The Key to Channel Engagement: Help Your Partners Help Themselves

It’s a new era in channel engagement. If you are a company that relies on a third party to sell and support your products and services, then you have noticed that your world has changed, and…you are not alone! Your partners face the same challenges as you.

Your customers are spending more and more – nearly 70% of their buying journey online: They are:

  • Spending less time taking meetings from your direct sales teams. It once used to take 2 or 3 calls to set a meeting, now takes about 7 calls
  • Doing their own research and evaluation of your solutions online until they are ready to engage.

Manufacturers that sell through a tiered distribution partner model are realizing that in order to sell their solutions and meet their financial objectives, they need to support their partner’s efforts in marketing and selling. Providing marketing development funds (MDF), co-op dollars and rebates to a partner is a good start, but there needs to be a joint agreement and accountability with the manufacturer and the partner to market and sell together.

This can be a challenge, since partners want to control their customer installed base while manufacturers need to ensure value from the dollars they are spending.

So, as a result of these challenges, what tools does your company need to adjust to this customer buying transformation and engage at the right time?

  • More economical models that provide the ability to touch customers with frequent and relevant content through digital engagement and predictive analytical models. The emergence of CRM solutions combined with marketing automation software has provided the tools and resources for manufacturers to support their partner’s marketing efforts as well as market on their behalf.
  • The ability to segment, map and operationalize existing customer install bases. Big Data continues to expand, leading to more integrated data-driven campaigns for both the manufacturer and the partner. According to a recent survey of senior-level marketers from mid to large companies, 86% percent of respondents said they could do a better job with segmentation if they had better customer data, listing limitations in marketing tools as the main challenge.

When connecting their marketing and sales pipelines, companies need to focus on strategies that help their partners, since increasing opportunities in a partner’s funnel helps drive their business and yours. What does this involve?

  1. Increasing the number of prospects at the top of the funnel through demand generation, and ensuring you are moving prospects through each stage of their buyer journey so that you’re properly positioned when they are ready to engage in a sales conversation.
  2. Connecting pipelines from demand generation to the point where the opportunity is ready to hand to sales. Your partners want good Sales Qualified Leads (SQL’s) that can be quickly converted. (In most current models, for every 100 opportunities you put in the top of the funnel, only 5 represent a viable opportunity!)
  3. Focusing on generating stronger opportunities. This comes from stronger installed base segmentation, persona development, lead scoring, qualification, nurturing and recycling.

Companies that can do this effectively will see sizable increases in revenue and their partner’s pipeline efforts will see lower cost to sell models and sizable increases in closable opportunities. In the end, manufacturer’s need to adapt to the transformation happening in the way customers buy your products and solutions. If you sell through non-captive distribution, that means also helping your partners…and those who help their partners will also help themselves.


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