The go-to-market model for vendors and channel partners is more complex and fluid than ever. Vendor-centric, product-focused, one-size-fits-all campaigns are out. Joint propositions, collaboration, and customisation are in. Through-channel marketing is a fast-changing area and an increasingly vital one for vendors to get right.
So, what’s driving its growing importance?
Changes, changes everywhere
It’s hardly a blinding revelation to say that we’re living in an era of continual disruption in the tech industry. New innovation is constantly reshaping the tech value chain; IoT, cloud, blockchain, edge computing, extended reality (XR), AI, mobility, analytics – the list of transformational technology trends is seemingly endless.
When it comes to the topic of channel marketing, today’s era of continual disruption is resulting in change in multiple directions simultaneously:
- It’s changing the nature of the tech channel itself as resellers refocus their portfolios around emerging tech and new delivery models,
- It’s changing the way that business IT buyers consume information, prioritise investments and make purchasing decisions
- It’s changing the whole business of marketing, as new technologies and digital channels create alternative ways for suppliers to identify and engage customers.
As a result of these changes, the way that vendors go to market has to adapt. The discipline of through-channel marketing is assuming increased focus, evidenced by the fact that 35% of B2B vendors say they currently provide through-channel marketing automation and 32% plan to implement or upgrade in the next 12 months.
The channel is dead, long live the channel
The days when vendors stimulated demand and resellers fulfilled it are long gone. Today, the interaction between vendors, partners and their customers is more complex than ever, and for those that get it right, potentially more rewarding. Among the factors driving this change, four stand out:
- Shifts in supplier influence
Given the complexity of the modern tech landscape, businesses are becoming less inclined to build and manage their own apps and infrastructure and are turning to Solution Providers and Managed Service Providers for help (In 2020, more than half of 1,800 MSPs worldwide reported that over 50% of their revenue came from recurring (managed) services ). What customers are buying often isn’t a specific technology product – it’s a service level or an agreed business outcome. As a result, the influence of individual vendor and product brands is declining, and solutions- and services-focused channel partners are exerting a greater influence over technology purchasing decisions.
- Sector and customer knowledge is paramount
Customers are increasingly turned off by generic messaging. They want to know how a technology solution addresses their specific issues. They also want to know that a provider has expertise in their sector. In a recent survey, 66% of B2B buyers said it’s important that the solution provider’s website speaks directly to the needs of their industry.Significantly, this is an area where the channel excels. Channel partners usually bring a level of customer intimacy and specialist market knowledge that vendors simply can’t match. Those partners play a vital role in translating generic vendor content and campaigns into something more relevant and compelling for customers.
- Smarter marketing is a necessity
With well-informed buyers resistant to traditional outbound tactics, more sophisticated marketing approaches are key to generating demand. Good content is at the heart of most successful campaigns. 66% of B2B buyers said they use supplier content to educate themselves about the options they have in the marketplace prior to speaking with a specific vendor. 
Unless campaigns effectively blend a range of tactics, including content, inbound and outbound, they’re unlikely to succeed. However, resellers have traditionally lacked the resources needed to invest in the sort of insightful content and automation tools that underpin successful marketing campaigns. This has made them more receptive to, and dependent on, marketing support from vendors.
- Vendors need to differentiate to stay ahead
The good news is that vendors increasingly recognise this gap, and many are looking to support their channel partners’ marketing efforts by leveraging their own resources and economies of scale. For many vendors, particularly those operating in highly competitive markets, the level of go-to-market support they provide to their channel partners is a way to differentiate.Those that invest in making it easier for partners to win new business have an edge in attracting and retaining partners. This is resulting in the bar being raised across the industry – the days of uploading a few emails and product data sheets to your partner portal and calling it a campaign are thankfully a thing of the past. Flexible, well-designed, insight-led campaigns supported by effective automation tools are the order of the day.
So where is your channel leading you?
The cumulative impact of these changes is that through-channel marketing is becoming an important source of competitive advantage for savvy vendors. Those that excel are benefiting from increased partner engagement, higher return on marketing investment and improved channel sales performance.
With 91% of B2B leaders saying they expect to increase revenue directly attributed to their partner ecosystems this year, the importance of getting it right can’t be overstated. 
If you’d like to discuss how we could help you take your channel marketing programmes to the next level, contact us.