The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the channel landscape. Before COVID, the dominant channel partner tactic was events. Channel partners were like the ground troops in the sales battle, and they engaged in hand-to-hand ‘combat’ in the form of sales calls and events and outings to build business for themselves and their suppliers. COVID-19 changed all of that. To maintain channel sales and marketing effectiveness, suppliers have to assist their channel partners to learn and strengthen new digital tactics.


We have all heard the term ‘digital transformation’ ad nauseum for years, but this is a digital transformation of a different kind.  This is a transformation to digital where we already have the tools — and it is a transformation that we can’t delay. Channel partners need to transform into digital marketers now. They have to learn to drive the top of the funnel with digital tactics. Then they have to transform those hand-to-hand combat skills they’ve honed for years into online skills to improve qualification and selling without face-to-face contact. This digital transformation is a re-skilling of the channel to become digital warriors. It is back to boot camp for the channel.

It is also a time for suppliers to re-skill and digitally transform as well.  Many channel organizations rely heavily on the annual massive partner conference where you lock all of your partners in a room and PowerPoint them to death with your products and programs. Without the benefit of a big conference and captive audience, supplier’s digital messages have to be much better at capturing mindshare. Suppliers must be better at segmenting their communications and targeting their audiences with highly personalized to-partner communications if they are going to achieve digital effectiveness.


Drill sergeants know that their soldiers run farther and faster when chanting and following a cadence. Cadence is equally valuable in the channel. Regularly delivering information and valuable content to channel partners is paramount. Suppliers that communicate with their channel only when they want something will see momentum falter and the audience slip away.  The communication equation requires suppliers to transform their tactics to focus on attracting and maintaining mindshare and engagement, rather than simply blasting out messages and assuming they have their partners’ attention.

Suppliers also have to consider on-line conferences which are a whole digital transformation in themselves. An online conference has to overcome the distraction factor that goes with the audience sitting at home instead of in the convention center.  Virtual events don’t carry the punch of a face-to-face conference unless the supplier dramatically ups its digital game to drive attention and enthusiasm. Simply moving a physical conference to a virtual setting is a recipe for failure. Converting a partner conference to a virtual event requires a complete transformation.  A good rule of thumb is to plan the conference from the perspective of a distracted participant. Think about what it is going to take to keep them engaged.

The good news is that all of this digital transformation is becoming evident in the C-Suite. CMOs and CEOs are looking at channel marketing budgets and realizing that all the money originally allocated to events and face-to-face tactics now needs to be redirected to digital marketing if the channel is going to continue to be a contributor to corporate success.  That means there is money to fund the transformation and to help the channel re-skill. This is a digital transformation we can execute!

Interested in learning more? Join me (and Laz Gonzalez) for a conversation about the tactical transformation occurring in the channel today in this episode of Zift’s new podcast, CHANNEL CHATTER LIVE!