How Companies Can Enable Their Channel Partners with Better Marketing

Revenue & Associates' Louis Gudema

Louis Gudema

By Louis Gudema, President, Revenue & Associates

Channel Partners Insights logoCompanies that market more grow faster. Enterprises know this; that’s how they got big. According to Deloitte, on average enterprises spend about 11 percent of their expenses on marketing. It can vary considerably by industry, with software companies spending about 15 percent and manufacturing companies spending 8 percent. And many studies have confirmed the value of this; my own study of dozens of software companies with 50-1,000 employees found that those with the most robust marketing programs grew about five times faster than those with weak marketing programs.

But most small companies — and this includes many channel partners — don’t invest anywhere near as much in marketing. In many cases they’re not even spending 1 percent of expenses on marketing. As a result, they grow far more slowly than they could and, critically for the vendors with whom they partner, they sell through far less product than they might.

Why aren’t they marketing more? There are a few reasons:

  • Marketing isn’t in their DNA. The founder often is expert in their industry, and had to become at least competent at sales or the company wouldn’t survive, but they simply had no exposure to marketing along the way. They may think of marketing as a cost rather than an investment in growth.
  • Marketing has become so complex. While 30 years ago there were only six or eight ways to reach a customer, today there are dozens of marketing channels including websites, email, social media, search ads, syndicated content and on and on. With technologies such as marketing automation, predictive analytics, and marketing attribution, the terminology is foreign and off-putting to businesspeople who haven’t been deeply involved with it.
  • What works changes rapidly. In the dynamic marketing landscape, marketing channels can become exhausted, and their cost per lead can escalate dramatically if competitors discover them. For example, while social media still gets a lot of attention, in fact its effectiveness for brands peaked around 2013 when social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn changed their algorithms to show the posts of brands far less; today the post of a brand typically is seen by less than 2 percent of its followers. (Social media ads, though, may still be a good opportunity.)

It’s not uncommon for companies with channel programs to be underserved by their marketing-deficient partners. But they can change that.

Enabling Channel Partners

Companies often offer programs of all sorts to support their channel partners. But few are the companies that help their partners scale and improve their marketing. This is a real opportunity.

A successful marketing enablement program for partners must include two parts:

  • Education on the value of marketing, customer insights, how the vendor itself uses it to drive growth and how channel partners can launch and scale their own programs.
  • Support on execution. Like anything in business, knowledge and plans are meaningless without consistent, excellent execution.

Companies with weaker marketing programs may benefit from following …

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