At last week’s Content2Conversion Conference and Demand Gen Summit, hundreds of B2B marketers gathered to learn everything they could about the latest marketing trends and tactics, from blueprints for content strategy to content audits and gap analysis, campaign reporting metrics and segmentation strategies. And while no singular session was geared toward marketing through or enabling partnerships, and the words “your indirect channel” were not uttered by a single speaker, every single marketer I spoke to that week had one — a channel, that is. And what shocked me most was that not one of the marketers I spoke to at this forward-thinking event had even considered that the strategies they were there to learn might have any relevance in their company’s channel marketing efforts.
A fellow marketer saw my name badge in the expo hall, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I saw your name badge as you walked by, and I absolutely have to know what your company does because I’m so curious about the name Allbound.”
With pleasure I explained that Allbound is a SaaS platform that helps companies empower their resellers and distributors to be more customer-focused through content and collaboration, and I shared that far too often we forget that sales and marketing is more than just inbound and outbound (although as sales and marketing professionals we love that debate of how much you need of each, don’t we?). Partnerships — VARs and distributors, agents and franchisees — these too play a critical role in the success of almost any company. And, more often than not, these partnerships drive far more revenue for our businesses than all direct sales efforts combined.
And this brings me to the root of what makes me a) a little bit frustrated with my profession and b) incredibly excited about the opportunity that lies before us. Forward-thinking marketing professionals don’t seem to be talking about the channel, and channel marketers don’t seem to be talking about innovative marketing strategies. Perhaps back-to-back weeks at events like SaaStr and then C2C16 has me drinking the “We Can Do It!” Kool-Aid, but boy this brain space is freaking awesome.
So, for those of you in channel marketing who missed out on this year’s Content2Conversion Conference and Demand Gen Summit, here are some of my favorite sound bites from a couple of people who really know their stuff:
Laura Ramos’ job is to help CMOs plan, build, and deliver marketing programs that combine traditional, digital, and social approaches that lead with business issues and fuel their company’s top line growth. In her talk at C2C16, Laura advised that if you do one thing this year, make that one thing be advocate marketing.
"How well do you know and use knowledge to serve and delight your customers?"Laura asked the group.
Buyer empowerment has created a new age of competitive advantage, and it’s up to the sales and marketing community to make the most of that advantage. B2B buyer behavior has changed forever, with 74% of buyers going online for business purchasing, and 53% sharing that they would prefer to go online and actually complete a business purchase rather than speak with a salesperson. These are business-to-business buyers, and with 70% of all global goods being sold through the channel, the majority of these B2B buyers are buying from resellers, agents, brokers, and the like.
David’s job is to help Aptos engage customers differently through thoughtful and insightful messaging, content and outreach programs. What’s Aptos? They are the recognized market leader in retail Point of Sale solutions, with over 122,000 stores and 500 retail brands live on their platform.
“Embrace creative thinking,” Dave preached to us. “Obsess over quality. Publish or perish!”
Can I get an amen? A room full of content marketers heaved a heavy sigh when Dave shared the stat we all already knew but like to pretend doesn’t exist (like the junk I know is hiding under my couch). 76% of B2B buyers prefer different content at each stage of their customer journey.
Boy, that’s a lot of content. So, how do we give them what they want without losing our minds? Dave urged us to think like publishers, hire our own internal managing editors to ensure we keep on message and hit our deadlines, and he hammered in the concept of repurposing content into the most highly consumable, audience-centric publications and events that tell stories that have nothing to do with your company and everything to do with your buyer.
In short, marketing collateral as you’ve come to know it is dead. Long live creative content. The next time you toss a piece of old-school marketing collateral over the wall to your channel, ask yourself, “What value is this content bringing to my channel partner and to our potential customer?”
We’re not going to be able to change channel sales and marketing overnight, but the first step is in recognizing that we have lot of catching up to do.