The author of this piece is Peter O’Neill, Research Director at Research in Action which is an internationally recognized powerhouse for their core strength in Marketing and IT Automation.. He is also a member of the Impartner Channel Chief Advisory Board (CCAB). The CCAB is a group comprised of top channel thought leaders, analysts and consultants who each have decades of channel experience and insights to contribute to channel best practice discussions.
In my activities as an industry analyst, I talk to many B2B companies about partner automation systems and the discussions are always focused on how to recruit, categorize and generally manage their partners.
Basically, the focus is on partner relationship management. This is because most organizations continue to think of various channel partners – be they agents, distributors, influencers, resellers or eCommerce aggregators – as serving a pure distribution function for their organization. While they do often share product marketing content with these partners, it’s merely because they want to ensure that their own brand is well represented, as well as trying to govern how products are presented to customers.
But that’s only half of the partner automation story…
More-savvy B2B marketing professionals are waking up to the fact that channel partners can be leveraged for local marketing reach as well. They’re learning to open up marketing automation systems that can be accessed by channel partners. This concept of through-channel marketing automation (TCMA), sometimes called local or distributed marketing, is the practice of engaging channel partners to extend and amplify a firm’s marketing campaigns and activities. And for those willing to invest, it can be incredibly powerful.
But why set up a TCMA program? Here are two key considerations:
TCMA is slowly being adopted across the technology industry where marketing automation investments have started to become the norm (I’m seeing it first-hand). But I also notice interest in other B2B industry sectors as well. All companies want to onboard new partners more quickly. They also want to scale partner marketing efforts and build partner loyalty, leverage partner’s promotional efforts to amplify their own marketing efforts and maintain corporate brand integrity. TCMA gives them new levels of visibility into channel marketing performance.What functions does a modern TCMA system support?
Syndicated content with agile control over messaging – Content syndication in TCMA is the ability to create a content feed for the channel partner’s website keeping authorized content in synch, effortlessly, with the manufacturer. In fast changing industries (like technology) or regulated industries (like financial services or health care) the ability to implement change quickly, but with complete control, is a key imperative.
If the benefits are so clear, why is there not more investment in TCMA?
My observation is that the main hurdle to realizing these benefits is based on organizational challenges. The word ‘channel’ is unfortunately used in marketing departments to mean communication channels and so the business partner channel is often neglected or overlooked by marketing. It’s often the case that many CMOs don’t even think of business partners in the context of a marketing channel. And many organizations still manage their business partners from within the sales organization, so marketing doesn’t feel responsible or empowered.
Once you’re ready to start your TCMA journey, how can you help ensure that the initiative will be successful? Here are some quick tips based on the projects I have seen:
Peter O’Neill is a research director at Research in Action, a leading independent technology research and consulting company. He is also a member of the Impartner Channel Chief Advisor Board. Read more about Peter here or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com