22 July – Proving the value of channel investment

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Investing in channel partners has always had its fair share of challenges. Here’s a look at the top challenges channel leaders raised recently at The Channel Meet up event, as well as their solutions to these issues.

 

1. What support do channel partners need?

Understanding what support channel partners need is tough. Some require a lot of support to sell your offerings, whereas others prefer to get on with it themselves. So how can you tell which partner wants support, which ones don’t, and how much support they really need? Just because some channel partners do not respond to your emails does not mean they do not require your help every now and again. It could be that they are overloaded with work, and you could greatly ease this. So where to start?

 

The solution: Diane Paternoster, Director, Channel Marketing, EMEA Akamai Technologies, suggests simply asking channel partners if they require support is certainly the first step. You can ask them what areas they require assistance with and create a program around this. Some of your channel partners however may not recognise they need help at all, so it might not be the answer in every case. Conducting regular audits and measuring how well partners are performing is easier said than done, but well worth the effort!

 

2. Measuring how well partners are performing

But how do you measure how well your channel partners are really performing? And keep track of their activities?

 

The solution: Diane recommends segmenting your channel partners into two groups, focused and non-focused. Start with the focused group and from this, select 7 or 8 channel partners. This way you can dedicate your time to this group first.

 

Justin Turner, Director, Global Channel Marketing & EMEA Marketing Operations at Motorola Solutions, also recommends conducting a mystery shopper experience to measure how well your partners are performing. This involves phoning the partner, and acting as a customer to see if they are qualifying up. It also entails visiting their website to check functionality and if for example, your logo is displayed clearly. Details like this can make a huge difference to performance and how the business is perceived by the customer. From all the findings, Justin then runs a report to evaluate all aspects, and shares this with the channel partners, making recommendations.

 

As Justin says, if your channel partners are performing badly, such as their website, an activity like spending money on pay per click campaigns is pointless, as their bounce rate is likely to be extremely high. Your recommendations will enable them to understand the necessary changes required to improve their engagement potential, as well as stop them from spending their budget on activities they are currently not ready for.

 

 

 3. More than 10% of channel marketing activities are not delivered

After understanding which areas your channel partners need to work on, Diane recommends creating a plan of action, to devise a range of activities that will help improve their performance.

 

The main issue is that over 10% of your channel marketing activities are not even delivered. This will have a huge knock on effect with the channel partners’ performance. But how can this be rectified?

 

The solution: Diane recognises that creating a complete business plan, with the dates outlined of when activities can be carried out, is key.

 

Only by doing this will you be able to keep track of which activities were carried out, which ones were a success, and which ones were cancelled. If they were cancelled, it’s also important to keep a record of why. If it’s due to the channel partners lacking the necessary skills to partake in the activities, this could impact your future budget.

 

 4. Measuring marketing activities ROI

Identifying which activities to perform is tricky in itself. Especially if you are expecting to be able to measure the ROI from them. As Simon Fagan, Formerly Managing Director at Maverick Distribution says, you will not be able to track the ROI from every activity performed. Prime examples are face-to-face meetings which are key for communicating key messages, but rather difficult to track their true value. So what do you do when the budget holders want proof the activity is worth the expense? Stop face-to-face meetings? I think not!

 

The solution: Justin reveals that Motorola tries to correlate the MDF with their pipeline in order to establish their marketing activities effectiveness, but even still this is not always possible to track. Justin says, ‘We’ve not been able to prove a direct correlation between MDF/COOP spend on specific activities, or even overall, with partner revenue – there are too many other variables, including other marketing activities, long sales cycles, partner sales skills, and even bluebird opportunities, that prevent this.’

However Tony White, President & CEO of Birch Wordwide, believes that consistency in activities delivered is a great way of keeping in control of what is working and what isn’t. If you stop some activities and notice a decline in engagement, whether that be with your channel partners or even revenue, this could have a lot to do with some supportive activities not being performed.

 

Whatever we do, we cannot get away from the fact that there will always be challenges, so it’s about learning from others and discovering how they improve or even in some cases rectify the issue, which really makes all the difference.

