- Engagement – who’s downloading what how often from the platform
- Transactions – deal registration, order submission, billing update, MDF reconciliation.
- Execution– the number of leads their marketing has produced, how leads are progressing through their pipeline
- Social interactions – groups they join, how they participate, what SMEs they interact with.
- Performance data – closed deals, order value
The magic ingredient for successful channel enablement at scale is data. Imagine having the financial, operational, and behavioral data you need on partners to optimize new product launches, coverage models, and channel programs. Imagine being able to show partners — no matter how new or small or niche their focus — how other partners like them have achieved high return on investment (ROI) on their business with you. IDC’s Channel Enablement Maturity Model provides a stage-by-stage guide for advancing the organizational, process, technology, and data infrastructure necessary to transform your channel marketing and sales enablement operations. The journey along IDC’s Channel Enablement Maturity Model is one of evolving from a publishing/transactional framework to a process-driven one.
Stage 2: Opportunistic
Stage 3: Repeatable
Stage 4: Managed
Optimized for Scale
“Every product for itself”
“Portals grow like weeds”
“Consolidation but still stuck in publishing mode”
“Central control over process-driven approach”
“It’s all about analytics (Data as a Service)”
Source: IDC 2013
The DNA for Success is in the Data
IDC defines channel enablement as “developing the right competencies in the right partners to deliver the right solutions to the most profitable customers.” Ultimately, the goal is to provide a scalable model to identify high ROI best practices and propagate them throughout the partner population at a very granular level. There are three ways in which manufacturers can capture the partner data needed to support the analysis:
- Contractual obligation: Requires significant time and effort from partner account management, is limited to the largest partners, and is periodic at best.
- Operationalized data capture: The partner platform should be thought of as a SaaS offering that provides a wide range of functionality but also collects data on every partner interaction. The ideal platform will consolidate all of the interactions with partners by offering personalized access to content and transactional systems, as well as execution platforms for marketing, sales, and support. By virtue of this consolidation, it captures an increasingly large portion of partner interactions and thus provides a great deal of valuable data to inform channel marketing and management.
- Data as a service: Externalize partner performance data and make it available to partners in a way that captures even more data from more partners. The level of detail they get depends on the level of detail they provide. As a result, they can get actionable insights on how to better manage their businesses and market, sell, and support specific solutions. The database is in a virtuous cycle of enrichment. They should be able to get insight into a wide variety of strategic and tactical questions such as:
- How many people do I need in marketing, sales, technical, and support roles?
- What level of skills and training should they have?
- What marketing activities are most effective?
- What sales methodologies and plays are most effective at what stage?
- What manufacturer resources and networks should staff be utilizing most frequently?
While data is the crown jewel, there are significant people, process, and technology prerequisites for success. To find out more please see IDC’s Channel Enablement Maturity Model or contact me at gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.
Sales enablement professionals need to use social networking as a basis for propagating best practices. The measurement should span not only person to person networking, but also track community membership, links to all manner of resources from internal portals, as well as communication with subject matter experts, peers and mentors. To be most effective, this capability should be deployed within a process driven platform for sales enablement, as opposed to an old school portal based on a publishing model. These new platforms go beyond simply providing access to content. They are process driven and deliver content, sales plays, transactional capabilities, and more all in the context of the company’s go to market strategy. In addition they have or are easily integrated with enterprise social networking capabilities which are crucial to facilitating and capturing how people interact with all the great resources they contain.
- Which internal portals/systems do they log into – how often?
- Which SMEs do they interact with – how often?
- Which internal communities have they joined – how often do they visit and contribute?
For more information on IDC’s sales enablement research, please contact me: gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.
