Last week we invited Channel professionals to join us for an informal Virtual Channel Chat to talk through the impact that COVID-19 has had on their channel plans, their partners, and what implications it’ll have further down the line.
What could have been shaped around negative thinking, turned out to be a hugely positive chat about how people are overcoming the challenges and the important role vendors have to support their channel partners.
We’ve outlined the four key takeaways from our first Virtual Channel Chat – take a look – we’d love to hear if you’ve faced similar experiences, or maybe there’s something key we’ve missed.
How has the channel changed during the crisis?
The channel has taken the brunt of the commercial impact, with a large portion of resellers and other types of channel partners having furloughed marketing staff already, the impact is quickly being felt throughout the Channel. So far, Vendors are maintaining parity.
However, there are handfuls of resellers who are continuing with marketing throughout this period. And as we saw during the financial crisis of 2008, those who switch off completely will feel a greater impact in future years. You’ve got to “keep the lights on” and maintain marketing spend where possible.
Sherpa Recommends: There are plenty of preparation activities which can be done whilst business or sales Is slower. Vendors should be supporting partners to hone their value proposition, understand the quality of their data, take another look at user-journey stats to determine where improvements can be made, focus on current customer support and satisfaction to increase customer success metrics, focus in on your nurture processes: this Is a great time to get to the lingering to-do list.
The POSITIVE (or negative?) impact on future events
- Perhaps the most hotly debated topic during the Virtual Channel Chat: Is the virtualisation of events good for the industry? -
A fascinating outcome of the current crisis is the impact social distancing measures have had on upcoming events. Companies are quickly beginning to realise that they can virtualise most, if not all elements of their live events. This, in turn, is having a positive impact on registrants as more and more people can attend virtually (in some cases, as many as two and a half times more
Additionally, as all elements are already virtualised, you have greater potential reach and uptake in On-Demand registrants after the events have taken place.
BUT, through virtualisation, do you lose the powerful impact of the community?
Perhaps most prominent in the Channel space, the relationship between vendors and their partners is key to operating a successful business, and a huge driver in this success comes from establishing strong bonds between vendor and partner. By virtualising these events, will these relationships be lost?
Of course, this isn’t just isolated to the Channel. Across the wider B2B market there is growing concern for the impact this will have on live B2B events in the future. As more and more people realise they can attend insightful events from the comfort of their own homes, the need to sit on a 5-hour train journey to attend live events will quickly disappear.
Sherpa Recommends: No good strategy relies on one tactic - and some that have relied too heavily on events as their marketing strategy are being forced to change. Increasing education for these partners in digital marketing, content marketing and other skills will be useful immediately as well as serving them well for establishing a more solid marketing strategy in the future.
The importance of Vendors supporting their partners
During this time there is a risk, particularly in smaller partners, that they can feel isolated. This is where Vendors play a huge role. They are also the type of organisation which is most at risk from a commercial and cash flow perspective.
Communicating with partners, understanding the challenges they’re facing and what they need to continue to operate, are all vital at this time.
Whether it’s through virtual quizzes, free training, amending MDF terms, or creating additional marketing resources outside of the normal scope, Vendors need to be showing their partners that they’re here for them.
Sherpa Recommends: Particularly in multi-vendor environments, partners might be getting a log of information and advice from other vendors - or none at all. Maintaining an open, transparent and supportive conversation and specifically supporting their needs.
What will the "new normal" look like?
The billion-dollar question – one everyone is asking.
As after any crisis, businesses will first look inwards into what they spend and the ROI they receive. No longer will we see events that are “just for show” or marketing campaigns that have no meaningful impact. Smaller business, in particular, will be even more stringent around what campaigns they run.
But as we’ve already seen with the continued recovery to the climate and atmosphere, after any crisis, there is a silver lining.
Due to marketing campaigns being under the microscope, the quality of content and delivery should significantly improve. Which will result in more engaging, customer-focused marketing that actually provides benefit to the customers.
Get involved – we’d love to hear from you and your experiences. Are you facing similar challenges or are there others we haven’t raised?
Let us know!