This year’s B2B Marketing Exchange (#B2BMX) was packed with inspirational ideas and speakers. Emmy-Award winning media entrepreneur Elizabeth Giorgi (@lizgiorgi) gave everyone, “Permission to do less in marketing and in life — in order to do more of what matters.” Pam Didner (@PamDidner) took us on a hyperspace romp through the fact and fiction of AI in B2B marketing.  Keynote Todd Henry (@toddhenry) even challenged attendees to “Die Empty.” Sure, it’s the title of his latest book but the message was impactful:  

“Embrace the importance of now, and refuse to allow the lull of comfort, fear, familiarity, and ego to prevent you from taking action on your ambitions… The cost of inaction is vast. Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside of you. Choose to die empty.”

“… The cost of inaction is vast.” That resonated with me personally and from a professional angle. We’re always talking about the benefits of applying technology and best practices in channel marketing, sales, and operations. But what are channel brands and marketers losing every day — every minute — by doing nothing? By repeating familiar processes and investing in tech that just does not work for channel? By focusing only on specific aspects of their channel programs instead of the bigger business picture? Way too much, according to the channel experts at B2BMX.  


As Zift was instrumental in shaping and launching B2BMX’s dedicated Channel Marketing Track when it premiered in 2018, it was great to see how central that track has become to this event. Channel experts, analysts and the folks who live and breathe channel marketing joined workshops and packed into panel sessions. During a panel focused on Referral Partner Programs, David Portnowitz, CMO of Star2Star, pointed out that your partners are the true face of your brand. If you aren’t providing an incredible experience for partners, you’re essentially undermining the customer experience. No one can afford that. 

Well-known Forrester analyst Maria Chien (VP and Research Director for Channel Marketing Strategies) took the next step in her session, asking the question, “Is Your Partner Enablement Strategy Broken? (Spoiler Alert: It Is!).” Maria suggested brands shift from focusing entirely on channel partner enablement to rev up their channel revenue engines. She noted that buyers are engaging sellers differently today and with much greater frequency. Every customer-facing role and touch from a partner’s organization will impact a buyer’s decision. Doing nothing to influence and optimize all of those interactions is incredibly detrimental.

Maria recommends that brands examine and support every buyer interaction via more dynamic partner enablement. Building external loyalty and driving partner business growth takes more than slapping a partner logo on a brand’s collateral. Maria emphasized that brands must ensure all customer-facing roles possess the needed skills, knowledge, and process expertise and have access to the best assets to maximize every buyer or customer interaction. [You can learn more from Maria about Dynamic Partner Enablement on Channel Visions TV now.] 



Karine Elsen, Senior Director of Global Partner Marketing, demonstrated exactly how Cisco is actively engaging and investing in its partners via its Marketing Velocity Program. Instead of leaving partners to flounder on their own as Cisco began marketing outside of IT, the company proactively launched this program to power digital marketing practices, enable better training, and give partners the tools they need to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

“We don’t have an ideal partner,” said Elsen. “We give everyone the tools to become a better partner.” And that includes Zift, the platform that powers Cisco’s Marketing Velocity Central: A full-service marketing portal with free-to-use customizable campaigns and an enhanced marketing content library. Scorecards show Cisco which partners are active and engaged. MDF spend is tracked and optimized in Zift’s Marketplace. And partners have access to real people to help and guide them via Zift’s Channel Engagement team. “The experience for the partner is seamless,” Elsen said. “We are focused on aligning sales and marketing — creating a growth marketing organization — and Zift’s end-to-end platform helps us do that.” 


What are you doing to shake things up and shake off channel partner and program inertia? Share your thoughts in the comments and I look forward to seeing you at next year’s B2BMX!