Expert Opinions: Leveraging Channel Partners for 360-degree Digital Marketing Amplification

Sales | 5 minutes to read

21st Jul, 2021

Channel partners are the extended arm of the companies to connect and engage with a wider audience. With digital transformations becoming rampant, the role of channel partners has become crucial to drive brand and product awareness for the last mile customers. However, brands need to address several challenges of digital enablement of partner community.

Snapshot:

    • Digital partner marketing is crucial to deliver consistent brand messaging and positioning in terms of a company’s products and services

    • Brands need to redesign their marketing campaigns with digitally enabled tactics keeping buyer and partner journeys in mind

    • There is a big gap in partner enablement and digital readiness in SMB segments such as consumer electronics, retail, etc

    • It is crucial to set clear KPIs at the beginning in terms of the quantum of amplification, market routes, and campaign execution

    Sales and marketing complement each other. Sales is a process that has its own gestation cycle. Whether a brand is looking to expand into new market verticals or launch a new product, or maximize reach in the existing market, all of these require consistent marketing efforts. This is where the role of channel partners proves to be a great asset as they provide a head start to the vendors in launching their campaigns. Channel partners also provide scale to allow brands to get established in the market, maximize reach, and increase sales. Earlier, channel partners were used primarily as the last mile distributor contributing only to revenue generation. However, with technological advancements, it is imperative for them to become digital-ready and engage meaningfully with the target audience.

    However, when it comes to channel partner marketing, enterprises find themselves wrangling with the digital enablement conundrum. Recently, Denave organized a webinar where industry veterans shared a stage to discuss various challenges of channel partner marketing. They shared key steps to overcome partner marketing challenges and its importance in amplifying digital marketing campaigns manifolds.

    Speaking at the webinar were MP Narayan, VP – APAC, Denave; Carol Hildebrandt, Director of Channel Marketing, APJ Dell Technologies; and Roelof Holwerda, Global Director of Partner Demand Generation, Dell.

    Watch the webinar to dig deep into partner marketing digital enablement

    Importance of planning market amplification through channel partners 

    Planning for partner marketing is crucial to deliver consistent brand messaging and positioning vis-à-vis the products and offerings to the target customers. It contributes significantly to a company’s ability to scale across countries and even globally. Companies get a balanced and direct channel strategy to achieve maximum amplification of marketing campaigns.

    In the words of Carol Hildebrandt, Director of Channel Marketing, APJ Dell Technologies, “Planning for through partner marketing contributes towards a company’s ability to scale with consistency across countries or even the world. Done the right way, it presents unique opportunities for making more meaningful partner journeys and connections with customers.”

    Planning and executing digital marketing campaigns with channel partners

    Brands need to design their campaigns for digitally-enabled tactics keeping buyer’s journeys in mind. They must ensure complementary partnership with the partners to execute the campaigns along the buyer’s journey. Brands and partners must work together to create awareness in the market for end customers and tap into the potential demand. In addition to the customer journey, the vendors need to have a notion of partner journey. This will help partners understand how and why to be digital-ready and execute a buyer’s journey campaign. Some partners need more help than others, while some are up to speed on digital readiness. It is a nested process of a buyer’s journey and partner’s journey.

    Roelof Holwerda, Global Director of Partner Demand Generation, Dell, says “The vendor campaigns for partners need to be designed for digitally-enabled tactics and make it easy for partners to execute these campaigns. The partners’ and vendors’ thinking should be aligned with buyer journey thinking across digital and non-digital touchpoints for better outcomes.”

    Read this blog to understand Denave’s channel management and partner acquisition.

    Challenges that channel partners face with digital enablement

    Partners often face bottlenecks with designing the campaign structure. Channel partners have difficulty planning the campaign in terms of campaign tactics and expected outcomes. The vendors often plan similar tactics for diverse markets with similar KPIs focused only on pipeline and ROI. As a result, a big gap emerges between enablement and readiness of channel partners in Industry verticals like consumer electronics, retail, telecom, and SMB segment.

