- Channel marketing has increased organizational visibility and accountability for corporate growth objectives
- Transformative change brings complexity, challenges and opportunities for channel marketing practitioners
- Three universal themes remain top-of-mind for channel professional in annual planning
With two thirds of global trade flowing indirectly, the channel has never played a more crucial a role in achieving organizational growth objectives. The volume and pace of change in the channel today provides challenges and opportunities. As channel marketers finalize annual plans, there are three universal pain points that emerge: data, prioritization and innovation.
The channel is in the midst of transformation — with new partner types, business models and go-to-market motions in the mix. Add to that a new partner and/or incentives programs, modernized for your evolving partner ecosystem. And with heightened visibility of the channel comes increased accountability. Channel marketers must be able to validate their contribution to organizational goals and/or ROI for partner marketing activities. It all adds up to more complexity for channel marketers.
This complexity is why the Channel Marketing Strategies service at SiriusDecisions is growing. Over the last year, there has been a dramatic increase in customer inquiries across the five strategic priorities of strategy and planning, channel demand creation, partner program design and optimization, partner enablement and engagement, and channel marketing functional design and development.
As a former SiriusDecisions client, I found it was an easy decision to join the practice when the opportunity arose. I know the stressors of being a channel marketing practitioner in the trenches and having to make decisions on where to place scarce resources of time and effort to maximize impact. I have felt the pain of not having accurate partner data and suffering from a lack of alignment with channel sales upstream. I’ve also experienced the benefits of applying SiriusDecisions frameworks and models to achieve crawl, walk and run successes. To now spend my days empowering fellow channel marketers and elevating the perception of and impact on the business is a privilege.
Joining nearly 100 channel marketing conversations in the last 60 days has reinforced the breadth and depth of strategic initiatives, programs and topics facing channel marketers today. Regardless of the important individual specifics, there are three striking commonalities that surface in nearly every discussion:
- Data. The channel historically struggles with poor visibility into marketing performance metrics due to siloed data across multiple disconnected systems. Yet today, channel marketers have more data than ever from a myriad of channel marketing technology tools and programs. This has practitioners leaning in to mature their approach to measurement and management. The pursuit of mastering reporting meaningful metrics is a shared obligation in the community, in part to take ownership of reshaping any lingering reputation as simply a sales support function. Improvements are often a phased approach that starts with what is available and incrementally expands and optimizes. Nirvana is valid, normalized, enriched and consolidated data — available in real time. Savvy channel marketing leaders speak the language of the business and can quantify how channel marketing activity directly impacts business objectives by aligning with channel sales success.
- Prioritization. As channel marketing’s role is elevated in the organization and new responsibilities are added to a practitioners’ plate, what tasks are removed (if any)? It becomes an important question of where to focus at the inflection point where more doesn’t always mean better. When you are heads-down in execution mode, it is imperative to intentionally step off the reactionary merry-go-round and properly prioritize. The majority of channel marketers have more requests for resources than time or funding to deliver on them. When adding headcount and/or budget isn’t an option, there are often tough decisions to be made. Channel marketers looking to confidently prioritize the strategies and core programs when entering the annual planning process must objectively assess and benchmark the current state. A recent spike in completed SiriusDecisions Channel Operating Model and Channel Marketing Maturity Model assessments confirms that channel marketing leaders are well prepared to secure the necessary alignment when interlocking with channel sales, product management and the broader marketing function as required for success.
- Innovation. The pace of change in channel marketing shows no signs of slowing. Discussing emerging channel marketing practices such as partner-to-partner matchmaking and partner-based marketing (e.g. marketing to partners using account-based marketing strategies) are great examples. The reward of piloting new approaches and iterative optimization roadmaps helps to amplify channel impact. Yet it is also striking that what is old appears to be new again. In more than 20 years as a channel marketing practitioner, I recall the days — without sophisticated channel technology — when several similar practices were in play. They were called other names, delivered by analog and not automated. Insights were the result of human interactions, personalized content recommendations were delivered by direct mail, and partner networking was coordinated in planning sessions with channel sales counterparts. What is undeniably new is how channel marketers are operationalizing and advancing the practice. Look and plan for innovation to be on the agenda as you finalize your annual channel marketing plans.
If you are looking to solve these pain points in your organization, unpack the five planning assumptions that should drive the agenda for channel marketing leaders in 2020 in this on-demand webcast.
It is a great time to be in channel marketing — and to join the Channel Marketing Strategies service to support your strategic channel marketing initiatives with actionable intelligence, transformative frameworks and guidance.