In late 2013, Channeltivity conducted a survey to learn how organizations around the globe are managing, enabling, and engaging with their channel. While some results were a little surprising, it was more interesting to note that with all of the advances in technology, organizations are still relying on emails and spreadsheets to manage and engage with their partners. While there are many ways to engage with your channel, for the purposes of this discussion, we will focus on three points: lead distribution, MDF management and channel marketing through your partners. (note: for more detail on this topic, view our latest webcast, “New Trends in 2014 to Engage Your Channel”)
One of our first questions in the survey was to learn how organizations are distributing leads to their partners. The results showed that only a few organizations were using a system such as PRM to manage this process and over 60% were still using email. There are many pitfalls with using email to manage this process including:
- Email provides no proof of any activity on either side: vendor or partner
- There is no way to record who the lead was sent to thereby opening you up to channel conflict if more than one partner was sent the lead
- No tieback to any marketing program or deal
- Overall, a complete loss of visibility into the lead once it is sent
To avoid these pitfalls, consider these best practices:
- Define a process by which you can determine who gets the leads (i.e. based upon previous activities or their partner profile), how they receive the leads, and finally how do they show activity on those leads
- Involve a PRM system like Channeltivity to manage the distribution of leads in a way that the process you defined can easily be carried out and recorded. In addition, make sure that once the lead is ready to be converted that your partners can easily convert the lead to an opportunity.
- Make sure your channel team is actively working and reviewing the leads with the partners on an ongoing basis and supporting the partner in the sales process.
Our second question focused on how organizations are managing their MDF programs. While some were using a PRM system to manage this process, spreadsheets outnumbered all options as the primary way organizations are managing this very involved program. Let’s take a look at some of the pitfalls of using this method:
- The process of distributing leads to partners is difficult. With spreadsheets only the spreadsheet owner truly understands what money is out there and who has what funds to work with.
- With a spreadsheet as the main mechanism, there is no standard way to request the funds. With no required information, the channel manager or channel marketer cannot easily determine if they should approve or reject a request
- The entire process from request to reimbursement is not visible to anyone. The partner has no idea if they have funds and neither does the vendor’s channel team. Eventually this leads to a lower rate of participation.
- Finally, the proof of execution after the program is complete is difficult to communicate. With multiple ways to transmit the needed information, the content can get lost, not sent at all, etc. Without having the information go to one central place, the reimbursement will be delayed resulting in a bad experience for the partner.
So, what are some best practices to employ in this case?
- Develop a process to allocate and distribute the funds. In addition, make sure that the partners can see the funds they have available so they will be reminded on an ongoing basis that the funds are there for their use.
- Clearly articulate the program and its requirements to the partners so they are aware of what they can use the funds on (it might just spur some great marketing ideas!)
- Develop a logical workflow so that both parties can easily track the status of the funds, the programs, and the reimbursement.
- Make sure that your PRM system can manage the program. With Channeltivity, it is easy to configure the right request form, manage the workflow and make sure all parties are “in the know” from day one!
- Make sure that your channel team is executing with the partners on the approved programs and viewing the entire MDF program to ensure that all partners are utilizing it.
Channel Marketing Through Partners
One of the main reasons organizations look to the channel is to extend their marketing reach into key segments and verticals. Unfortunately, marketing with partners can prove difficult if you do not have the right systems in place. One of the final questions we asked during the survey was to understand if the process of marketing with partners was difficult and if it was, what solutions were they looking at to make it easier. The result came back that it was extremely difficult to moderately difficult for most organizations to do but yet, few, if any, were using or even researching tools to make their lives easier.
Our partner TIE Kinetix is one organization that is helping organizations make their lives easier with “Through Partner Marketing Automation”. This technology puts marketers in control of what goes live on partner websites, and provides performance visibility and lead generation opportunities as well. During our recent webcast, TIE Kinetix stated that 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally and 95% of all business consumers do research online before reaching out for more information. If you are selling through the channel, it is essential that your partners have the latest information on your solution, that they are inline with your brand, and have mechanisms in place to gather leads. By utilizing Through Partner Marketing Automation, you can push that information easily to and through your partners in a way that fits their own marketing requirements and does not take up valuable selling time to do so.
So, what are you waiting for? Managing lead distribution, MDF programs, and marketing programs through your partners can easily be managed through the technologies that are already out there. Make 2014 the year you invest in your channel and reap the rewards!