High tech channels are restructuring due to the emergence and convergence of social, mobile, big data, and cloud based solutions. These forces are expected to cause a substantial churn in the channel. IDC predicts turnover of 25,000 to 50,000 infrastructure partners in North America by the end of 2013. This is a major wake up call for high tech channel marketers. Three years from now your channel community, the solutions they sell, and the most profitable routes to market will be very different than they are today. Vendors that see a net gain in channel capacity over this time frame will be the ones who diligently accomplish the following three objectives:
1. Redefine relationships: Vendors will need to be both more strategic and more tactical in support of their channel. The business planning process must incorporate strategic issues such as helping partners acquire new skills, building partner networks, funding acquisitions, and driving multi-vendor alliances into the channel.
- Tied directly to partners’ business goals
- Designed as sustainable campaigns – not short term marketing hits
- Easily linked to funding programs such as MDF, JDF, co-marketing, etc.
- Provide execution support through portal capabilities, concierge services, and references to approved marketing services firms
- App level connectors between vendor partner relationship management (PRM) portals and partner CRM systems
- Requiring campaign and lead performance reporting as part of funding approval processes
- Enticing customer contact through SaaS, communities, incentive programs, etc.
Channel Marketing Service and Automation Solutions
Whether you pursue a lead through direct sales or a partner it doesn’t really matter how you get the lead. But what happens next? With your direct sales, you track the nurturing process as the lead develops into an opportunity. You measure your sales reps by the number of meetings they get, the deals they close. You may even have a closed loop reporting process that shows the efficiency of your marketing and sales funnel.
With your partners, your lead gets passed off and … then what? Does the partner accept the lead? Do they follow up? Do their marketing outreach programs conform to your policies and expectations? How much time and how many touches does it take them to close? How do you decide which partner is qualified for which leads? How do you efficiently identify the productive partners, those that need encouragement and those that should be dropped?
Multi-Billion Dollar Channel Management Questions
These are critical questions that have a tremendous impact on businesses with significant indirect revenue. A recent IDC study of large IT companies found that on average channel revenue was $2.4B. It was generated by 34 channel marketing staff managing 8,500 active partners. That equates to $45 million of revenue per channel marketing staff member but only $1.2 million per partner. The dirty little secret – there are also on average approximately 19,000 inactive partners!
Your CRM and SFA are not going to answer any of the critical channel management questions – although many companies think their CRM system is where they should be “managing partners”. In fact, a partner management system fulfills a role more like an SFA – it tracks all the activity that occurs after the lead is generated. It should also facilitate the process of lead distribution – managing all the partner credentials and accreditations need to qualify for a particular lead. Then there’s deal registration where the partners accept the lead so that it is not poached by another partner or … ahem … the direct sales force. And when you consider some of the other requirements of partner management, the CRM fallacy becomes clear:
- Recruitment and on-boarding
- Training and development
- Business Planning and Reporting
- Compensation and Incentive program management
- Marketing and Sales support
Are these capabilities that your CRM can provide? Your SFA? Would you even want them to? The answers should be no, no, and no. Don’t be thrown off by that last bullet – the marketing and sales outreach your partners require is very different than the corporate outreach that marketing operations is doing. They rebrand, reschedule, embed, and otherwise repurpose marketing content, making a direct translation from corporate marketing to partner marketing wholly inappropriate.
If you have (or want to have) a significant amount of revenue going through the channel, you need a dedicated partner relationship management (PRM) system to automate more than just marketing and sales activities. Don’t look to your CRM, SFA, or even the newer marketing automation vendors to provide you with the full set of capabilities necessary to effectively manage channels. Those solutions are focused on a very different set of requirements. They may have slideware and inch deep functionality, but that’s typically it. Do ask about integrating a PRM with these systems as reporting should roll up easily across direct and indirect sales.
A number of key capabilities to consider when implementing a platform channel marketing automation:
- Manage partner profiles and contacts
- Deliver and track training, certifications, etc.
- Set business rules for lead distribution
- Handle deal registration
- Provide a single system of record for partner and channel management
- Provide detailed performance reporting (12-month rolling review)
- Track partner outreach campaigns
- Manage market development funds (MDF) and co-op spend
With these issues on the table, it should be clear that automating channel marketing requires a dedicated, purpose-built solution. It will be costly and painful and meet substantially lower expectations otherwise.