7 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE B2B CHANNEL MARKETING

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1 7 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE B2B CHANNEL MARKETING Follow Us: Phone:

2 Accelerating Sales Growth The continuing paradigm shift in the IT market shows steady movement towards a greater focus on the Channel to increase sales, achieve increased market penetration and enhance brand recognition. More and more, large vendors are announcing their intent to bolster their Channel efforts and direction, recognizing the substantial growth that can be attained. The bottom line is truly the bottom line how to increase revenues while reducing the overhead and direct costs of driving those increases. With the pervasive growth of the Internet, there has been a dramatic shift in how technology buyers educate themselves about new solutions. Businesses today have many more options in their buying cycles from research tools, analysis, social media, and an expansive reseller community. This has changed the sales process dramatically, and technology vendors are racing to adapt. Potential customers are expecting more competitive pricing, improved value, and consultative services to complement their process. Still, the channel model presents a number of challenges that must be identified and overcome in order to realize the full benefits and revenues. These challenges are both internal to the vendor, external with the partner, and ultimately, reflected at the customer level as well. Sirius Decisions, a leading marketing advisory firm, identifies three Channel models that can be applied, each bringing different methodologies and approaches to the relationship and direction: Supplier to Partner programs suppliers use to raise awareness and drive demand with their channel partners Partner to Customer Supplier created programs that partners execute with their customers Supplier to Customer Campaigns focused on feeding partners leads and opportunities. Page 2

3 So Many Challenges Prime vendors are faced with many challenges in identifying; qualifying, and potentially, on boarding new channel partners. This becomes an ongoing effort, not only in Partner Management, but providing the sales and marketing enablement tools that can help ensure the best chance of sales success. Ongoing channel education programs on solutions, products, and consistent messaging are critical factors to building a successful partner relationship. Managing MDFs and Co op funding will always be a key focus of any channel relationship. Ensuring that funds are budgeted and allocated to the channel partners, while monitoring their usage and implementation, will help drive the focus on specific solution areas and brand recognition. Firms that allocate these funds to their Channel partners have shown dramatic increases in sales over those that do not. Lead/Opportunity Management. Tracking the progress and status of lead opportunities delivered to partners has always presented a challenge. Proprietary information, sales nature, and a general lack of feedback and reporting create a disconnect in measuring the effectiveness of channel related marketing initiatives. Often the prime vendor won t know about a deal until it closes, and therefore, can offer limited support and expertise to help their channel partners in successfully closing deals. Partner follow up activity. No one likes to make cold calls. Traditionally, research continually shows that sales representatives will make limited efforts to follow up on leads they are provided, and in some cases, they will sit dormant. One recent study by Insidesales.com showed that the average number of follow up attempts to trade show lead activity resulted in an average of less than one and a half follow up attempts. Obviously, this limits any effective results. Timing of Follow ups. In addition to the challenge of follow up activity to leads, the timing of those follow ups is critical. An interested, qualified prospect is often ready to continue their initial conversation or inquiry within a matter of hours or days. Too many leads sit for weeks before they are followed up on, and the lack of effective reporting mechanisms means that the oversight of the lead follow up activity becomes extremely limited. Nurturing of leads. As marketing maturity grows in the industry, more channel partners will become aware of the values of lead nurturing. While the size of the Page 3

4 channel partner is often aligned to their marketing maturity; there is still a prevalent focus on the short term deal making the numbers before the month, quarter, or year ends. Larger, more mature vendors recognize the true value of a long term solution focused on lead nurturing and cultivation, and need to drive this philosophy throughout their channel. The expansive growth of the reseller community, and the breadth of vendor solutions that they offer, has caused an overload of messaging and possibilities to an already over crowded prospect universe. So Many Solutions 1. Identify your optimal channel partner profile Because there are costs and effort associated with on boarding and maintaining a new partner, it is important that vendors look for partners that fit the corporate model. Per Sirius Decisions, channel sales and marketing often push programs out to partners, re purposing what they can without considering alignment. This alignment is critical to effective channel marketing and growth. An effective partner qualification process may evaluate corporate culture, growth, vertical markets, solution expertise, support, etc. 2. Assign dedicated resources to manage the relationship and marketing funding Greater results are apparent when the relationship between the prime vendor and channel is a true partnership, leveraging knowledge, materials, and solutions that both parties can bring to the table. 3. Evaluate Performance Ensure that channel partners maintain an agreed upon performance level. The on going cost of partner management demands that underperforming partnerships must be continually evaluated, and over performing ones recognized and rewarded. This can frequently be achieved through various partner status designations and criteria. 4. Develop Lead Nurturing Strategies Partners traditionally focus only on low hanging fruit, the short term sales opportunity, without recognizing the value of longer term, ongoing cultivation. As an entry point, prime vendors and their marketing teams or outside firms should establish specific Lead Nurturing pilot programs to help the partner and VAR community develop a cost effective framework for lead nurturing Page 4

