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The seven deadly sins of through-channel marketing

31 August 2021 | Phil Brown

Through-channel marketing has become a vital weapon in a vendor’s go-to-market armoury. Those that get it right benefit from increased demand and a more engaged partner community, those that don’t, see ever diminishing returns from their channel marketing investments. Many vendors are still on a steep learning curve in this area.
So what are the pitfalls to avoid?
In the second article in our ‘Driving growth through the channel’ series we look at the seven deadly sins of through-channel marketing.

In the (not too distant) past, many vendors took a fairly lackadaisical approach to channel marketing: the odd email here, a product brochure or two there, perhaps a call-out script with a cursory covering note to sweeten the pill. Today, that approach just won’t work – if it ever did. And vendors, for their part, increasingly realise that this is the case.

However, across the market, we see time and again the same errors being made by vendors, even as they set their sights on more sophisticated channel marketing techniques. These are through-channel marketing’s ‘seven deadly sins’, collated here so you know which pitfalls to avoid in your campaigns.

Sin 1: product-focused campaigning

Many vendors still focus too heavily on pushing their product and not enough on business issues and customer value. Unless you’re in a blistering-hot market, content that focuses on explaining why your product is faster/bigger/cheaper/simpler than the competition no longer stimulates demand, and should be reserved for when decision makers are much further along in their buying journey. Also, campaigns that lead with product also turn off channel partners, because they allow less space for them to build in their own value.

Sin 2: a reliance on outdated tactics

We all now know that standalone outbound tactics such as email blasts or call-out days have very little cut-through when used in isolation. Yet many through-channel campaigns do just that. Don’t get me wrong, traditional tactics still have an important role to play, but they must be used as part of a broader, integrated campaign and at the right points of the customer’s buying journey to have value.

Sin 3: dull, poor-quality content

Distinctive, engaging and insightful content that speaks to the issues customers really care about lies at the heart of every successful marketing campaign. So why is it that content given to the channel is so often dry and uninspiring? When it comes to garnering that initial interest, vendors need to move away from long-form, technical collateral to shorter, punchier and more compelling issues-driven content. You can save the 30-page technical papers for later in the buying cycle.

Sin 4: inadequate platforms and tools

All the great content in the world is useless if channel partners don’t have the right tools to deliver it. Many smaller channel businesses lack the in-house marketing tools and systems that larger SIs and service providers take for granted. This can act as a major obstacle to successful execution. If vendors fail to appreciate this deficit, and don’t support their partners’ marketing efforts with appropriate tools, platforms and services, it undermines the success of their campaigns.

Sin 5: assuming one size fits all

Channel businesses today are a diverse community, with different business models, resources, market focus, propositions and capabilities. Some partners will have rich, well-maintained prospect databases they can use for email marketing, others won’t. Some will have a significant social media audience, others won’t. Some will want to adapt messaging to reflect their own value-add, others won’t.

Vendors’ approach to through-channel marketing doesn’t always reflect this diversity. A one-size-fits-all approach, which doesn’t allow flexibility in how a campaign is executed, is unlikely to get broad take-up.

Sin 6: a lack of execution guidance

We’ve seen examples of ‘campaigns’ distributed by vendors that consist just of a zip file of assets without any effective guidance to partners on how to execute to get best results. Often, the thinking behind the campaign isn’t shared. If channel partners don’t understand the target audience, the campaign strategy, the buyer journeys or how the different tools should be used as part of an integrated campaign, then it's unrealistic to expect them to execute successfully. Particularly when those partners might not have extensive, in-house marketing skills. 

Sin 7: making things just too difficult for partners

All channel businesses need to make the most of their finite resources and manage multiple demands on their time. They also need to manage multiple conversations with a large number of different vendors, each one vying for their attention. Therefore, if you don’t make it easy for them to work with you, they probably won’t. Relying on poorly designed and cluttered partner portals is a classic example of making life difficult. Just loading up all of your campaign assets on to your portal and expecting that partners will navigate their way through the out-of-date datasheets, training decks and other assorted detritus to find the relevant stuff, isn’t the best way to get them engaged.

So where is your channel leading you? 

In today’s crowded tech market, through-channel marketing has never been more important – and nor has it been more important to get it right. So if you now know the seven deadly sins, what are the secrets to success?

Download our new eGuide, Driving Growth Through the Channel, to learn more about the principles of successful through-channel marketing.

Or to explore how OneGTM could take your channel marketing programmes to the next level, contact us.