Laz Gonzalez, Chief Strategy Officer at Zift Solutions
With the channel in a constant state of flux, it’s no wonder that today’s CMOs are dealing with more demands, complexities and technology than ever before. Channel technology vendors have been quick to deliver all sorts of software and solutions to help (and win the business of) those who market and sell through indirect channels. But the slew of individual tech components channel leaders are expected to understand and manage, from Salesforce Automation (SFA) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Partner Relationship Management (PRM), Channel Marketing Management (CMM) and many more, is absolutely overwhelming.
Too many great CMOs are now thinking, “I’m a marketer. I did not sign up to be a system integrator!” And they shouldn’t have to be. No one wants to be saddled with a bunch of siloed tech components and solutions that don’t talk to each other — or disparate data pools that can’t be easily combined and leveraged for insight and decision-making.
Clearly, integration matters. In fact, it’s imperative. But integration doesn’t just reside in the tech realm. It extends and must encompass critical functions, such as sales, marketing and operations, as well as processes, like recruiting, onboarding and engaging channel partners. So where do you start?
Forward-thinking channel leaders are focused on three distinct levels of integration: Function, Process and Technology.
Function Comes First: Without functional integration between Marketing, Sales and Operations, channel programs falter. Take a hard look at how these departments function within your organization. Are channel marketing, sales and operations closely aligned? Or is each department working separately, making partners feel they’re working with different companies, although they’re working toward the same goal? By improving cross-department communication and automating key functions, such as partner onboarding or content sharing, you can break through functional and performance roadblocks standing in the way of long-term success. In the channel, the ultimate goal should be working collaboratively to connect with and motivate partners to sell your products and services, while providing one seamless experience. Widely available solutions, such as content and social media syndication, can make it easier for everyone to deliver the content and resources channel partners need to engage and nurture current and prospective clients.
Process Precedes Technology: Channel leaders must continuously examine and work to integrate processes across every stage of their own channel programs as well as partner and customer lifecycles. This will likely entail examination of your internal and external processes, like partner recruitment, onboarding and enablement. If you don’t get your partners up and running in the first 90 days, it’s likely that they won’t perform for you. Sales and marketing must work together in an integrated fashion to create an ideal partner profile, so that you can actually recruit the right partners. Then you can work together on enabling and activating partners. When you integrate processes, you can deliver a seamless experience that engages partners from the start as well as get better visibility, control and optimal results from your entire channel ecosystem.
Take a Look at Tools and Application Integration: Once you have aligned functions and processes, you can take a closer look at the integration of your channel technology. If your channel tools, applications and systems don’t work well together, there is little point in having them — and your partners are likely to stop using them. The real value of today’s channel technology is derived from integration, which can drive greater program adoption. For suppliers, they can make much better marketing decisions if they can access valuable PRM data within their CMM solution to drive higher propensity marketing programs. However, instead of spending too much time trying to tie programs and software solutions together yourself, look for applications pre-engineered to integrate seamlessly with the systems and infrastructure you and your partners already have in place. Or, even better, cross-functional platforms that are fully-integrated from the start.
When you make integration a strategy for success, across functions, processes and tech, you’ll see marketing, sales and operations sync up to drive real engagement and measurable results. By integrating essential functions, processes and technology, you can work collaboratively to enable a seamless partner experience, leverage data for better decision making, and generate more revenue.
Laz Gonzalez, a prominent channel thought leader, currently serves Zift Solutions as Chief Strategy Officer. Before Zift, Laz founded the Channel Sales & Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions and served as a strategic advisor to leading B2B channel programs worldwide. Follow @lazgonzalez and @zift on Twitter.