SiriusDecisionsLast week, I attended the SiriusDecisions EMEA Summit in London, a two-day event that brings together European B2B sales and marketing leaders to review best practices, benchmarks and customer ROI stories. The event itself reflects the host organization’s broad coverage, including product marketing and management, marketing communications and operations and demand creation, as well as sales enablement, sales operations and go-to-market topics related to indirect channels. The Sirius channel team also covered several interesting topics, including account-based marketing with partners, a session on direct/indirect alignment and a new channel incentives model that eliminates the guesswork when determining which incentive to use to influence partner behavior.

I found the SiriusLabs session hosted by Jack Androvich, who heads up channel consulting, and Stephanie Sissler, senior research director for the Channel Sales Strategies service, one of the most interesting sessions because it called out specific areas of focus that many channel suppliers continue to struggle with. The SiriusLabs sessions, in general, bring together both the analysts who create the research and the consultants who help clients implement the frameworks and models.  This session dealt with the SiriusDecisions Channel Program Model and introduced a new tool the channel services team has developed to uncover key gaps in a channel program’s ability to market with partners. Both presenters did a great job walking the audience through the tool, and used some great examples to convey just how powerful the assessment process can be.

This self-assessment process requires suppliers to enter data into a spreadsheet tool in order to rate their marketing capabilities using the Channel Program Model. A company uses the tool to report on the importance of a given process for their channel program and the amount of effort a supplier puts into this process. It also allows them to describe whose responsibility it is to manage this process. The channel marketing assessment then becomes a detailed report that reveals any gaps that exist in an organization’s channel marketing function. As the presenters walked the audience through the assessment, five key areas that are often overlooked by traditional channel marketers stood out for me:

Demand Planning

While some suppliers randomly develop digital marketing programs to help sales create leads, leading suppliers are beginning to plan out exactly how much investment they will need to make and what contribution they will likely achieve. This premeditated approach starts with estimating exactly how much of the pipeline marketing is able to source — e.g., 20% or 40% — and then developing focused marketing programs (inbound, outbound, etc.) to arrive at predictable results. While many organizations realize this is the right approach, they often lack the discipline to do it. The assessment process calls this out.

Partner Messaging

Channel suppliers love to talk about their products when creating partner marketing campaigns, but rarely do they create “to-partner” messaging that communicates the value that a joint marketing initiative can help partners achieve. Whether it’s helping partners enter new markets or making them more effective in their marketing initiatives, this is one activity that can impact poor partner adoption, which continues to plague most programs.

Channel Customer Experience

Maintaining a positive customer experience throughout the customer life cycle is critical for suppliers, especially those who offer cloud solutions. Most suppliers have barely begun to address the need to not only do this through partners, but also to do it well. This is one area that channel marketers need to factor into their customer life cycle planning, ensuring they can keep the partner involved while adding value throughout.

Menu-Based Plays

Channel suppliers insist on making partners jump through hoops to access content. Partners need to develop customized campaigns on their own, whether or not they have the capabilities to do so. While many companies still take an à la carte approach when it comes to marketing with partners, leading suppliers are creating a menu of marketing plays that can be accessed from a single portal. This is not only a best practice, but mandatory if channel marketers are to succeed in getting partners to engage in joint marketing initiatives.

Marketing Dashboard and Metrics

Best-in-class channel marketers employ both leading and lagging metrics to accurately depict their current state and to estimate any predictive outcomes. This goes beyond the usual data points most companies love to collect, such as the number of partners that have logged into the portal, what percent of them are interacting with content and the typical adoption metrics, which read a partner’s digital body language but say nothing about their propensity to succeed.

Moving Forward: Channel Marketing Assessment Process

Zift Solutions plans to fully embrace the SiriusDecisions Channel Marketing Assessment process. As I sat in the breakout, listening to the presenters, I couldn’t help but think how powerful the self-assessment process can be, especially for companies investing in Channel Marketing and Management (CMM) tools. It literally forces them to think before they act, which should lead to more directed channel marketing.