On their own, channel partners may not generate significant revenue for your brand. But collectively, they hold the power to meaningfully lift overall business sales through marketing. The only trouble is, 36% of partners are Disengaged with corporate marketing activities altogether and 50% are at the Developing level, where they’re still trying to establish marketing skills and confidence. Nevertheless, by focusing on the partners who are interested in growing their marketing knowledge, you can bolster your brand at the local level, which means more revenue for both the brand and channel partners.
The State of Local Marketing Report 2020-2021 surveyed more than 1,000 channel partners across a variety of industries to reveal what’s holding them back from participating in marketing and optimizing their program. The findings have brought to light five key ways to improve your channel marketing program and drive more revenue through partners:
1. Provide education to your channel partners
Your partners’ marketing knowledge is one of the most important drivers of channel marketing success. However, as busy small business owners who often wear many hats, many partners lack the time to actively seek out the latest local marketing trends and independently learn how to implement them into their own strategy. Local marketers have a growing number of choices about how to allocate their marketing budget and may not understand where their dollars are best spent. Despite their need for support, 78% of channel partners do not feel the corporate brand is fully committed to the marketing program they provide. Still, 83% of channel partners reported that they want to learn more, demonstrating a huge opportunity to increase their marketing competency.
To better support channel marketers, provide education and guidance to build confidence in their ability to make smart marketing decisions. Alternatively, provide a highly structured program that takes the guesswork out of planning, creating assets, and spending marketing funds efficiently. By fully committing to your brand’s channel marketing program, you can equip partners to market your brand effectively within their local community.
2. Ensure both partners contribute marketing funds
The most successful channel marketing programs are those that are funded by both the corporate brand and the partner. Many channel marketing programs rely on MDF or co-op funds, but partners must be willing to invest their own funds as well. In fact, channel partners who spent 1% or more of their annual revenue on marketing achieved 30% higher revenue growth. Yet in 2020, 31% of partners reported spending less than 1% of their annual revenue on marketing and 44% of partners with access to a co-op program spent less than 75% of the funds that were available to them. Without both parties investing in marketing, the results of your program will be underwhelming—it’s a shared risk, shared gain model. To solve for partners who aren’t contributing enough funds to marketing efforts, offer tools to help them calculate ROI so they can clearly see the value of participating in your channel marketing program.
3. Reduce friction for channel partners
Local partners desire limited friction when executing their marketing programs and using the resources provided by corporate. But just 23% of channel partners said that corporate makes it easy for them to manage their co-op program efficiently, and only 11% said they can manage their program using a digital tool that corporate provides guidance on how to use. Overall program ease of use can be a barrier that keeps channel partners from participating in marketing efforts if they find your program to be difficult to use or if they believe its rules are overly complicated.
Reducing friction for your channel partners starts by providing the right technology tools, as managing a channel marketing program manually or with outdated tools can cause channel partners to become frustrated and stop participating. Channel partners want to create marketing materials and submit claims quickly and easily. Providing training and promoting these tools, especially among those active with your programs, should be a priority.
4. Prioritize the most effective tactics
The effectiveness of local marketing tactics can be volatile and there are constantly new tactics emerging. For example, in 2020, the use of digital tactics such as SEO, paid search, and social media increased significantly due to changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic. Meanwhile, use of events and traditional advertising tactics decreased because they weren’t as effective given the restrictions on in-person gatherings and reduction in foot traffic and travel. But not every channel partner would know that, especially when trying to navigate how to keep their doors open in the middle of a global pandemic.
It’s the responsibility of the corporate marketer to determine what’s most effective for the brand and keep up with the latest marketing trends. Structure your channel marketing program so that it prioritizes or even incentivizes the most effective tactics for your brand and provides tools that will help your partners understand and execute these tactics. When your program leverages the most effective tactics and tools, partners will be more likely to see an immediate return on their investments and continue to take advantage of your program.
5. Listen to channel partner feedback
Remember that your local marketing program is only successful if it is being utilized. 40% of channel partners reported that they’re not fully committed to their brand’s marketing program because it’s a low priority or they don’t believe it will have a meaningful business impact. Listen to your channel partners’ feedback to understand what may be holding them back and what else they may need from your program that it doesn’t currently provide. Then, focus your efforts on improving your program and eliminating barriers to entry so that more of your partners can participate and become mature marketers.
Local marketing partners are foundational to driving brand awareness and sales at the local level. When partners become more mature marketers, they will drive more revenue growth and transition from merely participants to program advocates, further scaling the reach and impact of your channel marketing program. Support your channel partners and in turn, they’ll support sales for your brand.