Channel Marketer Report


How Channel Marketers Must Navigate Today’s New Normal

By Meaghan Sullivan, Head of General Business and Global Partner Marketing, SAP

Meaghan Sullivan, Head of General Business and Global Partner Marketing, SAP

While it might be a stretch to say we’ve “settled” into a new normal, many U.S. businesses have adapted over the past few months to acclimate to the challenges posed by today’s environment. As marketers, we’ve adjusted our strategy to connect with clients and prospects in a meaningful way that balances compassion with serving their business needs. While the next few months hold many unknowns – when will it be safe to travel, participate in events, what’s next? – we’ve seen the channel community address a challenging puzzle with creativity and innovative thinking.

While the environment in which we’re currently operating is vastly different, there are a few key principals that we continue to emphasize and recommend marketers place at the forefront as they navigate this new landscape.

1. Continually Re-Think Your Support Strategy

This is a moment for all channel marketers to define and articulate a clear customer value proposition and refer to it continually. Answer the question, “How are you helping customers in this evolving and challenging time?” Your answer today may be different from a month from now as the macroeconomic and health situation evolves, but providing clarity in a way that is honest and transparent will help instill confidence in your customers even as the environment is changing.

Your partners are looking for guidance as many are faced with a softened business pipeline. Consider creating a clear, simple and easy template for them that offers strategies to increase demand generation by, for example, using technology in a more interactive way to engage their own customers. It’s highly likely many businesses won’t feel they’re well into a recovery stage until Q4 or even Q1 2021. Help by showing your partners – and their customers – how you can ease the stress of that during this transitional time.

2. Personalize and Humanize

At a time when much of the workforce has been working from home and interacting via new modes of communication that are largely virtual, it is now more important than ever to just be human. Familiar and time-tested channels for building relationships with customers and driving loyalty have dramatically changed. We are now faced with a deluge of virtual networking events or webinars that, while valuable, cannot replace the personal connections made during in-person events. Keep a few things in mind as you program virtual events and meetings to make them better and more impactful than others.

First, keep it short – less than 90 minutes – full-day online sessions don’t hold attention. Serialize the content if needed. Second, differentiate by humanizing. Add in a charity element where participants can vote on donation recipients or give back in some way. And, entertain your attendees. It’s easier and more cost-effective for a well-known speaker or celebrity to join your online event than participate on-stage, in person. Third, have a call to action – equip participants with a way to easily utilize or implement their learnings in their own businesses.

In the absence of relationship-building meetings and events, account-based marketing (ABM) can be an effective strategy for deepening connections. ABM delivers personalized messages that resonate with your target audience, and at scale. Remember that each vertical is addressing its own challenges and ensure all your messages are framed around the businesses’ specific situation.

3. Be Compassionate

While what we’re tackling today is by no means business as usual, what has emerged as true is that business is personal. Although there’s no magic formula to navigate today’s circumstances, approaching everything you can with compassion can help to build authentic, long-term relationships. Businesses right now want to work with organizations they trust, and that trust starts with understanding. Acknowledge the challenges, uncertainty and fear your partners and their customers are facing and ensure all your messages are filtered through that lens.

Increasingly, we’re seeing that may mean sharing content that isn’t related to COVID-19. A recent CGI/Harris poll shows that Americans are eager for hopeful, inspiring content. For example, share stories of successful adaptations and outcomes with a human-interest twist. Emphasize resilience and strength.

Ultimately, continue to ask yourself, “what else can I offer?” Whether you deliver that through an inspirational speaker at a webinar, a targeted email message or a broader ad campaign, serving in the best interest of your partners and customers will build the strongest long-term relationships.

Meaghan Sullivan is Head of General Business and Global Partner Marketing, SAP