By Brian Tervo, CEO, TIE Kinetix North America
In the average marketing department, it’s common to hear chatter around content marketing and direct marketing activities. It’s a lot less common to hear about partner marketing, which often fails to get its due and falls into the shadows of other marketing activities. Depending on the organization, this generally translates to less attention from management in the marketing department and less budget and focus dedicated to the channel marketing cause, which further exacerbates the issue.
So why is it that channel marketing efforts often play second fiddle? It all comes down to proving ROI and business value, often a challenging task in the channel due to an immense number of variables and partner layers at work. Historically, many channel marketers didn’t have the tools they needed to prove the revenue value of channel marketing to those outside the trenches, but this is beginning to change.
The following piece will look at how channel marketers can reevaluate their programs to accelerate channel ROI and prove the worth of channel marketing practices, faster.
Executing a successful partner-marketing program is no easy feat. The traditional approach to launching new initiatives in the channel involves numerous steps: The partner drafts a proposal, the vendor approves and develops the program, and the partner is then responsible for its execution. This process can take months — even years — and nine times out of 10 the program will conclude without any feedback or ROI data from the partner. This type of execution is not conducive for a vendor marketing team looking to shed more light on the channel’s profitability.
Another channel challenge is that it can be hard to get partners’ attention. This could be because offers don’t resonate, they’re too difficult to execute, there are gaps in a partner’s skill sets or partners simply have more vendor relationships than they can manage. Most resellers balance six to seven vendor relationships at once, which can easily be too much to handle and result in a general lack of engagement.
To address these issues and produce real, measurable ROI in the channel, vendors need to reexamine their approach to channel initiatives. Albert Einstein famously said, “nothing happens until something moves,” a sentiment which holds especially true for partner channel programs. For this reason, vendors should consider a phased, agile approach to executing channel projects, instead of the traditional approach that demands a complete start-to-finish plan before partners can begin execution. Let’s look at how an implementation might go using both a traditional and an agile approach.
Traditional: With a traditional approach to partner marketing, numerous steps must be taken before an initiative can be acted on. Vendors first must create a master digital partner-specific marketing plan, with all departments getting involved to offer their specs and requirements. Enrollment doesn’t begin until all elements are thought through and in place. What you’re left with is a program that still hasn’t gone live a year after signing, no demand, value or data generated and no partner involvement. There are no measurable results to show for a year’s worth of effort — nothing to further engage partners, and nothing to take back to the vendor marketing team to prove the channel’s worth. In addition, the changes that occur over the course of a year could easily mean that the original plan is out of date before execution even begins.
Agile: Agile implementations, conversely, enable a program to kick-off quickly — programs start immediately following training — with the beginnings of a basic plan, as opposed to waiting for the complete design of the entire project. The ability to build the foundation of the plan while still hammering down the details of the subsequent steps means that you are generating value faster and beginning to build ROI before the plan is completely baked. The eventual outcome of the entire design can be built on the foundation that is already in place. And during the designing stage, operational experience might lead to changes in the design based on reality, not on theory on paper. All told, this approach means a quick start to generating demand, value and data, with the likelihood of measurable results after just a few months. When you can prove the value of an initiative quickly, you get happy partners and a happy management team. You also have solid, provable ROI, which is a valuable tool to help shine a greater spotlight on the power of the channel and get it the recognition and attention it deserves as a true revenue source.
Now, perhaps you’re thinking, what measurements should channel pros be using to accurately capture partner marketing ROI? Channel pros should use brand control, lead generation and sales conversion as key performance indicators (KPI) of their channel program. Each of these elements helps partner marketing pros to measure and “see” what’s actually happening in their channel. Another “bonus KPI” is work. Pros in the indirect space should consider how much work is being given or taken away from partners. This will be directly related to the success of a campaign or program — the less work you give and the more you take away, the better the results you are likely to see.
Executing successful channel marketing programs is certainly a challenge, and a lack of attention or involvement from the marketing and management teams doesn’t help the situation. The best way to get channel marketing programs the recognition they deserve is to be able to produce measureable results that demonstrate a true, ongoing, reliable return on investment. Agile approaches to channel marketing make it possible to generate value and ROI in months instead of years, which enables marketers to grow the value generation and ROI faster over time.
Adopting agile approaches to implementation will be a key factor for channel marketers looking to prove the ROI of their channel programs and get them the attention they deserve from a broader company perspective. So to put Einstein’s quote into context for the channel, marketers should start moving to make things happen. Only by moving will they start generating and building ROI fast.
As President and Chief Executive Officer of TIE Kinetix North American Operations, Brian Tervo brings more than 15 years of business leadership and operational experience in strategic areas including business development, strategic partnerships, reseller relations, product sales, and mergers & acquisitions for both start-up and established software and managed service companies. Since joining the company in March of 1998, Tervo has proven success in building high-performance teams, integrating organizational silos and positively changing company culture and achieving corporate goals across all functions in TIE Kinetix worldwide operations.