Channel Marketers Need an Agile Approach

Brian TervoThe days of marketing for marketing’s sake are long over. Today it’s about quantifying how well we’re investing our marketing dollars and quickly making adjustments to maximize that investment. So where does channel marketing fall within this new regime?

Too often, channel marketing efforts are overshadowed by content and direct marketing initiatives. One reason channel marketing sometimes takes a back seat is that it’s hard to prove ROI in a process that has so many variables and layers.

Let’s look at a typical approach.

Three specific problems:

  • Executing channel initiatives is complex. Traditionally, it’s a lengthy process that involves partner proposals, vendor approval and months dedicated to program development and execution, often with very little ROI data captured to indicate whether efforts are getting results. There’s no hard data or key performance indicators (KPIs) to take back to the vendor marketing team to prove the value in the channel.
  • The conventional approach also demands an immense amount of upfront investment in preparing complete start-to-finish plans before partners can begin execution. Vendors first have to draft a master digital partner-specific marketing plan, with all departments giving input on their specific needs. Enrollment can’t begin until all of the pieces are agreed upon. Often, 12 months later, the program hasn’t even gone live yet, and you are left with zero results to show for the effort, as well as a lack of partner involvement.
  • Lack of bandwidth is also a key issue contributing to poor partner adoption, as resellers balance six to seven vendor relationships at once.

All of this adds up to frustration for vendors and partners alike. We need a new strategy.

I advise a phased, agile method to implementing channel projects, instead of a conventional approach that demands a complete plan before partners can dig in. Let’s look at how an implementation might go using both approaches.

Agile implementations enable a program to kick-off swiftly — within just 60 or 90 days of signing a contract — based on the beginnings of a rudimentary plan, as opposed to waiting for the complete design of the entire project.

By executing the foundation of a plan while still working out the particulars of subsequent steps, you’re generating value faster and beginning to show ROI even before the plan is fully finalized.

The other advantage of launching this way is that tweaks and adjustments can be made as the plan evolves to optimize engagement. This responsive approach means a quick start to generating demand, value and data, with the probability of measurable results after just a few months. By proving the initiative’s worth quickly, partners and management teams become more invested in the outcome.

The Measuring Stick

The most important part of running a channel marketing campaign is, of course, measurement. To accurately capture ROI, channel pros should use brand control, lead generation, sales conversion and work as KPIs. What does that mean specifically? Here are some examples:

  • Brand control KPIs include logo usage, impressions and visitors.
  • Lead generation indicators measure downloads, leads and contact form submissions.
  • Sales KPIs includes content and tools used by sales reps, opportunities and new and recurring business.
  • Work indicators measure time needed to execute a marketing play (email, social).

Each of these helps partner-marketing pros gain valuable visibility into what’s happening as a result of their efforts. As discussed, accomplishing winning channel marketing programs can be challenging, and a lack of engagement and commitment from the marketing and management teams doesn’t make it any easier. By quickly producing measureable results that demonstrate a real and steady return on investment, agile approaches to channel marketing make it possible to generate value and ROI in months instead of years.

Brian Tervo is president and chief executive officer of North American operations for TIE Kinetix, a leading provider of SaaS based e-commerce and channel marketing solutions.

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