5 and cultivation, and continue to realize the benefits of such a marketing and sales approach. 5. The Demand Center Sirius Decisions has articulated the tremendous value of the Demand Center as a centralized marketing operation to support both internal and channel programs. Aberdeen reports that 81% of leading firms provide lead generation programs and support to their channel. How can prime vendors provide this framework to enhance partner effectiveness? A large part can be addressed by providing packaged campaigns, with centralized repositories of campaign information, preferred vendors, as well as the inclusion of: Consulting Provide value added solutions and consulting to help partners with designing effective marketing campaigns. Lists Quality data sources are one of the most important drivers for a successful campaign. Providing access to pre approved and tested sources of marketing lists should be a key component of any offering. Templates Anything that can be standardized in formatting, messaging, graphics, etc. will create a valuable consistency among partners, help with brand recognition, and ultimately, assist in expediting the ramp up time for any marketing campaign. s Writing a concise, effective message is an art. Providing guidance, suggested messaging and standardized formatting will benefit the initiatives. Collateral Providing a centralized repository of product and solution briefs, marketing collateral, case studies, white papers, etc. for partner use and co branding ensures consistent messaging and quality materials to support their campaigns. Teleservices Identify teleservices vendors that meet your company s objectives, provide experienced, qualified personnel to represent your firm, and ultimately, drive sales opportunities into the pipeline. This can eliminate the wide variance of quality providers in the market, and allows for you to negotiate a reduced pricing structure based on the preferred vendor relationship. Event Services Planning the logistics, recruitment, and presentations of an event, whether a small executive gathering, webinar, road show, or major conference, takes a huge amount of effort that few resellers have available internally. Page 5

6 Identifying pre approved vendors to provide this as a pre packaged campaign will not only reduce the potential problems that can occur with any event, but will help ensure a more successful program. Call Guides Standard baseline call guide/script templates can be made available to channel partners to help conceptualize any calling campaign, while ensuring that the messaging and presentation of the prime vendor s solutions remain consistent. Social Media The apparent explosion of social media channels as a marketing tool has created an extremely cost effective means to not only promote companies, products, solutions, and events, but also serves as a tremendous tool to gather feedback from the community. Prime vendors should look to utilize social media to help partners in the promotion of their solutions. As importantly, social media can provide a great vehicle for creating a shared repository in knowledge management, for channel partners to access information, product details, marketing collateral, and potentially campaign offerings. 6. Co branded events With the abundance of resellers, name recognition continues to be a challenge. Conducting co branded events has a very positive impact on drawing attendees based on the vendor s branding, and adds further credibility to the channel partner. 7. Feedback Mechanisms Open and on going communications between prime vendors and their channel partners is a critical component to any successful relationship. Traditionally, one of the greatest challenges has been the lack of feedback and coordination on qualified opportunities between the two parties. Too often, primes have to chase down their partners to get status updates on active opportunities, by which time there may be little that the prime vendor can do to assist and support the channel partner in progressing the deal further along the sales pipeline towards a close. Not only would regularly scheduled status calls/meetings address this, but there are also many CRM and SFA tools that can be used to maintain current program updates. It is very important that primes require their channel partners to provide frequent status updates into these systems, for the reasons addressed above, as well as to ensure that continuous communications and marketing efforts in other areas do not impact the developing relationships with the prospect organizations and create conflicting messaging. Page 6

7 According to a recent Aberdeen Group report, The Extended Sales Enterprise: Channeling Better Results, firms enjoying Best in Class performance share several common characteristics, including: 81% deploy dedicated resources responsible for managing all channel sales 81% provide centralized, online partner access to products, prices, promotions, etc 79% support their channel with sales forecasting/analytics tools Addressing and implementing these 7 steps will help to build partner loyalty through support, knowledge, funding and programs, while ultimately increasing the revenue stream for both prime vendors and their channel partners. Alan Feldman is Sales and Marketing Manager at Winn Technology Group, and has focused on the design, development and execution of direct marketing campaigns for many of the leading technology vendors in the industry over the past eight years. Prior to Winn, he spent nearly 25 years as a Sr. Management Consultant in the technology, government, retail and education markets. Page 7

8 Sponsoring Organization Winn Technology Group is a privately held marketing solutions company headquartered in Palm Harbor, Florida. Exclusively providing marketing support to the technology industry since 1990, Winn has partnered with leading IT firms to develop B2B marketing solutions, conducting thousands of initiatives to: Generate qualified leads and appointments, Nurture, cultivate, and qualify actionable sales opportunities, Develop B2B channel marketing programs and partnerships, Collect and analyze valuable business intelligence, Identify and recruit attendees for B2B events, and Build brand awareness and name recognition. As the state of the technology market changes and adapts, Winn has continually been recognized for their strong focus on Lead Nurturing and Channel Marketing programs. For more information, visit our website, send us an , or call We invite you to join our LinkedIn channel marketing discussion group, share your thoughts, contribute to critical discussion, and learn from others in the industry all with the intent of improving processes and success in IT Channel Marketing. Please click on the following link to join: Page 8

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