Corporate sales and marketing teams are called upon annually to produce more sales with fewer resources. This is difficult enough when sales and marketing are both in the same location. However, modern sales organizations can span the globe.
There is also a greater reliance on channel partners: resellers, distributors, agents, or even franchisees. Channel partners need to be highly effective as well; but the corporate marketing team has little control over how aggressive they really are.
Channel partners who are aggressive are often pushing their own message. Corporate marketing can spend millions each year developing brands, messages, and offers that correctly position the company. Yet, it takes only a few simple mistakes, to destroy mountains of brand equity.
Many organizations choose to centralize lead generation and marketing — “Ivory Tower Marketing”. The all-knowing wizard back at the castle calls the shots for everyone in the field. They create and manage all lead generation programs centrally. The leads that are captured are rushed to channel partners – mostly to be tossed in the moat.
This is not an intentional act of treason by channel partners. Partners may already have enough dragons to slay; or they may be focusing on products with proven close rates, rather than the latest silver bullet sent by the king.
Many organizations deal with low follow-up rates using a combination of the rack and a whip. They punish those who do not follow-up on leads by locking them away somewhere damp. Of course, this is not a great way to create a warm glow among the partners — or drive incremental sales.
So what is the answer? Enlightened marketing organizations are knocking down the ivory tower. They are empowering partners by creating winning programs and materials, putting them in the hands of their partners, and then encouraging them to market. This assures that the correct type/volume of leads are available when required.
In order for this approach to work, organizations must make it simple for partners to order materials and launch programs. They still need to staunchly guard their brand, their messages, and their offers; but they also need to give partners the ability to personalize where appropriate. In addition, they need to make it simple to use market development funds on these programs. The good news is that there are tools available today that allow a companies to post their marketing materials and programs online. These tools often provide a browser-based interface so that partners can access them anytime from any village in the world. The tools are also graphically oriented to make ordering and tracking a snap.
The partner can browse a gallery of brochures, direct mail, email, logo items, and other marketing collateral; select the items that best meet their needs; personalize them; and then route them for automated production and delivery. Nothing more is required from the partner – well, that is, except to bring home the coin!
If the channel partner chooses to use market development funds they can be spared a frustrating joust with the usual approval cycle. This is accomplished by posting a selection of “corporate approved” templates to pick from. Partners then reduce the cost of pre-approved materials using their co-op funds.
Yes, sales and marketing teams are being pressed harder than ever to deliver more sales with smaller budgets. This pressure is not going to fade – it will continue to grow. The good news is that thanks to modern channel marketing automation tools it’s never been easier to poor boiling oil on the armies at your gate. Marketing program automation conquers sales and enchants channel partners.
Wilson Zehr is a former Partner in Cube Management (www.cubemanagement.com), a Portland, Oregon based company that helps organizations accelerate their sales. Mr. Zehr is also the founder of Cendix (www.cendix.com) the leading provider of channel marketing tools distributed enterprises. Mr. Zehr has over two decades of experience designing and delivering marketing and software solutions for business. He also has extensive experience driving sales, marketing, and strategic alliances with many of the largest technology companies in the world including: Oracle, Intel, Microsoft, Sun, HP, IBM, Xerox, and many others.