer Report

Enabling partners to play a bigger role in marketing their own brands, as well as those of the vendors they represent, was a common theme in the presentations made during ChannelWeek, a week-long webinar series hosted by Channel Marketer Report and its sister publication, Demand Gen Report (DGR).
To ensure that established or new indirect sales programs can help vendors distance themselves from the competition, it is imperative that companies provide the support and incentives necessary to enable and encourage partners to become more effective marketers.
Maria Chien, Service Director for Channel Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions, set the tone for ChannelWeek with her first-in-the-series presentation, Fast-Tracking Demand Creation Via The Channel: Driving Better Engagement And Marketing Performance With Partners.
“A growing number of B2B organizations are attempting to shift greater demand gen responsibilities to their partners” she noted. “To do so effectively, suppliers must gain a better understanding of their partners’ marketing capabilities, enable partners to use the marketing programs they provide, and motivate them to execute those programs.”
Vendors must be careful to provide the information partners need to optimize the programs made available to them, Chien emphasized. All too often, vendors fail to provide the guidance on how to make use of the marketing tools and funding being provided. Without this instruction, even the most turn-key program can seem like a series of cumbersome processes to deliver uncertain results.

Partner-Centric Practices Critical to Channel Program Success

“You have to put the partners first,” said Cameron Avery, VP of Business Development at Zift Solutions. During his presentation, aptly titled, How A Partner-First Approach Drives Revenue & ROI, Avery commented that the increasing independence of partners is requiring vendors to rethink their relationships with them. Vendors no longer “own their partners,” he said. Instead, vendors must place partners “at the center of your universe to grab their attention and treat them the way they want to be treated.”

Harbinder Khera, CEO and Founder of Mindmatrix, addressed one of the key barriers that keep vendors from being more partner-centric. As he explained in his presentation, How Corporate Marketing Can Align Activities With Channel Programs, Khera commented that misalignment of corporate marketing programs with partner-supporting initiatives wastes resources and leads to low levels of partner engagement.

Dana Harder, VP of Strategy at Content4Demand, specifically addressed how corporate marketing teams can generate more value from the content they create by repurposing it for channel partner distribution. During her presentation, Tailoring New Content Models Specifically For The Channel, Harder shared research data, best practices models and use case data on how the latest trends in content marketing can be applied to channel marketing programs. “When you overlay content preferences that we know buyers want and are craving with channel marketing goals, you’re going to end up with a much stronger strategy.”

Incentives Drive Partner Adoption of Digital Marketing Tools

Compelling partners to adopt digital channel marketing solutions to activate those strategies remains a challenge, noted Claudio Ayub, Chief Strategy Officer at Perks WW. “Digital transformation of your partners’ businesses is a complex and multifaceted endeavor,” he said during his presentation, titled: Accelerate Your Partners’ Digital Transformation With Point-Based Rewards. Since the majority of partners have yet to align their sales processes with the new buyers’ digital journey, “established brands are really scrambling to leverage their through-channel marketing automation technology to be able to deliver ROI.”

Engaging partners with behavior-changing, point-based incentives is critical to enticing them to take full advantage of modern digital channel marketing solutions, said Ayub. During his presentation, he reviewed the benefits of point-based incentives versus other reward programs and discussed best practices for point-based incentive programs that accelerate digital marketing proficiency among partners.

Persuading partners to be better marketers has never been more important, said Diane Krakora, Principal at PartnerPath, because partners own the relationship with customers more than ever. During her presentation, 5 Stages Of The Partner Journey, Krakora addressed the important role that demand gen teams play in recruiting and retaining more discerning, high-performing partners.

Just as it is with consumers, data shows that about 60% of a channel partner’s decision on what products to market, sell and support is completed before vendors are engaged in an enrollment process, according to Krakora.

Demand Gen Professionals Aim to Sharpen Channel Marketing Skills

ChannelWeek was created by Channel Marketer Report and Demand Gen Report in response to several indicators that a broader audience of demand gen professionals wants to sharpen their channel marketing skills.

Indeed, as more companies expand their channel programs or launch new initiatives, finding highly skilled channel marketers can be challenging. Formal training education programs are few and far between, channel leaders lament. “There is no curriculum in universities that talks about channel or indirect marketing,” said Michelle Chiantera, Cisco’s VP of Global Partner and Commercial Marketing. “I think that is fundamentally a challenge, because people are coming out of universities without a foundational understanding of what an indirect selling model looks like.”

In addition to ChannelWeek, Channel Marketer Report and Demand Gen Report are creating other opportunities for demand generation professionals to learn more about channel marketing best practices. For example, B2B Marketing Exchange in Scottsdale last February presented an inaugural offering of channel-focused sessions that attracted standing-room-only audiences and requests for an expanded program. In 2019, the number of channel sessions will be doubled.

“We’re not surprised that DGR subscribers, B2BMX attendees, and of course, the readers of CMR, are eager to learn more about the best practices that boost through-channel marketing programs,” said Andrew Gaffney, president of G3 Communications, the publisher of both CMR and DGR. “With as much as 75% of world trade being sold through indirect sales channels, it’s absolutely necessary for companies to optimize their partner programs. For companies that are just beginning to launch or expand indirect sales programs to drive more revenue, building them on a foundation of best practices and the technology that enable them is crucial to driving ROI.”

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