    Technology sectors are thriving in driving channel partner enablement. However, other industry verticals like construction, manufacturing, etc., specifically the ones focusing on SMBs, are facing a lot of digital resistance. They are scrambling to connect the dots required for amplifying campaigns in their channel ecosystem. Many of them have a strategy, but they don’t have platform readiness, campaign management tools, and think-through focus on amplification on a continuous basis.

    Talking about the challenges, MP Narayan, VP – APAC, Denave, elaborated, “Enterprises should plan and structure partner digital enablement campaigns carefully. They forget to tie the campaign tactics with expected outcomes. In many cases, enterprises implement a global campaign for a specific region. They miss out on planning for those resources: Process, tools, enablement, or readiness, and amplification methods. Prioritizing these KPIs at the beginning can help them achieve the better yield, every time.”

    Unlock more insights about why channel partners fail to amplify digital marketing efforts.

    What are the best practices to enable and get channels partners digital ready?

    When the companies start to expand, they have to optimize their existing selling through relationships. There is a need to amplify, expand, and engage with a much larger audience. Let’s look at some of the best practices in terms of partner enablement.

    • It is crucial that vendors must offer tools and resources to help partners understand digital marketing channels.
    • Vendors must make it easy for the partners to run with their marketing campaigns.
    • Allow partners to customize the source messaging of the vendor and integrate it with their own brand identity. There are partners who rely completely on the resources of the brands and use their strength to drive the marketing campaigns forward.
    • Vendors can also share some assets for the partners to use with their website, email sending tools, or syndication tools.
    • Vendors can also offer concierge services to allow partners to quickly get up to speed with a campaign strategy.
    • Vendors can direct and enable the partners through tools like newsletters, periodic marketing events, or webinars. Partners need to have updated information on the latest trends and technologies.

    Digital resistors vs. digital enablers 

    Covid-19 has compelled many resisting channel partners to quickly catch up with digital marketing tactics. There are those who have embraced digital technology and are achieving exceptional outcomes. The pre-covid market had more digital resistors than the current scenario. The overall marketing mix was event-heavy, with companies having large sales and technical workforce and smaller marketing teams. However, after the onset of covid-19, rapid adjustments were needed as events were no longer possible. This has made it compulsory for the partner community to accept the importance of digital marketing. The last 15 months have seen a rapid digital acceleration and an increased uptake for digitally-enabled campaigns.

    The big question now is how to do digital marketing and the principal steps to achieve as a partner to get ready for digital tactics. It is crucial to develop content and resources around the principles of digital marketing for training the partners. There are opportunities for partners to make meaningful connections with customers in terms of buying journey. The partners must have a digital presence to offer the customers additional value. Data analytics on top of digital tactics helps partners measure and track the outcomes and success of the program.

    How can SMBs leverage digital marketing to grow their business and build a strong channel marketing community? 

    SMBs have smaller teams that make the purchase decision. Hence, it becomes crucial to target smaller groups or individual buyers by executing campaigns and messages around smaller buying teams. Also, specific products and offerings that are targeted to a particular segment of the SMB would be useful. SMB vendors must set clear KPIs at the beginning as to how much amplification they want from the channel partners, identify the channel partners with whom they want to work, and ready them to execute the campaigns seamlessly.

    Companies must start with the brand and messaging with end goals in mind. They need to develop campaigns with a solution approach and identify different routes to market. There are many social media channels and social media automation tools that allow brands to have a presence at different channels seamlessly. All this doesn’t require a hard reset. Just simple changes can improve campaigns by several folds.

    Read this case study to get more insights on SMB penetration strategy

    Wrapping up

    At the very least, having a website and a social media presence is absolutely vital today. It is also important to recognize that digital is not a quick one-off process but a journey. There is a gap between the results and the ROI in digital marketing. Hence, plan carefully, start early, and keep doing it. Digital marketing is a trial-and-error process. Right content, right customer personas, right channels, right messaging is the mixed bag that is the most crucial in digital partner marketing.

    Know more about Denave’s partner marketing solutions.

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