Broadly speaking, it used to be the case that vendors and manufacturers would do the marketing while channel partners would do the selling. B2B companies basically saw their channels – whether they were agents, brokers, distributors, franchises, resellers or reps - as sales channels, pure and simple.
But there have been some drastic changes to the B2B landscape – the channel partners of today are highly diverse and multi-faceted organs, who provide a plethora of different services, including business consulting, technological advice, eCommerce, billing aggregation and marketing. It’s time for companies to take stock and realize that taking advantage of the channel means using partners in dynamic ways, as a support service and as marketers, not simply as sellers and distributors.
Before we get too carried away, it’s important to recognize that using partners as marketers can have its dangers. The main reason for this is that channel partners are not usually trained in marketing, and they have little reason to abide by their supplier’s brand guidelines, strategy and vibe.
Through-channel marketing is the practice of engaging channel partners to extend and amplify a firm’s marketing campaigns and activities. It is essentially harnessing your channel partners as brand advocates, using brand compliant resources and strategies. Forrester estimates that only 5% of B2B manufacturers and vendors have active through-channel marketing programs. That’s a pretty hard hitting figure considering just how important it is for getting your brand and produce recognized and revered.
There are software vendors out there providing through-channel marketing automation solutions, also known as TCMA. A TCMA solution is essentially any technology which enables vendors to design and manage resources, campaigns and assets which channel partners can share with their customer base. They might be syndicated emails, social media posts, product pamphlets or store-based promotions. TCMA technology solutions enable vendors to incentivize channel partners to utilize the resources and campaigns they’ve developed using points, rewards and tier systems.
Harnessing channel partners as marketers means you can:
- Strengthen your marketing voice – partners have intimate knowledge of their market and customer base, so you can utilize their connections and know-how to reach and motivate an expanded audience
- A consistent and brand compliant brand offering – remember that your channel partners might have a very different style and voice to your brand which, left untamed, could damage or confuse the message you’re trying to get out there. That’s why you need to have clippings of your message poised for them to echo.
- Make existing partners loyal and gain new ones – Offering channel partners resources and material that will lighten their load is something they highly appreciate and which incentivizes them towards continued partnership with your brand, whilst also attracting new partner acquisition.
Through-channel marketing is all about striking just the right balance between brand compliance and customization – between making sure your brand message is clear and consistent, and that you’re utilizing your channel partners’ knowledge and clout to its full potential.
Intelligent cloud- based technology enables you to strike exactly that balance. Adopting it means you can connect with customers in a personalized, local and relevant way which centralized marketing departments just can’t hack, giving your brand message wings, clout and revenue-driving power.