Through-channel marketing and its value for IT brands and their partners
Conventional channel marketing strategy for large IT brands is inefficient. No matter how skilled a brand is at coordinating with channel partners and encouraging them to market its products, the sheer size of the channel and the fact that most of its partners are under-resourced and rarely employ marketing professionals makes it extremely challenging for IT brands to effectively communicate with end-buyers.
In the past, brands simply accepted this state of affairs. Increasingly, however, they are recognizing that through-channel marketing solves many of the traditional challenges they faced in channel marketing. Here’s how and why through-channel marketing works for all types of IT brands, whether they’re selling software or hardware, on-premise or cloud solutions, or a mix of everything.
What is through-channel marketing?
The conventional channel marketing approach has the brand handing out marketing material to its partners and then hoping that they make good use of it. As any brand knows, that hope is often misplaced. Most channel partners are small or mid-sized businesses staffed by tech experts, not marketing professionals. Furthermore, they don’t have the time or resources to focus on developing a top-notch marketing campaign. As a result, many will either ignore the materials or, worse, will use them ineffectively, with the potential of hurting the brand in the process.
The point of through-channel marketing is to relieve channel partners of the burden of something they themselves will freely admit they either loathe or engage in reluctantly. The brand funds and executes the digital marketing campaign and sends the campaign through the partners to their customer lists. Through-channel marketing demands no more than five minutes a month from channel partners, who simply have to opt into the campaign that the brand has created.
A through-channel marketing campaign will deliver high-quality thought leadership content, information on current promotions and technical expertise that relates to the end-buyers’ interests and needs. Although the campaign is crafted by the brand, it will be co-branded with the partner, bolstering both the brand and the partner brand.
So...what’s the benefit of through-channel marketing?
If a brand isn’t running a through-channel marketing campaign, it can’t be sure that many of its channel partners are even marketing its products at all. The traditional approach has the brand chasing after these partners, devoting significant staff resources to encourage channel partners to market and teach them how to do so effectively. But no matter how hard brands try to engage partners, many of them simply don’t have the time, knowledge or resources to execute effective marketing campaigns on a consistent basis.
Through-channel marketing solves this problem by making it as easy as possible for partners to engage in marketing. As a result, more partners will participate in the brand’s digital marketing campaigns and the brand’s message will reach a far greater audience of end-buyers.
Traditionally, a brand’s relationship with its partners is largely transactional. The brand provides a suite of technology products and services that partners re-sell. When it comes to marketing, the brand provides some collateral and guidance, but otherwise the partner is largely on its own.
Under through-channel marketing, however, the brand deepens its collaboration with its partners by providing them an invaluable service that addresses one of their greatest challenges as small and medium-sized businesses. The brand is no longer just the first step of a product supply chain, but a close collaborator that is helping to connect the partner with its buyers. The resulting relationship between the partner and brand is one that the partner will be much less likely to withdraw from.
When marketing is left up to individual partners, the results tend to vary widely.
Through-channel marketing ensures a consistent message across the channel. Brands gain the ability to craft the message and push it out to channel partners to brand and deliver pre-programmed campaigns to end-buyers. In essence, through-channel marketing brings the power of direct marketing to the indirect channel.
With through-channel marketing, brands can measure the impact of their digital channel marketing campaigns in ways unimaginable under the traditional approach, where brands simply offer partners marketing collateral and guidance. Through-channel marketing lets the brand see how the recipients of its marketing campaign are interacting with it across the entire channel. How many are opening the email? What kinds of things are they clicking on? How many are unsubscribing? And, most important, how does purchasing behavior change as a result of the campaign?
By arming IT brands with increasingly sophisticated metrics, through-channel marketing empowers brands to continually refine their messaging in order to maximize impact.
Best of every world
Through-channel marketing is not just the best way to go, but it’s increasingly the only way to go when it comes to channel marketing. As every brand knows, many channel partners are not able to conduct consistent, effective marketing campaigns. Until recently, there hasn’t been much that brands could do to alter the equation in any meaningful way. With through-channel marketing, there is finally a solution that addresses the needs of both the brand and its channel partners.
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