IT brands still are failing to engage a large percentage of channel partners in brand-provided marketing programs, according to a new study commissioned by OneAffiniti.
The survey was conducted by Forrester Consulting and included responses from 100 North American companies, both channel partners and brands in the IT, finance and insurance industries.
Joel Montgomery, OneAffiniti’s CEO, tells Channel Partners it’s surprising that brands have not seen high levels of maturity and satisfaction from their use of through-channel marketing (TCM) platforms as compared with other channel technologies. It’s also surprising that the benefits of TCM seen by brands and partners are primarily driving customer retention, not the generation of net-new opportunities, he said.
When asked about their plans for using TCM platforms, just 12 percent of partners said they already use brand-provided platforms. Other partners’ plans for use include piloting (35 percent) and evaluating (20 percent). One in three (33 percent) said they have no plans to use TCM platforms.
Among the top challenges when trying to execute a brand-provided marketing platform are a lack of co-branded content and materials, a lack of marketing resources and a lack of automation in executing brand marketing activities, according to the study.
Even partners who reported using TCM programs often are missing out on their key benefits, the study’s responses revealed. Among the top benefits cited by partners are improved customer retention, increased customer lifetime value, shorter sales cycles and growth in new markets.
“Channel partners should be using (TCM) to generate new opportunities to gain an advantage over other partners who are using it primarily for customer retention,” Montgomery said. “Channel partners also need to understand that TCM platforms just don’t automate themselves; unless vendors are going to provide the support, channel partners are going to need to learn and resource to use these platforms in order to get the most out of it. Lastly, those channel partners who are seeing value from TCM utilize or plan to execute marketing campaigns through digital marketing channels like email, online advertising and social marketing.”
When asked what would encourage their organization to access and execute brand-provided TCM campaigns, partners said easy access to reporting (72 percent), content customized to partners’ specialty (66 percent), and minimal time and effort in using TCM platforms (65 percent).
A successful brand-provided marketing program needs to be simple, Montgomery said.
“We say it should take the partner no longer than five minutes per month to execute marketing campaigns; minimizing the effort is crucial to boosting utilization,” he said. “It’s important to allow channel partners to tell their story and not just the brand’s story. Make it easy to uncover new opportunities, not just retain existing customers. Prioritize the consistent execution of digital marketing through channels like email and social.”
The study also noted that 72 percent of partners might be willing to engage with a brand-provided marketing platform in response to incentives. That suggests an opportunity for brands to invest upfront in incentives that will boost partner marketing, according to the study.
Over time, however, partners will begin to generate business from their marketing efforts and they will no longer demand incentives in return for their participation. At that point, brands will be able to reduce incentives without fear of seeing a major drop in partner marketing.