And that is why we are 100% behind The Channel Meet Up event, to enable our customers to talk about their challenges and seek solutions. Want to know more? Visit the website: http://www.thechannelmeetup.com/

 

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By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
Find me on LinkedIn

07 July – Socially enabling your channel partners

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One of the most common challenges channel marketers face is that channels all have such varying levels of marketing knowledge and resources. It is therefore not surprising that finding the time to do social media is way down their priority list.

 

So with this in mind, how can you begin to build a social media programme that supports all your channel partners’ needs?

 

Well, at The Channel Meet Up event on the 16th June I asked a number of industry thought leaders to share their views on this specific issue:

 

  • Andy Hill, Head of Digital Mastery at Xerox
  • Louise Hunter, Senior Marketing Manager, EMEA Partners & Commercial, Juniper Networks
  • Neil Walker, Senior Channel Marketing Manager, EMEA PFU (EMEA) Limited – a Fujitsu company

 

The main challenges recognised

 

  1. Aging issue

Neil Walker believes the reason some channel partners show a lack of interest towards social media is because the decision makers in the company are over the age of 40, and do not recognise the impact that social media could have on their businesses success.

 

  1. Social media strategy

Louise Hunter recognises that even though some channel partners do not have a social media strategy, they and their employees are still posting to social media. They are trying to gain some exposure in the social media sphere, but unfortunately they are not always posting the right way, to really benefit their brand.

 

  1. Consistency

Encouraging channel partners to be socially active provokes other challenges too, namely consistency, as pointed out by Louise Hunter. The last thing you want is for your image to be affected or for false information to be shared.

 

  1. Language

Another common issue, which Louise Hunter raised, was the need for content to be created in a variety of languages to appeal to audiences across multiple markets. We can all see the importance of this for attracting a wider audience, but it’s easier said than done right?

 

Solutions from the experts

 

  1. Educate your partners

Andy Hill feels that educating channel partners on the power of social media and how to use it effectively is half the battle. Only then will they be driven to socially enable your brand. This can be executed through a carefully designed training program which suits all capabilities, ensuring channel partners are at the same level, and understand the power social media can bring to their business.

 

  1. Create a plan for channel partners to follow

Whilst instilling social media into your channel partners’ lives, Louise Hunter also recommends encouraging them to set up a social media calendar for sharing content daily. By doing this Louise has discovered that channel partners are more likely to share your content as they will rely on your content to fill up their social media calendar.

 

A plan also gives your channel partners a direction to follow, encouraging them to remain on board with your program. Without a plan they could quickly fall back into old habits of inconsistent and ineffective posting, which won’t benefit either party.

 

With regards to creating content, Andy Hill recommends posting 80% industry content and 20% brand content. As Andy says, “If you just talk about yourself no-one will be interested, that’s why you need to mix it with a reasonable amount of industry content.”

 

  1. Encouraging consistency

Brand guidelines as well as training go hand in hand for minimising consistency issues, as pointed out by Andy Hill. I personally also recommend deploying a social media advocacy platform, such as our own socialondemand where content created by you is sent to channel partners, who then in less than three clicks, share your content to their social media accounts, as if it came directly from themselves. This not only makes it easier for channel partners to maintain a social presence, but it also minimises the opportunity for inconsistency to occur.

 

When Neil Walker, Louise Hunter and Andy Hill first deployed socialondemand into their organisations they all ran a pilot test, whereby they only made this tool available to a small proportion of their audience. This way they could test the functionality and effectiveness for their brands requirements, whilst establishing whether they are likely to receive a return on investment.

 

  1. Language

When operating in a multitude of countries, each with their own language, Andy Hill who has successfully resolved this challenge recommends that you request, for example, the French team to create their own content to share with their French partners. This way they can provide targeted, engaging content specifically designed for the audience in that country, thus improving their appeal to a wider audience.

 

Hopefully these thoughts and tips will prove useful. That’s what makes The Channel Meet Up great. It gives us all the opportunity to share our wisdom, as well as hear other success stories. Want to attend the next one? Click here for more information. If you cannot wait and want to find out how to socially enable your channel partners now (or employees for that matter), just give me a ring!

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By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
Find me on LinkedIn