Here is an interesting survey conducted by OneAffiniti (a leader from Australia in through-channel marketing solutions). It’s called the 2018 Pulse of the Channel survey. They did three surveys and collected information from 507 North American IT channel partners. The data highlights that only 23 percent of partners report accessing a brand-provided marketing platform on a monthly basis in the past year, with many partners saying they simply don’t have enough time to engage with a marketing platform. Nevertheless, the survey also shows that many channel partners are interested in receiving more marketing support from brands, particularly as an incentive. The results suggest there is plenty of room for brands to help partners use marketing platforms more effectively and efficiently.
More than half of partners said that they didn’t use the platform because it was too time-consuming or they lacked the resources/bandwidth to put it into action. Fourteen percent of partners said they did not see value in the marketing platform. Here are the reasons that channel partners who are not using brand-provided marketing platforms provided for their non-use:
Reason for non-utilization Percentage
Lack of time 38%
Lack of resources/bandwidth 18%
Don’t see enough value 14%
Difficult to use 10%
“The lack of utilization indicates that the marketing support available to partners does not align with the majority of channel partners’ needs,” said OneAffiniti founder and CEO, Joel Montgomery. “And yet, the desire and demand for marketing support among partners clearly exists. Brands and their marketing partners need to do more to help partners achieve their marketing goals.”
Julian Lee, President of TechnoPlanet commented, “From the feedback that we get from thousands of channel partners, there is one more reason why they may be holding back…Partners simply do not want to upload their customers’ contact information into the brand’s platform for fear of loosing control and ownership.” To most channel partners, their customer base is their #1 business asset so why would they simply upload to any vendor’s platform, much less to multiple vendor platforms. Partners may give other politically correct reasons for not using the system, but deep down, this is most probably one of the main issues.
It is a fact that most partners lack the skills to do effective marketing. Marketing is not a plug-and-play game and it is not easy to teach this skill. The actual marketing automation platform is only a small part of the solution. Developing and sending relevant content that matters to their customers is a huge problem. Simply slapping on a logo on vendor generated content may not be enough to deliver results. Too often, vendor-generated content is about a “me-me-me” sales pitch.
That said, if partners aren’t using the marketing resources provided to them by brands, they are unlikely to be engaged in any serious marketing at all. 52% of partners spend less than $5,000 per year on marketing, while 10 percent spend $0. Businesses who do not believe in marketing is simply not running on best business practices. They may want to take the best business practice assessment to better understand this and all of the other 14 areas in best practices that they need.
Here is what the survey said:
Marketing spend Percentage
$0-$500 per year 10%
$500-$1,000 per year 10%
$1,000-$5,000 per year 22%
$5,000-$10,000 per year 18%
$10,000-$50,000 per year 17%
$50,000+ per year 6%
I don’t know 6%
Furthermore, the marketing that IT channel partners are conducting is overwhelmingly non-digital. Among partners who spend less than $5,000 a year on marketing, less than a quarter are meeting the recommended digital spending target of 40%. Things are better, but not that much better among partners who spend more than $5,000 a year. 38% are hitting the recommended digital spending target.
Meet recommended spend on digital (%) Marketing spend
23% of partners Less than $5,000 a year
38% of partners More than $5,000 a year
There are indications that providing marketing services to channel partners is an effective way to address a key pain point for these SMBs and increase partner loyalty. The Pulse of the Channel survey also found that 20% of channel partners said they would be most likely to sell a brand’s products if they were provided partner marketing services or marketing training. The most popular incentive is cash, with 36% of partners reporting they would be most likely to sell a company’s products if provided with cash incentives.
While partners signalled that there are a variety of incentives that would make them more likely to sell, here is what they said would be most likely to motivate them.
Monetary rewards 36%
Partner marketing services/training 20%
Invites to brand events 16%
Brand purchasing credits 14%
Partner recognition (awards/certificates) 11%
“OneAffiniti’s Pulse of the Channel survey shows that channel partners understand the benefits of marketing, but they simply don’t have time or money to invest in marketing at this point,” said Montgomery. “Brands should challenge the norm and explore options to drive dramatically higher platform utilization through a through-channel marketing system that makes it as easy as possible for partners to participate in brand-provided marketing efforts.”
Marketing is the obvious shortfall in most of the channel partners’ game plans. However, they have a lot more deficiencies in other relevant business skills that simply compound this problem. We are seeing that leadership matters a lot when it comes to improving the results of marketing as well as other areas of business. Without the commitment and strong leadership on both the vendor and partner sides, chances of gaining successful marketing traction is near zero.
So what’s the answer?
Brands should invest in their channel partners to help them improve all of their business skills, including marketing. Investing in just marketing alone is simply not enough.
I recall one comment by a very large vendor speaking at our of our ChannelNEXT conference, “We have over $1 Million dollars in MDF available to our partners to send out a postcard inviting their customers to get more information. Each partner can get up to 10,000 postcards sent out to their customers for FREE! All that is required is for the partner to submit a list of customers or prospects to send the postcard!”
I do not think that many partners took up this offer, but I do know of one who submitted a “purchased” list (not their actual customers) and submitted it to the vendor to send. Seems like a cool way to qualify the contact information of an unwashed database on someone’s else’s dime! The benefit is arguable, but is this really marketing?
If vendors really want to know how to improve the marketing game of their partners, here is our standard 3-step program and advice that works:
1. Get your parters to take the free best business practice assessment at www.bestmanageditcompanies.com. This will help their partners to at least understand their strengths and weaknesses. It may be the first time that many of these partners stop to ask themselves the right set of questions. If you do not know your problems at a deeper level, then how can you really fix them?
2. Support your partners by investing on improving all of their business skills. Start with leadership, sales and marketing as this should yield the fastest results. A peer group program seem to work best for channel partners. Learn about one at www.300elitemastermind.com.
3. Encourage your partners to implement the right suite of tools to operate their businesses efficiently. This is where you can inject the tools like what OneAffiniti offers. You can find over 100 other tools at www.varofficesuite.com. On average there are about 30 moving parts to a successful channel partner and they do need the right tools and training to streamline operations. Making just a small improvement in operational efficiency can have a huge impact on profitability.
The end goal is to teach partners how to fish instead of giving them a fish. It is the only way to generate predictable and sustainable results.