Last week’s Forrester Tech Tide: Channel Software Q1 report offers a great moment of clarity for channel marketers, especially those who find themselves wondering how to do more with less in the face of reduced budgets.
The challenge is not one of whether or not we are doing the right things; the report, authored by researcher Jay McBain, validates the continued use of conventional channel marketing strategies but with a renewed focus on how the traditional programs are measured and refined.
Here are some of the reports key takeaways:
Channel Programs Deliver High Value
The great news is that there are no net new strategies to get our heads around, only refined ways of looking at our existing universe of channel programs. As the report says, “Given the business buyers’ need for specialization, providing the right level of partner marketing assets at the right time is critical.”
The symbiotic nature of channel marketing programs means that what drives value for channel partners is most-often going to be what drives value for us as channel marketers. Let’s look at how enterprises offering innovative incentive programs to their channels can expect to maximize their martech investment.
For channel technologies, business value translates into four key pillars:
- Automating key processes – How can we do more, learn more and attribute more by automating processes such as deployment, processing and measurement.
- Improving channel management efficiencies – How can we reduce the administrative burden of delivering, managing and planning our channel incentive programs.
- Lowering the cost of indirect programs – Lowering the cost of indirect programs gives us the ability to offer more programs, or more specialized programs, depending on the desired effect we are looking to have.
- Improving business agility and partner performance – As with above, what’s good for the partners is good for the enterprise. Empowering our partners to sell more volume more easily drives value back up the chain for everyone involved.
The report emphasizes, “As partner programs grow with new types of buyers and partners, automating incentive programs is crucial to driving the right behaviors while managing complicated financial arrangements.” Which brings us to the report’s next key finding…
Channel Data is the Key
It’s 2018, and by now many marketers are sitting on a ton of data but are not sure what to do with it all. “As channels become increasingly data-driven, access to clean, trustworthy, and auditable data across myriad sources is critical. It’s especially important for larger hardware companies with multitier channels.”
Put differently, the challenge stated by the is simply this; nobody is struggling with a lack of information and yet many are reporting a vast delta between expectation and results. “Most indirect programs struggle with a lack of actionable data, including ways to measure and visualize data in a timely fashion. Supporting new types of partners requires access to actionable channel data at multiple levels of the organization including sales, marketing, finance, and operations.”
Channel Success Depends on Technology
The most apparent, most resounding message of the entire report has got to be that channel growth requires automation:
“As partner programs grow with new types of buyers and partners, automating incentive programs is crucial to driving the right behaviors while managing complicated financial arrangements. No organization’s channel strategy can be considered complete without a full set of robust incentives. Motivating channel partners of different types to be committed and loyal requires a mix of programs that incent not only the owner-principals but also the frontline staff. In many industries, partners sell a myriad of other products, including competitors, and getting mindshare is critical to success.”
Keep Your Eye on the ROI
To wrap it up, the latest Tech Tide is a call to arms for enterprises who find their marketing technology stacks bloated with a bunch of tools that are not being leveraged to capacity or worse; nobody is even sure what the tools do to drive business value.
Technology is meant to be your servant, not your master and the ROI for these tools should be built right in and apparent for all to see. Implementing a technology solution is generally a significant investment and can be a ton of work – there is no avoiding that. The point is, however, that the expenditure should yield a tangible and easily attributed return for the enterprise.