Why should direct and indirect channel marketing be combined?

Large technology vendors have traditionally treated direct marketing and indirect, channel marketing as two entirely separate disciplines, operating out of different offices in the same building. Members of the direct marketing team don’t interact much with their counterparts on the indirect marketing team or coordinate their strategies.

Forward-thinking vendors increasingly recognize, however, that the segregation of the two distinct forms of marketing doesn’t serve much purpose. If you want to get the most out of your marketing dollars, you’re better off developing a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes efforts to market directly to buyers as well as efforts to engage channel partners to market on your behalf.

Applying Direct Tactics to the Indirect Channel

One of the most obvious opportunities for vendors to improve their marketing is by taking some of the same innovative technological solutions they have put in place for direct marketing and applying them to their channel.

Many vendors still haven’t put in place the same kind of automated solutions for channel marketing that they have used for years to communicate directly with buyers. Instead, channel marketers still largely operate on a vendor-to-partner model, where the vendor provides resources to the partner, from collateral to consulting, but it’s up to the partner to market directly to the customers. The most common way that vendors do that is by creating a “partner portal” where partners can get access to collateral or other materials.

Partner Portal Participation Rates

Majority of partner portals are rarely used by partners today

The problem is, what vendors currently provide rarely leads partners to act. They simply don’t have the resources, the time or the expertise to take the collateral you’ve made available on your partner portal and use it to develop a top-notch marketing campaign. They’re focused on trying to close sales with leads, most of whom are still acquired via word-of-mouth, the yellow pages, Yelp or other online listings.

That’s why it’s key for vendors to shift away from the vendor-to-partner model in favor of one that markets through the partner to the end-buyer. By partnering with a solution provider, the vendor funds and executes an automated email and social media marketing campaign that is delivered to buyers through all of its partners. The approach is known as Through Channel Marketing Automation, or TCMA.

Similar to direct marketing campaigns, TCMA provides a bounty of metrics to help you assess the return you’re getting on your indirect marketing investments. You’re already using that type of information to guide your direct marketing efforts, why wouldn’t you want the same accountability for your channel campaigns?

Partner Relationships Still Matter

TCMA implementation should not lead to the elimination of all of the traditional channel marketing strategies. Members of your channel marketing team who excel in managing relationships with partners are an important component of a strategy that integrates indirect and direct marketing tactics.

For starters, you have to convince partners to take part in your TCMA program. Many will immediately identify the opportunity it represents, while others will be hesitant to adopt something that they fear will lead to either less control over their message or the potential loss of leads to competing resellers or even to you, the vendor.

It’s up to your partner relationship team to demonstrate the benefits of the new system to the partners as well as explain how they do not risk losing customers by sharing their customer list as part of a TCMA campaign. Part of that comes from the channel marketing team picking a solution provider, such as OneAffiniti, that can provide this guarantee to partners. Just as important, we can offer results and metrics from the campaign so that your partners can both understand the value of the system as well as gain insights into how to better refine their campaigns.

End the Separation

There will always be unique benefits to direct marketing and channel marketing. Vendors should continue engaging buyers directly as well as developing relationships with resellers.

However, there is no reason that vendors should not be applying the same accountability measures to indirect marketing efforts that they currently apply to their direct marketing team. Nor is there any reason that you should pass on the opportunity to market on behalf of partners that are unwilling or unable to do it for themselves. The technology and the knowledge is already available. In fact, it’s probably just down the hall.

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