I see it happen all the time. A well-intentioned supplier decides this will be the year they deploy channel marketing automation across their organization. They purchase and provide a variety of great solutions for their channel partners. And that’s where the problems begin! Many stop at that stage – a build it and they’ll come approach – while a robust few take the time and extra steps to evangelize the solutions themselves. And by trying to take on too much at one time, or throwing channel marketing automation at partners without a plan for educating them, providing support and requiring accountability, their programs fail – sometimes miserably.

On the other hand, it’s easy to be intimidated into doing nothing – a sort of rationalized in-action – by virtue of all the possibilities and moving parts channel marketing automation has to offer. Where do you start? Which tactics should you roll out to partners first? How many partners should be involved? How will you measure and share success? Both suppliers and channel partners sit still, overwhelmed by options and unable to move forward with proven tools and tactics that could drive sales and make their jobs easier.

A Method to the Madness: Crawl, Walk, Run

craw, walk, runThe fact is, when it comes to channel marketing automation and channel sales success, you absolutely have to crawl before you can run. After nearly a decade of empowering real results for channel marketing and sales organizations at Zift, it’s clear to me that there is a method to the madness and proven best practices for implementing channel marketing automation.

Instead of staying stagnant as competitors use new tools to capture market share or trying to boil the ocean by taking on every aspect of channel marketing automation at once, I suggest taking the following approach:

  • Start with a small group of partners: Pick a small subset of your channel partners and use them as a test case. Often, these are your “go to” partners for advice and input on your program – you know who they are! Educate them. Get them engaged. Achieve small successes and then, from there, slowly expand your program.
  • Set clear KPIs: Determine what you want to measure and communicate key performance indicators to partners from the start. Analyze results in a very detailed and forensic manner to ensure everyone is meeting set goals. If they aren’t, you have time to find out why and fix it before moving forward.
  • Build success metrics: Create and build on what I like to call “mini-Champaign moments.” These are small wins that demonstrate success and can be easily measured. Did a partner launch an email campaign that created new opportunities? Connect with new prospects or a long-quiet customer? Improve response turnaround or shorten time of acceptance to a lead you shared? Recognize and celebrate small milestones. They lead to bigger successes down the road.
  • Expect partners to testify: Suppliers can shout from the rooftops about the incredible benefits of content syndication, lead distribution, automated email marketing, social media syndication and more. But if the partners using the solutions aren’t singing the praises of channel marketing automation themselves, other partners just won’t listen. Encourage and expect partners to share their positive experiences, success stories and demonstrated results with your larger channel audience.
  • Change the channel culture: Accountability is in: With tight or fixed budgets, no one can afford to roll out new tools and tactics without requiring accountability from all parties involved. By increasing measurement and expecting internal and partner stakeholders to be accountable for their actions, you’ll be better positioned to expand your program across your entire organization.


By starting with a small subset of channel partners along with a specific set of tools and planned campaigns, it’s easier to invest in their success with clear direction, education and support. Measure and share even small wins, encourage partners to share their achievements, and require accountability from all stakeholders involved. Not happy with the way your program is proceeding? Slow down and take time to refine your efforts before expanding it to include new segments of your partner community. You’ll move from crawling, to walking to running with a winning channel marketing automation strategy in no time!