Our second Channel Transformation event took place last week at the Ivy in London. We were joined by a room full of Channel Marketing professionals as our panel of experts shared insights, inspiration and practical guidance for overcoming key challenges and transforming the Channel.
Tom Perry | CEO |
Anna Parrish | Global Partner Marketing Director | Anaplan
Richard Robinson |
CCO & Former Director | DPL
Here are our 10 Key Takeaways from the event:
1. Your channel vision should be reflected in your entire organisation's strategy.
“Starting with a clear vision of what our channel should represent for us, our partners and, more importantly, our customers, we have put the customer at the heart of everything we do from a channel perspective. This philosophy runs through all our strategy today, and by benchmarking ourselves against other organisations it has allowed us to decide what we will adopt and what we won’t replicate as it doesn’t work for us, or our customers.
2. Pivot towards the activities which drive value; it will allow you to scale
“We have a really clear pareto strategy and I encourage my team to build out that self-service space so the majority of their time is focussed on our top partners. I think the art of it for me is that we are not spending resource at the low end, which is of great value to partners too, they get what they want, when they want it and they don’t have to go through a person. Embedding partners into our go-to-market engine, and looking at how you use finances to drive more engagement and accountability has totally transformed the way these partners are stepping in and delivering. Our partner tiers are linked to performance, so this is not opinion-oriented, It’s absolutely aligned to the data.”
3. Bring partners closer to the direct organisation through enablement, engagement and governance
Enablement: “We bring our partners into the heart of our enablement; they are invited to the same training as our staff. We’ve opened up our sales portal to partners and they are involved in our sales kick-off”.
Engagement: One of the most important things we did was to design a radical all-in-one marketing programme to engage our partners, including tickets to sales kick offs, strategic review meetings and all other partner touch-points The behavioural change it drove was significant. This clear vision of engagement helps us and our partners add value to our customers.”
Governance: How do you measure? How do you drive it? How do you use KPIs? Having that really clear view and a single understanding of the data is easily said and hard to do, but is really critical getting to that single source of truth. We then use the output and data to validate our strategy and the investments that we make over the next 12 months.
On the days where it feels a bit “us and them”, I think “look how far we’ve come as an organisation and how much we are achieving” and we are not done yet. We are probably still at the beginning of the journey.
4. Get buy-in by identifying staff who show the right behaviour and showcasing them
“Where I am is that there is a lot of agreement and talk about “Let’s do this together” and then it easily falls back into the old way. Changing the way you work is not as quick as you’d like but you just need patience and perseverance in shaping what will create most value and showcasing small quick wins to illustrate that value.
It only works when you are in partnership with the sales team and they are bought in. Finding those good eggs that are happy to help and sharing that with their colleagues and peers is the best way”.
5. Commercial insight to constantly drive the definition of channel models out ahead is a key skill for senior channel marketers
“The speed at which the channel is changing is really interesting. We have the GSIs, we have the strategy consultants and the regional partners and technology partners. Looking at different business models is really critical, having that breadth of commercial insight to keep driving what the definition of the channel is to an organisation out ahead.
One of our core tenants is about staying ahead of the market. How do you make sure you’ve got the right channel and it doesn’t look like the channel of today? That is probably one of the most important things.
We always try to be really ambitious too. When you are in the channel, you can set the direction of travel. Why wouldn’t you say “Partner, we want to work with you to own the digital transformation agenda?” Why not? What’s stopping you? You have a real role to play in the organisation around ambition and that’s why I love it.”
6. Building trust and active listening are critical to changing partner mindset
“Partnership is all about trust - and you have to earn it. My team are partner-facing, that’s what they do and if they are not out there everyday talking to partners, they are not doing their jobs. It’s also about pivoting towards performance partners, we cannot be great partners personally to 200 organisations. Our core partners know that this is a journey and we have built strong personal relationships with the MDs and CEOs of our top 15 partners - you have to have enough of a trusted relationship to give you wiggle room to be able to do the innovative things that don’t always have a positive outcome. And listen. Listen and be seen to listen. We actively listen a lot and then we reflect it back.”
7. Taking an account based marketing approach with partners pushes channel marketing into a new space
“We had an idea that ABM was was happening in the direct space but no one wanted to grasp the challenge of doing it in channel- with partners of any size be that GSI or reseller - and we thought we’d try melding the two together. It came under the umbrella of trying the change channel marketing. It was very much around sales cycles not aligning to a quarterly planning and budgeting process.
Sales cycle can be 9, 12 or 18 months, not a quarter, and so with traditional quarterly MDF you get a cycle of activity-space-activity-space. We asked the vendor to put budget outside of that MDF cycle and let us bring the programme to a couple of top end partners and take an account-based approach with them in a way that is totally supported and badged by the vendor.
8. Partner and vendor data share remains a challenge, and a lot of thought needs to go into how those challenges are overcome
This probably took the most amount of time to get our heads around. We knew we needed to provide data for partners, semi-funded by the vendor. We needed a particular type of licence with the data platform - so we work with platform that allows us to augment and validate partner data.
Data partners in the channel can be patchy. We do a lot of work on the data and validation against the vendor so if there are direct or other partner opportunities already there we want to avoid a constant battle.
We got to an agreement with them that if there wasn’t a next action in the sales CRM, then the data can go to the partner.
9. Pushing channel marketing into a new space needs to come with a change of expectation and mindset in the partner
ABM needs to run 6 to 9 to 12 months and that’s quite a big mindset change for the partner. It’s a very different level of expectation from the partner; any partner who comes in signs an SLA about lead follow up and weekly meetings. They also contribute to the central costs and the MDF in field so it fixes the mind of the partner. It’s pushed channel marketing into a really different area. If you can get the longer term view into the heads and convince partners on the value then suddenly you get out of that old channel way.
10. To decide what to measure, you need to understand the key metrics which drive your business and work back from that
In terms of metrics, you can measure everything but it should be about performance. What are the key metrics you need to be driving for your business and work that back. It’s very easy to measure video views or clicks or email open rates but what does that actually mean?
For our programme measurement, in the early days it was focussed around opportunities. However, there are 15 other measurements surrounding the activity we are doing for that reseller, who has funded the campaign and is often running a business or is sales-lead and hasn’t historically been interested in these sorts of metrics. It has taken time to start educating around this.
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