Vendors Say Slow Adoption of Data Management, Digital Marketing Best Practices Will Impede Success of Small and Midsize Partners

The successful collection, management and analysis of data will be critical to the success of small and medium channel partners in 2019, according to a recent survey by the Channel Institute, a training and certification body for channel business professionals.

Channel marketers continued to raise concerns about the ability or interest of their small and midsize partners to support digital marketing activities. And proving the return on investment, especially for MDF programs, is expected to remain problematic for them.

Data management, while always a challenge, has become increasingly more important due to the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) earlier this year. This is especially true for resellers that rely heavily on email as their core digital tactic, the report noted.

Data is also viewed by vendors as a way for their resellers to become more meaningful to their customers over time. Michelle Chiantera, VP Global Partner Marketing at Cisco, and a member of the Channel Institute’s industry advisory council, said  “Our channel partners will need data and insights about their customers in order to provide them with personalized touchpoints. Data is the fuel that will help them gain deep insights about their customers, become more personal with them, and further drive loyalty and advocacy.”

Michelle Chiantera, VP Global Partner Marketing, Cisco

The slow adoption of modern digital marketing activities by technology resellers is a key concern for channel marketers. Activities such as local events and mailers continue to be the mainstay of their marketing programs. Channel marketers view many of their partners as “lifestyle businesses” that lack the vision to make the leap to the digital marketing age and will eventually fade away.

Survey respondents noted that marketing success will be contingent on addressing digital challenges such as overcoming ad blockers, embracing video as a key marketing tactic and understanding the rapidly growing importance of “voice search”.

Emmanuel de Visscher, VP Global Partners at Xerox, and a member of the Channel Institute’s industry advisory council, said, “Clear and compelling differentiators will be even more critical for technology reseller partners in 2019. Resellers increasingly need to be able to position products as “solutions” linked to a specific business case, differentiated from their competitors. They then need to be able to clearly communicate this message through digital channels.”

Demonstrating the ROI of channel marketing activities, especially those supported with co-op funding, will be vital, respondents said. Both vendor and reseller need to be able to trace ROI back to digital investments in order to keep investing in those tactics. Partners need to have the right systems – analytics, tracking, CRM, etc — in place if they are going to be able to track sales back to the original digital investments.

“Our research reveals two elements in particular that vendors believe will make the difference between digital marketing success and failure for their channel partners,” said Michael Kelly, Founder of the Channel Institute. “Firstly, their growth orientation – are they looking forwards or backwards? Secondly, how good are they at managing and analyzing their digital marketing data? Technology resellers with a forward-looking digital perspective combined with the right data management resources are already far ahead of the pack.”

The Channel Institute survey was conducted this summer. More than 200 individuals with the title channel marketing director or higher working at technology companies with more than 10,000 employees worldwide were contacted. All of the respondents were briefed to provide insights only for technology resellers that are classified as small and medium businesses.