Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard a growing drumbeat of complaints about marketing in the IT channel. I’ve heard it from channel managers, field marketers, partner marketing and sales teams. I’ve heard it phrased a dozen different ways. I’ve heard it applied to email, digital, events and telesales. But the message is always the same: “We’re not getting the traction from marketing programs we’ve always counted on.”
Discussions like this are happening on LinkedIn groups, blogs, forums, and in the lobbies of channel marketing events. But talk is cheap. It’s time to draw a dividing line between companies that are doing something productive to move their channel marketing forward, and companies that just talk about it, or dabble in trendy campaigns and call it innovation.
There are a lot of contributing factors to the flattening out of channel marketing effectiveness, but here are the most common issues I hear:
- Competition in the channel is becoming more intense. There are a lot more international companies and upstarts angling for partner engagement.
- The channel is getting noisier by the day. Content volume is going up exponentially, but quality isn’t. It’s getting harder to be heard.
- Customers are doing more research online and through social, and engaging less with marketing and sales campaigns.
- Partners are harder to engage and motivate, and most don’t have the resources to make MDF campaigns really fly.
While the complaints are growing and the causes becoming more obvious, solutions seem elusive. Some companies talk about innovation, but repeatedly budget only for the same old lead churning programs. Some companies chase marketing trends, jumping from one campaign to the next without moving the needle. Some companies refuse to budge from a commitment to nothing more than sales incentives—“Because it works!” Except when it doesn’t.
These companies are stuck. They’ll keep churning leads, grasping at trends, and demanding more volume from partners, even while they know performance is lagging. Beating a tired horse won’t make it go any faster, but it’s a lot easier than dealing with change.
Channel Forward companies are different. Channel Forward companies recognize that status quo marketing has become so commoditized it’s no longer driving growth, no longer supporting differentiation, and not even delivering once-reliable efficiency. Channel Forward companies actively invest in changing their channel game, even if it’s only a small part of their budget.
Channel Forward companies are smart enough to know the difference between trends and true innovation, because they apply a systematic approach to partner engagement to figure out which partners and which programs can help them grow market share. Channel Forward companies still measure success in sales, but they engage their partners in defining and pursuing shared objectives.
Channel Forward companies are few and far between in today’s market, but as the status quo stalls, they’re the companies with the competitive and disruptive edge.
If you’re interested in discussing new channel marketing techniques, leave a comment and describe the challenges you face with channel marketing, or the tactics you’ve found successful.