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Is it time to change the channel?

Tom Perry
by Tom Perry - August 9, 2019

Every day my inbox is hit with hundreds of emails informing me about the latest tech, the newest automation tools to help optimise my marketing and countless blogs detailing the latest marketing trends. There is no doubt about it, marketing is evolving at a rapid rate and marketeers, businesses and processes have to keep up, or get left behind. However, this poses a problem in the tech space as the channel seems to stuck in some kind of time warp. The systems, processes and methods of marketing within the channel seem to be routed in the 90s and have not evolved with the times. But as MarTech and Account Based Marketing are dominating B2B marketing, we ask an important question…is it time to change the channel?

I have mentioned it before, but the tech channel is a complex place. It is no wonder that few have ventured from the pre-established pathways. Imagine you are based in the middle of a dense jungle (bear with me here), and you have a valuable commodity which will help numerous people in the towns around you.

However, you need to actually get your product to the townsfolk. Now, there are villages on route who will help you (for those who aren’t yet with me, these represent the channel partners), but the usual route to the town is the same established trail that other vendors use; it is well-trodden, with the same old landmarks and mile markers, the same stumbling blocks and obstacles, which has been used year after year as each company goes through the same journey to get their product to market. 

Is it really the most efficient, cost effective route and process which will guarantee an optimum return on investment? Probably not. So what is the other option? What about a pathfinder, who’s specialty isn’t the minutia of your product, but in fact the landscape? A trailblazer who knows the best way to carve a path through the undergrowth and lead you and your team on the best route to market, using the most cutting edge and effective methods, via the villages en-route or direct, to make sure you and your product are in front of the right people, in the right place, as the right time.

Ok I’m going to move away from the jungle analogy (not going to lie – I enjoyed that one!) and speak frankly. There is a reason why ABM is taking the world by storm. It works. It takes general demand generation and refines it heavily in to a longer-term, customer-centric, highly valuable approach that would transform channel marketing. But, you cannot fit a square peg in to a round hole. As it stands, ABM cannot just be mapped on to the pre-existing channel marketing practices. The channel needs to change.

Currently the Channel is a very product orientated environment which has a restrictive MDF criteria and Vendors provide a stringent list of activities that they require in order to provide funding. However, there is an unnatural focus on leads, with emphasis on quality over quantity. This model is ‘short-termist’ and doesn’t factor in that buying cycles often last 6-12 months and therefore do not align to MDF cycles which are quarterly. This often creates scenarios where the Partner is reactive and is sometimes scrabbling around trying to identify activities on which to spend next quarter’s MDF, or even left over MDF from their current quarter. A move to a more strategic process, with programme longevity and live reporting would enable vendors to give partners the autonomy that is needed to make these sort of programmes work effectively. Partners have a very specific set of skills (said in my best Liam Neeson voice). They bring knowledge of verticals as well as horizontals, access to new markets, innovation, market penetration and consultancy. Combined with the Vendor’s Infrastructure, product and systems, there is a good foundation for a specified channel programme. But…the channel needs to change.

Specific channel programmes need to be created which are supported and affordable in field by Partners, and leverage the proposition that Channel Partners bring, to solve additional challenges within the target audiences. The channel is perfectly set up for ABM; it is complex, but so is good account based marketing. It is simply a case of knowing what you are doing.

That’s where your trailblazers come in. Working with an agency who specialises in account based marketing through the channel provides any struggling vendor with the aforementioned pathfinder, who can carve a way through the undergrowth and put their product or service in front of key decision makers at targeted accounts, who are currently ‘in market’ for a similar product.

The benefits of leveraging this expertise are numerous, but four of the standout benefits are:

  • Better processes and partner education lead to greater understanding of products and how to market them
  • Opening up the marketing and sales processes gives all parties more visibility into the areas in which sales enablement requires more focus
  • Better partner engagement
  • More accountability on the partner when it comes to delivering results in return for the vendor investment (one of the existing challenges in the channel). 

So, we are taking on the challenge of Channel Transformation. The time of fudging MDF is over and we are taking the channel on, one ABM programme at a time (OK, this is not entirely true as we are running numerous ABM programmes for numerous clients, but it sounded good…I need some poetic licence!).

Why not join us at one of our Channel Transformation events and hear how we plan to change the channel once and for all.

Shortlisted-social(*Oh and as I was writing this, we found out we had been shortlisted for a B2B Marketing Award for Best Channel Marketing Initiative, and do you know what they labelled us? Trailblazers…Whatdya know?! How’s that for serendipity!)


If you would like to discuss how Sherpa can transform your marketing, please get in touch… 

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