By Amanda Phillips, MD & Head Of Strategy, Volume Global
Channel partners have consistently proven critical to the success of vendor marketing strategies, especially those operating on a global scale. For large tech firms that have internal resources stretched to their limit, partners are invaluable, especially in their ability to offer expertise, as well as helping to drive sales and improve market share.
However, this success is easier said than done and many organizations still struggle to achieve a high success rate in selecting the best partners. In fact, it is estimated that 95% of a vendor’s channel revenue will be generated through just 5% of its total partnerships; a large discrepancy and no doubt a point of consternation for many organizations.
The search to find the most effective partners who will truly support your business starts with the best intentions, but often trips up somewhere along the line. As a result, businesses that are able to provide the largest potential for revenue remain tricky to uncover.
Striking a balance between a rigorous enough level of due diligence and a sense of urgency is one thing, but successful partner recruitment encompasses a host of further challenges. Are you successfully conveying your channel objectives in order to attract the partners skilled enough to meet them? Are you casting the net wide enough to catch the best talent?
Loyalty currently is a buzzword within the marketing industry, as companies seek to foster longer-term brand relationships with stakeholders that go far beyond the product. Utilizing new and emerging digital and social channels, brands are seeking to effectively create two-way, honest and transparent partnerships with people to ensure that the small details are inconsequential in light of the bigger picture.
The fundamental principles of these high-quality relationships are just as relevant within channel marketing: a balanced exchange of value through collaboration in order to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Yet the stumbling block still remains: How do you not only find the right partners, but ensure they remain motivated and effective over a long-term period?
We’re all well aware of the now infamous IBM statistic, claiming that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day. In turn, smart organizations increasingly are applying the data-driven insight they leverage throughout their businesses to the channel.
For an insight-driven approach to be truly effective, required skills are rooted in having an appreciation for the commercial goals of the business, and understanding how to create the right questions needed to drive the optimum solution. Data-driven insight, seamlessly integrated with such processes paves a clear path toward better business decisions.
Identifying channel partners is traditionally a lengthy process, but can be streamlined by quickly seeking to understand which pieces of quantitative and qualitative information are of the most value. Often, vendors rely too heavily on analyzing revenue and profit generated to make a quick partner decision. This is a dangerously narrow view because it neglects the enormous amount of factors that affect perception, sentiment, motivation and the experience in general.
To drive better results, there is a need to look beyond the traditional “business” and “consumer” divide, seeking out the broader picture of the professional and the person. Taking such an approach allows you to create a rounded out profile, leading to better decision making.
To begin to incorporate such a view requires some initial basic lateral thinking. For example, how loyal is this supplier to its current clients? What is the average length of their partnership? How many competitive brands do they carry? Are there any statistics that are in fact outliers that will wildly skew results crucial to making a conclusion?
But the questions shouldn’t end there. What about the personal context of the individual prospects the outreach is being targeted at? How do they consume media? Are they more amenable to a phone call or a personalized email? How do they view their business and the market context within which they are working? What values and attributes do they look for in a vendor? Through the application of even simple analytics, vendors can begin to understand the broader picture and increase accuracy of assessment by a highly significant amount.
More often than not, the partners who look perfect on paper haven’t been fully assessed. Subsequently, further insight can be used to create appropriate partnership offers, and in turn, guarantee the on-boarding process is a quick and productive one
Amanda Phillips has spent the last 20 years working within digital and direct agencies, both leading them to CEO level, as a strategic planner and as a non-executive director. She joined digital agency Volume in 2012 as MD and Head of Strategy to drive the agency’s strategic vision and help build their global network. Amanda graduated with an honors degree in Psychology and has recently completed her Masters degree in social science. She has applied this academic understanding in behavioral psychology to develop a planning approach to help clients make more informed decisions about marketing. Amanda is a regular panelist on industry awards judging and as a speaker. She is an honorary fellow of the Institute of Direct Marketing and has recently been appointed as a trustee to the UK board of Plan, an international children’s charity.