Channel marketers are becoming increasingly selective in choosing partners to participate in specific marketing campaigns. Employing new technologies to discover which partners are more capable of supporting modern marketing initiatives or have demonstrated support of their brands, channel leaders are boosting the effectiveness of their through-channel marketing programs.
Laura Seymour, Senior Director, Global Partner Marketing & Operations at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), and the company’s regional channel teams are using more data and the insights it creates to more effectively enlist the right partners for specific initiatives.
In a call with CMR, Seymour explained how an analysis of its channel ecosystems by bChannels, a channel consulting and services provider, has provided an eye-opening review of HPE’s partners’ marketing capabilities.
CMR – HPE is boosting the performance of its channel programs by being more informed and data-driven when engaging partners on specific HPE marketing programs. What prompted you to explore a plan to better understand your partners’ capabilities and their desire to engage?
Laura Seymour — We’re always looking for ways that we can optimize anything we’re doing around partner marketing to drive better ROI. We want to drive better outcomes. We want to drive more pipeline from the demand generation we’re doing. So as a partner marketer, I’m always looking at how can we be smarter about doing things; how we can invest in a more strategic or more careful way, or more planned way, so that we can drive those better outcomes.
And ultimately, we’re trying to grow a joint business with our partners. So our end goal is always supporting the revenue through our channel.
The work that we’ve done with bChannels gives us great data. And data is the currency of today’s digital world. The more we can be informed by insights from data, the smarter we can be about the decisions we make and who we target and how we invest. And how we can support the business and the growth of the business through our partners.
CMR – What are some of the insights that the data is providing?
Laura Seymour — The data and the insights gave us the opportunity to have an independent assessment of our partners’ digital capabilities, plus their presence in the digital world. And through the scoring and the methodology that bChannels uses, it enables us to really segment our partner base based on their capability.
It also provided insight on their level of digital engagement through use of keywords and the activity they’re doing, both on paid and organic search, around different categories of solutions in the technologies with HPE compared to our competitors. That has helped us be much more targeted and data-driven in how we’re then making decisions around our programs.
Clearly we don’t just take one data point and make decisions and go. But it adds that richness of insights around what our partners are doing, how capable they are to engage in different programs. And we use that with a broad spectrum of data insight and local knowledge from our local teams when making targeted decisions.
CMR — What are some of the more surprising revelations about your partners and their marketing capabilities and activities?
Laura Seymour — We expected to see that our partners are at all stages of digital maturity and all stages on that digital marketing journey, and we did. We saw a big spread of the amount of digital activity and the capabilities that they have.
What surprised me when I looked at that data was really the large number of partners that don’t have very advanced capabilities around digital. I think what surprised me is we’ve actually got a very large number, probably 80% or so of our partners, who have not got very advanced capabilities.
We’re talking about partners of all different sizes. So there’s obviously different degrees of marketing resources available within those partners. The data really helps us support our partners who need more help to build those digital capabilities. Whether it’s through our learning and accreditation programs that we have around digital marketing, to help them build skillsets and accreditations. And we can help them through the tools and the resources we offer at HPE.
In addition, we have a network of marketing services agencies that can provide help to our partners who need more resources or expertise to help them with their digital marketing.
And then, what it really highlighted for us is the partners that have got that digital capability, who are more advanced, who are very active in their digital presence around the key technologies. That helps us understand the partners who are really able to help drive that digital first motion from a marketing perspective.
CMR – In addition to using the data to support global programs, have your regionals teams been digging into the insights to optimize their initiatives?
Laura Seymour – Yes, we look at the data at a global level to help inform our programs and our strategies, but the value of the data is when it gets into the hands of the local teams who are working day-to-day with our key partners in their local markets. The insights that the bChannels data provides to the local teams gives them that additional context on who’s got that digital capability. And also how active are they, from a digital presence perspective, across our different technology areas.
They can use that in addition to other important data points, plus their own knowledge. They have a very ongoing strategic relationship with those partners, so it’s not done in isolation. But it all adds to a 360-degree picture of their partners to help them make better decisions about where to focus their activities with that partner and where we can get the best results.
It helps us determine what types of programs we might want to work with that partner, what type of investments from an MDF perspective we might want to see that partner engage in. And even with which areas of the portfolio they are active in, or maybe they’re more active with a competitor, and we want to get more share of wallet with that particular partner. It gives us a good opportunity to maybe identify partners we want to invest more in from a digital perspective, so that we can increase our presence with that partner as well.
I think the value the data gives our local teams is a number of dimensions that they can then use in a much more informed way when deciding which marketing programs, which marketing activities, what areas of the business to focus on. And make sure that our plans with those partners are really tuned to where we can see the biggest opportunity for growth, both for the partner and from an HP perspective.
CMR — What are some of the most significant changes that your channel marketers and you have made since you started generating those insights into your partners?
Laura Seymour — I wouldn’t say we’ve made any significant changes. I think the insights continue to help us be informed. And it’s helping us further optimize what those programs can be, what the investment should be, who we should be targeting them to, which are the right partners that we should be working with on specific programs.
As an example, in today’s digital world, many programs, many digital programs will deliver MQLs, marketing qualified leads. But as we know, in today’s digital marketing world, those leads require further nurture for the follow-up. They’re not BANT-qualified, they need much more touches and nurturing before they’re ready to be sales ready or to be passed on as a sales opportunity.
That’s a skill, a capability that our partners, or with the support of an agency, need to be able to nurture those leads or those MQLs until the point where they can take that through the lead funnel and ready to a sales ready lead.
And so the bChannels data helps us understand which of our partners have got that level of capability, or are likely to have that level of capability and are progressive in terms of their digital marketing capabilities.
One of the key learnings from the data, but also from programs we’ve been running with our partners, is in this world of digital, it’s really important that our partners have either got the capabilities to do that lead nurture, or we can provide the agency support to help them do that. Because digital leads won’t go anywhere unless we continue to nurture them and follow them through the lead funnel. The data is another insight that just helps us understand which partners are ready to help with MQLs versus those that are really only going to be more productive with giving them more BANT-qualified leads that they can then take straight to their sales team.