Channel Wide Triggered Marketing: A Precedent In Data Collaboration Between Brands And Channel Partners

Jared Shusterman Head ShotBy Jared Shusterman, Managing Partner and CEO, SproutLoud


Triggered marketing — the practice of basing a marketing communication’s content, timing, and delivery medium on measureable events relevant to the consumer — has been around for some time.  Despite that, “less than 20% of marketing organizations today,” are doing it correctly, according to Adam Sarner, Research VP at Gartner.  If triggered marketing were a marginally valuable tactic, then its weak embrace by channel organizations could be perceived as warranted. To the contrary, virtually every statistic I run across shows that triggered marketing’s payoff is well worth the investment.

Why is triggered marketing important for brands selling in the channel dynamic?

  1. Brands that sell through channel partners are involved in the complex spider webs of VARs, retailers, franchisees or the like, where opportunities for brand-partner alignment to grow sales gets lost, Triggered Marketing is precedent setting data-focused collaboration.
  2. Brand and partner get to work together to create personalized communications that foster customer loyalty and an emotional connection to both partner and brand, leading to customer retention.
  3. Channel partners do not have the bandwidth to create and send personalized and precisely timed messages at scale. 
  4. Because customers receive messages and touch points in the context of relevant dates and behaviors, message fatigue is less likely.

 If it is powerful, then why is it underutilized by channel organizations?

In short, it’s because triggered marketing requires integrated systems that take advantage of in-depth customer data. For traditional email or direct mail, you buy a list, develop a few templates for the communications, batch them, and blast them out. To apply triggered marketing to email and direct mail, you need a minimum of the following:

  1. A customer database with data about significant dates, such as customer birthdays, when customers made certain purchases, projected contract renewals, etc.  It is even better if your database takes into account behavioral variables like increased or diminished ordering or an abandoned shopping cart.
  2. A repository of all templates and content you need for communications.
  3. An email marketing software or service, and a direct mail distribution system, which syncs with marketing assets in the repository and queried results of your customer database.           
  4. A way to track redemption.

 The underutilization of triggered marketing is also part of a larger problem; brands that sell through channel partners have a hard time managing the communications lifecycle with customers because customer data is owned and controlled by those channel partners. Despite the fact that partners can benefit greatly from applying brand level resources to their local customer data, access to that data is often tightly held, as partners sometimes fear brands will circumvent them if given direct access to customers. The brand must extend the olive branch to get access to data, that when used in triggered communications, will increase brand and channel partner revenue.

To gain access to partner data, brands must do the following:

  • Work with a vendor that will deploy marketing tactics across traditional, digital and social channels, while serving as the neutral intermediary that guards sacred data and keeps brand and partner interests at heart.
  • Reiterate the intermediary’s independence from the brand.  The brand must reassure channel partners through messaging and a well-defined data policy that there is no risk of the brand monopolizing partner data and cannibalizing partner sales.
  • Be loud and clear that they are taking on maintenance and fine-tuning for triggered communications. 
  • Offer turnkey opt-in participation for channel partners to receive maximum adoption.    

Brands can learn a lot collaborating with their partners and the right vendor to execute triggered marketing.  Brand creative departments have to think of all events that are relevant (on which to base triggered communications) in the context of the relationship between brand and consumer, experienced vendors should also be able to consult on this.

There are four event categories businesses can tap:

1. Fixed or Transactional Events: Predicable and or reoccurring events based on fixed customer information or normal transactional behavior. Event examples are birthdays, customer onboarding, service renewal dates, etc.

2. Behavioral Events: Actions or inactions a customer takes to further engage or disengage with a business. Event examples are account activity, web form submittal or give up, shopping cart abandonment, etc. 

3. Environmental Events: Changes in external factors that can make a customer more aware of a particular offer. Event examples are weather, public health, legislation, and social inertia or consciousness changes.  

4. Behavior Shift Events: A big event that will change a customer’s relationship with a brand. Event examples include moving, pregnancy, buying a car, etc.       

Creative marketing departments for large brands will discover the events that are relevant to customers, and which of those events make most sense for brands to address in the context of their relationship with those customers. The execution of the email or direct mail campaigns to deliver that clever, relevant, and timely messaging can be done in-house or through the vendor relationship I discussed above. If a vendor is sought, they should have experience executing triggered communications within the channel dynamic. 

Local marketing automation does not equal local marketing standardization. Triggered marketing done correctly helps channel partners be even better at what they are best at: Providing that personal touch.  The task for the brand is automating personalization at scale for their channel partners; triggered email and direct mail are indispensable tools for doing just that.         



Jared Shusterman is Managing Partner and CEO at SproutLoud Media Networks. In 2005, as a recent graduate of the McIntire School at the University of Virginia, and working for investment banking practice Thomas Weisel Partners, Shusterman moved to Miami to start SproutLoud before the pressures of fatherhood and a mortgage could scare him out of entrepreneurship. Always looking for something new to learn, he’s recently started Spanish lessons and is currently an MBA-candidate with Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University. He’s an aspiring pilot with a fear of flying (weird) and likes any spicy food that makes him cry (same goes for chick-flicks). Shusterman was honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Entrepreneur in 2010 by South Florida Business Journal, and a top 50 Entrepreneur in 2012 by Business Leader Magazine.



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