A significant number of channel partners clearly are not getting the memos that utilizing MDF or co-ops can be good for their business. According to the State of Local Marketing in Manufacturing Report by BrandMuscle, an integrated local and channel marketing solutions provider, partners leave 46% of their corporate or co-op funds on the table. Worse, 55% spend little to no time on marketing activities each month.
The survey revealed that 38% of partners lack an understanding of marketing. What these partners may not realize is that partners that invest at least 1% of annual revenue on marketing drove 14% more revenue growth. Partners at the highest level of marketing maturity experienced 2x more revenue growth than their less marketing mature peers.
Manufacturers may have to take some responsibility for limited use of the MDF and co-op they make available. According to the survey, 68% of manufacturing partners find the processes and policies of their vendors’ marketing program difficult to understand or inefficient. Plus, because 66% of partners sell competing brands and products at their locations, they may not have time or resources to take advantage of all funds available to them. The data shows that partners will choose to promote brands that offer the most easy-to-use marketing program, desirable tactics, personalized guidance, accessible funds, and incentives to participate.
Sarah Cucchiara, Senior Vice President of Channel Marketing Strategy at BrandMuscle, said the report indicates “a big opportunity for education with partner networks. I would say many partners are raising their hands looking for help and guidance on what to do or validation for what they are already doing.”
She noted that both the Most Savvy and Least Marketing Savvy partners said they are looking for marketing recommendations and training, education and best practices when asked to prioritize channel program priorities. “Investing in education, through traditional training or passively through recommendations, is worth the effort.”
Identifying the right targets for this training may be a challenge, she conceded. “We would recommend offering the ability to self-select by opting into programs or opportunities. Then looking at fund usage by claimed tactics and revenue growth could add an additional layer of insights into those that may need more help or are willing to take guidance to drive better performance.”
Channel leaders should be careful to stay engaged with ready-to-market partners. “Programs should be looking for ways to work better with partners that are already doing a great job of marketing and growing their own businesses,” said Cucchiara. “They should be looking for ways to plug their brand into the current marketing plan through assets, funds, and local marketing programs. Finding ways to support what is already working for the partner demonstrates a level of commitment to partner success and gets brands into local markets in relevant and effective ways.”
Still, programs should not “sacrifice support of partners that are less marketing savvy for those that are more savvy,” she advised. Instead, incentivizing behaviors and actions that are marketing savvy, and rewarding those that are doing the right thing, helps prod those that may be looking for guidance towards better actions.
For all partners, crafting programs that are easy to use is critical, said Cucchiara. “Partners do not have time to ‘figure it out.’ In ecommerce, the goal is to reduce clicks to purchase. We should take the same approach to the partner experience.”
Partner marketers should reduce any and all friction to participation and make it easy. “This applies to access to marketing assets, usage of funds, and availability to execute in local marketing efforts. Overly complicated program rules, lack of integration, and outdated tools make programs too hard or not worth the effort.“
To make sure they are providing partners with the tools they want and will use, Cucchiara emphasized that local marketers must diligently survey partners before building out their programs. Channel marketers must “understand what their partners are already doing to promote their own businesses. Survey them. Look at how they are using co-op funds. Look at what assets they are using or requesting. Understanding what they value in their local efforts and aligning that with support of your customer journey will make your program offerings more appealing and relevant for partners. If they do not value the tactics that are supported, then they will go somewhere else,” said Cucchiara.
Channel marketers must also understand the customer journey to purchase and where or how the local partner fits into those specific journeys. They need to “think about messaging, call to actions, and tactics. At the point of ‘where’ for the consumer, what does the partner need to do to influence the next step?”