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Are most Channel Marketing Automation Systems Flawed?

  

Introductions

In this blog, we point out that most channel marketing automation systems are vendor centric. They have been developed for vendors, to be purchased by vendors and do not serve the best interest of resellers.

In the channel, there has always been some conflict of interest. Some of the new channel marketing systems simply automate and perhaps amplify that conflict of interest and make it worse.

There is however, an alternative option which is a reseller centric approach to marketing automation, which will not only better serve resellers but ultimately will also be better for the vendors they represent.

The channel marketing story so far...

Practically every major IT Vendor has a marketing automation system, which they use to generate and nurture leads until they are "sales ready"..

Every IT Vendor with a reseller channel wants their resellers to have the ability to generate high quality leads, which is why Marketing Development Funds (MDF) were created.

Some IT vendors have made the connection and started to ask the question: "If our resellers were using marketing automation then surely they would generate better quality leads for themselves, which means more business for both of us".

Bravo. No problems with this line of thinking so far, but this is where things come un-stuck. In order to make this happen, some in the vendor community have turned to portal-based channel marketing automation systems that are vendor specific. This is how they work:

The vendor creates a series of campaigns (usually based around emails). The content is naturally related to the vendors' products and the branding mostly has the look and feel of the vendor (with the resellers logo sometimes included on the top right of the email in a rather tokenistic way).

Now that the system is set up, all that is required is for the resellers to upload their customer and prospect data to the system, self-publish the campaigns they want to run, press go and there you have it - a channel marketing automation solution.

So what's wrong with that?

What's wrong with this approach is that it doesn't actually work very well; certainly not in terms of generating leads and driving business growth.

If you are an IT Vendor with a subscription to one of these portal-based channel marketing systems then the fact that this approach doesn't work is going to resonate with you, simply because you know that so few of your resellers use your marketing portal. But you may still be wondering why.

This is the answer: Such an approach is fundamentally flawed because it is not in the best interest of the resellers. Why? Here are 5 powerful reasons:

Reason 1: Resellers want to keep their marketing data in one marketing system

The reality is that most resellers represent multiple vendors and they need marketing programs that promote all the vendors they represent. Portal based, vendor centric, channel marketing systems fail to recognise this reality and are only built around a single vendor, when they should be able to manage campaigns from multiple vendors.

With these single vendor systems, the resellers are therefore obliged to copy their data into multiple vendor systems. This causes all sorts of problems including: emails being sent on different topics to the same prospects too frequently, people unsubscribing in one system then needing to be unsubscribed from another system and contact data modified in one system is not reflected in another. Because there is no "one version" of the marketing truth, it becomes a mess. The resellers know this, which is one reason why they are reluctant to put their best data into these vendor centric systems.

A second reason why vendors can be reluctant to provide their best data is due to perceptions of data security. These portal based systems are heavily vendor branded, so they look like a vendor system, rather than the resellers own marketing system. This can put resellers off because they worry that their best data might inadvertently fall into the wrong hands - those of other resellers with whom they compete. This is a legitimate concern. It has happened in the past.

Reason 2: Reseller Branding

Most resellers value their brand and their independence, so they want all their communications to look like their own - and not the vendor's.

This is because most resellers want to position themselves as independent, trusted advisors who can be relied on by their customers to only sell "best of breed" solutions. They do not want to be seen as the puppets of any vendor.

And from a very practical perspective, resellers need to improve their own name recognition in order to establish contact with new prospects. They cannot improve their own brand recognition if their marketing communications are 'all about' the vendor. Since the resellers are responsible for making sales, it is they who need to establish contact with the prospects, which is why they need to promote their brand first and not the vendor's brand.

Reason 3: Reseller Lack of Resources

The self-service model, which is at the heart of portal-based channel marketing systems, is itself a flawed concept simply because most resellers don't have the resources or time to try to comprehend what they're supposed to do, decide which campaigns to run and then work out how to set it all up.

So while they may sign up to such portals, they rarely participate in a consistent way. So, forget self-service. You need a managed marketing process to make it happen.

Reason 4: Email only campaigns

Email only campaigns don't work that well without telemarketing support, and these portal systems only offer emails. There is no integrated telemarketing module at all, let alone what is really required, which is a dynamic telemarketing module. This is way beyond the capability of these portal systems.

Reason 5: Short-term marketing automation

The marketing automation campaigns offered by these portals use simple decision tree rules, which are only suitable for relatively short campaigns. They simply fail to deliver what is really needed; a low-touch, reasonable frequency, multi-phase process to build trust and demonstrate expertise over extended periods of time.

CONCLUSION

Many IT vendors, including some of the very largest have wasted a lot of time and money buying a product which is strategically and fatally flawed. The sensible will start to look around for a viable and proven alternative.

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If you'd like to connect with the blog author on LinkedIn, then please do so now. Click on this link: https://au.linkedin.com/in/jonathanccalver

   

READER COMMENTS

All of these points are very valid and can cause frustration for the reseller and the vendor. When a vendor offers funding and resources to a reseller, the process must be easy to use and highly customizable. Your reason #2 is one we have encountered most often with our key resellers. Branding is important to the vendor, but we can never loose sight of the importance of branding for our resellers. I have seen cases where a reseller will leave money on the table to keep from using a vendor's "template", or have to include particular logos in the deliverable. A vendor should provide complimentary support that enables the reseller to represent the vendor's portfolio without hampering the partner's internal resources or external branding initiatives.

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