The Channel Marketing Challenge
Local channel marketing has become increasingly more important for brands over the last several years. Getting channel partners to engage in online local marketing is the new channel marketing challenge.
Why do brands need their partners to do channel marketing?
Channel partners often give marketing very little attention. A small business can rely on word of mouth and the marketing efforts of the brands they carry to find new opportunities. Customers are either referred by previous customers or find their way to the channel partner through networking.
Over the last decade search, mobile, and social marketing have all become local focused. The large search providers have found over half the searches done have local intent. For this reason they give the local provider significant preference in search results. The same is true with mobile search and it also extends to ads where proximity is increasingly being used for targeting.
Social presents its own channel marketing challenges. Social requires engagement and local channel partners are often in a much better position to engage than national brands.
With critical marketing avenues focusing on local it has become imperative local channel partners participate in the marketing effort for the brand. This is the new channel marketing challenge.
Why is channel marketing difficult for the partner?
So why don’t channel partners do more marketing? Channel partners are small businesses that often have no internal marketing capabilities. From a staffing standpoint they might not have any personnel dedicated to marketing. If they do have someone in the function it usually is a fairly junior person.
Another challenge with channel marketing is channel partners often don’t trust the brands they carry to do their marketing. They won’t let the brand market to their leads and they won’t give the brand visibility to their sales pipeline. What channel partners fear is a lead finding its way to another channel partner. This severely limits the brands ability to engage locally.
To help stimulate partner marketing engagement brands often offer to fund it. They do this in the form of COOP Advertising or Marketing Development Funds (MDF). You’d think that offering to pay for someone to do marketing would solve the problem. In reality, the paperwork process and claim/reimbursement duration often cause these funds to go unused. We’ll develop a post to help you understand this more deeply in the weeks to come.
What should the brand do about it?
The great channel dilemma: the partner doesn’t have the ability to do channel marketing themselves, but they aren’t willing to let the brand do it for them. What should the brand do?
- Educate channel partners on local marketing opportunities and the importance of taking advantage of them.
- Create marketing programs that are easily customized and executed by channel partners.
- Pre-approve use of COOP and MDF for the programs you create for your partners.
- Enable partners to work their lead database without uploading it to the brand.
- Teach them channel marketing best practices
- Use incentives to reward them for doing marketing.
- Set expectations for local channel marketing and measure and monitor activity and results.
Everyday there is a new marketing tool claiming to address the channel marketing challenge. Don’t get caught up in the latest tool. Develop a consistent approach and integrate tools as they make sense. Constantly monitor ROI of all tools.
A brand relationship with channel partners is a long term investment. Be smart and develop an approach that will enable you to optimize over time. Like all forms of marketing these days, let the data be your guide to success with this new channel marketing challenge.
Learn more about channel incentives, our Channel Success Platform™, SPIFFs, Rebates, Co-Op/MDF, volume incentives, sell-through allowances, and reward points programs.