Through-channel marketing has never been more important. Vendors use it to get cut through in competitive markets by leveraging channel partners’ unrivalled understanding of customer needs. But not all through-channel marketing campaigns are equal, and it can be all too easy to get things wrong.
So what are the pitfalls to avoid?
In the second article in our ‘Driving growth through the channel’ series we look at the seven deadly sins of through-channel marketing.
When it comes to through-channel marketing, what it is that separates the best from the rest? We’ve identified ten key factors that mark out the very best campaigns. Adopt these principles and the results will soon follow.
Step 1: ensure your partner proposition is clear
Channel businesses are only going to work with you if they see the value of doing so. As a first step, you therefore need to ensure you communicate a clear ‘to partner’ message. This should outline the market opportunity for the partner, how you’ll help them unlock the opportunity, and how working with you will help them make money and achieve their broader business goals.
Step 2: add value with content
Did you know that 67% of B2B buyers said they rely even more on content than they did last year to research and inform purchase decisions?  That means it’s vital you provide your partners with insightful, high-quality content. To open up new conversations and secure sales, your partners need content which is very relevant to their customers’ concerns and tells them something they don’t already know. Remember that many of your smaller partners won’t have the resources to create compelling content in-house so this is an area you can really add value.
Step 3: support an integrated approach
Successful through-channel campaigns leverage a mix of tactics to capture the interest of prospects and take them through the buying journey. Preparation is everything. First, work out which tactics will yield the desired results and which content assets would be best. You should aim to provide your partners not just with a content toolkit, but also a framework for deploying these assets across an integrated campaign.
Step 4: invest in through-channel martech
Technology is now inseparable from marketing success. 35% of B2B vendors say they currently provide through-channel marketing automation and 32% plan to implement or upgrade in the next 12 months.  However, many channel businesses lack the funds to invest in the marketing automation tools that lie at the heart of successful campaigns. By investing in Through-Channel Marketing Automation platforms you can give partners access to the tools they need to tailor and deliver campaigns, while still retaining control over elements such as branding and messaging.
Step 5: offer access to marketing support
In addition to providing access to the right tools, in some cases you will also need to help fill marketing skills gaps found within partner organisations. 52% of partners cite a lack of marketing staff as a challenge in executing campaigns with brand-provided marketing platforms.  By offering ‘marketing-as-a-service’ support you increase the likelihood they will implement your campaigns effectively. According to Forrester research “channel partners that use third-party services have a higher inclination to utilise TCMA”. 
Step 6: don’t forget partner enablement
As well as creating the customer-facing assets you should also think about what partner enablement assets are required, for example Campaign Briefing Guides, Sales Playbooks and sample Project Plans. It’s also important to invest time in communicating with partners, for instance through webinars and 1-2-1 briefings, to ensure that they understand the opportunity and how to maximise it.
Step 7: align through-channel marketing with your own marketing
By aligning your marketing efforts and campaign focus with that of your through-channel campaigns, each will reinforce the other. To optimise your outreach, think about which elements of your marketing you want to execute and manage centrally, and which would be best communicated through partners. For example, if you’ve got multiple partners in the same territory it doesn’t make sense for them to all be fighting over the same keywords for PPC. That activity might be better driven by you with leads or traffic distributed to participating partners.
Step 8: put in place an effective governance framework
Good governance on the one hand protects against partners saturating the market with messages and on the other, from not putting in enough effort to shift the dial. Meanwhile, reporting from partners against an agreed set of campaign metrics is key to capturing learnings about what does and doesn’t work, enabling you to optimise the campaign as you go forward.
Step 9: offer targeted incentives and funding
Aligning your incentive programmes with your through-marketing goals will help to maximise your ROI across the board. If you’re offering marketing development funds (MDF) to partners, and you’re also investing in creating campaigns for them to use, then it makes sense to allocate the MDF to support the execution of the campaigns. Also consider whether it’s appropriate to offer specific incentives tied to partner participation, particularly in the early stages when you’re encouraging partners to invest time in something that may be unfamiliar to them.
Step 10: don’t forget about customer data policies
Complying with data privacy legislation has become more challenging in recent years. For partners who are not experts in regulations such as GDPR or CCPA, concerns over data management may inhibit their use of vendor
platforms for things like email marketing. To mitigate this and build partner confidence, vendors should establish and communicate clear policies for how partner-owned data will be stored, accessed and protected. TCMA platforms should be set up in line with those policies and many TCMA vendors will be able to offer best practice guidance in this area.
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