News, insights and opinions – the OneGTM blog keeps you up to speed with industry and agency developments, the latest go-to-market thinking and our views on whatever catches our attention.
12 February 2020
Welcome to the new age of through-channel marketing
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. Collaboration, customisation and partner engagement 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 the Through Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) software market is growing at over 25% per annum.
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, resellers 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:
1. 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 Managed Service Providers for help (today, over half of SMBs use an MSP). 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.
2. Sector and customer knowledge is paramount
In a recent survey, 66% of B2B buyers said it was important that a solution provider’s website spoke directly to the needs of their industry. This reflects an important fact that is sometimes overlooked: to engage decision-makers you need to talk about the issues that are relevant to their sector, department, job role or individual business, and not just about the features of a bit of tech.
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.
3. Smarter marketing is a necessity
With well-informed buyers resistant to traditional outbound tactics, more sophisticated marketing approaches are key to generating demand. Recent research shows that 68% of B2B buyers prefer to research on their own and 65% have consumed at least 3 pieces of content before engaging a salesperson.
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.
4. 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 are the order of the day.
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.
So what are the dos and don’ts of through-channel marketing? If you want to find out more about best practice in this increasingly vital area, download our new eGuide, Driving Growth Through the Channel.