Through-channel marketing programs are currently falling short

Large brands have made big strides in making marketing easier for channel partners, notably by putting in place through-channel marketing (TCM) programs. Through-channel marketing takes much of the hassle of crafting and executing campaigns out of the hands of small and mid-size channel partners, who don’t have the time or resources to deal with marketing.

And yet, brands still struggle to get partners to take advantage of their marketing solutions. For a variety of reasons, channel partners pass up on the chance to take part in co-branded through-channel marketing campaigns.

What gives? Is it the partners who lack foresight? Are the brands failing to communicate the value of their solutions? Are the platforms not designed well enough? Or is it all of the above?

To gain insight into the situation, we commissioned a survey of brands and partners from Forrester Consulting. The results showed a number of things brands need to work on if they want to increase partner marketing engagement.

Few partners are committed to through-channel marketing platforms

Forrester Consulting surveyed 50 North American channel partners about their use of brand-provided through-channel marketing platforms and got the following responses:

  • Using and plan to expand usage: 12%
  • Piloting: 35%
  • Evaluating: 20%
  • No plans to use: 33%

Considering the recent survey that we completed, the low percentage of partners who are using a brand-provided TCM platform is not completely surprising.

Partners’ usage of brand-provided TCM platforms

Using and plan to expand usage
Piloting
Evaluating
No plans to use

Base: 50 channel partners globally. Source: Empower Your Channel Partners With A Service-Led Approach to Through-Channel Marketing, a February 2019 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of OneAffiniti.

What do partners want?

It’s not that partners are stubbornly opposed to using brand-provided platforms. It’s just that many of them currently aren’t getting what they want from them, or at least they aren’t able to easily access what they’re seeking. When asked what attributes of a marketing platform would make them more likely to participate, channel partners said the following:

Marketing platform attributes that would encourage participation

Easy access to reporting & leads
Availability of downloadable sales & marketing assets on brand-provided platform
Ease of integrating brand-provided platform with organization's existing systems
Easy access to brand-provided platform
Content customized to your specialty

Base: 50 channel partners globally. Source: Empower Your Channel Partners With A Service-Led Approach to Through-Channel Marketing, a February 2019 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of OneAffiniti.

Clearly, there are significant barriers to access that remain. Brands need to do more to make their platforms user-friendly and make sure that it integrates easily with partner systems. Furthermore, brands need to be willing to provide additional support to help partners figure out the platform and its potential.

Even partners who are using the platform aren’t maximizing its potential

The Forrester report revealed that many partners are deriving value from TCM platforms. Fifty-nine percent reported increased customer retention and 47% said they had seen increased customer references.

However, relatively few partners were using TCM to drive new demand and sales. Only 35% said they had seen increased sales or revenue, while only 37% had experienced a growth in market areas.

For partners to realize the full potential of TCM, brands need to help them leverage the campaigns to drive new demand. Otherwise, partners are missing out on a significant portion of the added value that through-channel marketing can offer.

Incentives are part of the equation

The research is clear: partners are looking to brands for digital marketing solutions above all else. Email marketing was by far the most-desired type of assistance among partners (71%), followed by online and social media advertising (55%). Thus, says Forrester, the pressure is on brands to deliver highly sophisticated digital marketing campaigns that best the automated solutions that partners can increasingly execute in-house.

However, getting partners to engage with a new platform may require another carrot. The great majority of partners (72%) said that they would be more likely to consider a brand-provided platform in exchange for incentives and 35% “strongly agreed” that incentives would push them in that direction.

While incentives may be key to getting partners in the door, brands can dial them back as partners begin to experience increased revenue from the marketing program. At that point, partners will have become enthusiastic participants.

A service-led model

An ideal TCM strategy combines high-quality technology with a high level of services for partners. It’s critical for brands to combine programmatic services (automatic, real-time, proactive) to help partners set up the campaign and be in a position to repeat it over and over again.

Marketing assistance requested by partners via TCM programs

%

Email Marketing

%

Online & Social Media Advertising

Base: 50 channel partners globally. Source: Empower Your Channel Partners With A Service-Led Approach to Through-Channel Marketing, a February 2019 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of OneAffiniti.

Meanwhile, it’s important that the technology available makes it as easy as possible for partners to approve, schedule and customize campaigns. Again, there’s no resource more important than the partners’ very limited time. If you ask for too much of it, you likely won’t get any of it.

Looking to improve your TCM program? We can help.

Don’t have the time or the marketing tech to create and send campaigns on your own? That’s okay – that’s what we’re here for. OneAffiniti offers you the opportunity to do long-term marketing at no cost to you, and no more than five minutes of your time a month. Contact us to learn more.

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