Hey Channel, Martech is calling. Will you answer?

MarTech and channel sales

What would Don Draper think of the world of marketing today? For my fellow Mad Men fans, perhaps you recall the episode where the IBM System/360 made its debut in the SC&P office. The foreign monstrosity took over the place where the creative team's couch had once resided, and there were cultural reprecussions in the advertising agency after the computer's appearance.

Fast-forward almost 50 years later, and as I walked through the expo hall at this year's MarTech Conference, I felt the tingling feeling that, if he had been an actual person and not a TV character, Don Draper must have had when he walked past that foreign machine. 

Mad MenThe Marketing Tech Conference is an awesome mash-up of marketing and technology, and with close to 100 marketing software exhibitors, there was something super techy for pretty much everyone (Side note: Persado folks, I'm still KIND OF freaking out about what you're doing with artificial intelligence and copywriting. Just so you know). 

When I wasn't walking wide-eyed through the  jam-packed expo hall of tech goodness, I was taking in marketing technology content from a lineup of compelling marketing thought leaders. There were two sessions in particular that resonated with me the most — OK, there were technically three, but one of them is completely self-serving. 

Gord Hotchkiss, author of The Buyersphere, How Business Buys from Business in a Digital Marketplace took us into the world of physics, biology, psychology, sociology and neurology to teach us the difference between complexity and complication. Gord pointed out that centrally planned models work really well in a controlled and predictable environment, except the thing is, we don't live in a controlled and predictable environment, do we? No, we live in a dynamic, complex environment.

You've likely heard this before: nature doesn't play out in straight lines. This is where we humans like to complicate our business lives. We take something that is naturally complex and attempt to make it fit a "straight line model." That's when things get really complicated. Consider the channel. It's complex. It's likely the most complex part of any sales ecosystem, and it's important that both the processes we employ to support that ecosystem, and the technology we use to both enhance and streamline those processes, can naturally flow with the innate complexity of the channel. 

Later in the day, Scott Brinker led a fireside chat with Monique Bonner, Global Marketing VP for Digital, Technology & Innovation at Dell. While Scott and Monique discussed everything from managing the evolution of marketing technology stacks (at global scale) to nurturing marketing talent to breaking down silos between internal teams and external technology partners, one of the most interesting questions Scott asked Monique was quite simply, "What does digital mean?" Monique explained that at first, digital marketing meant anything online. And then later, it referred to social media marketing. But today, digital means so much more. Digital means getting the right content to the right person at the right point of their journey — and on the right device and in the right context. Boy, that's a tall order of "rights." 

At Allbound we're passionate about both of these points made by Gord Hotchkiss and Monique Bonner. Channel or partner software should support the complexity of your sales ecosystem, but it means that you — yes you, the human being who is helping architect the ecosystem's supportive infrastructure — need to accept this complexity (Side note #2: Around the Allbound office I like to tell people to "breathe into" any complexities or "challenges," likely a metaphorical side effect of having taken too many yoga classes).

In addition, taking your same old traditional marketing content and putting it on a website or in an email does not mean you have mastered "digital marketing." Digital is an ever evolving, critical element of our entire marketing, sales and customer success experiences, and it's changing the way we consume content and make decisions that impact our brand loyalties, purchasing decisions and social interactions. 

Dead Poets SocietyStill wondering about that third session that made me want to jump up on my chair and shout out "Oh Captain! My Captain!" like a teenage boy in Dead Poets Society

That surge of emotion is dedicated to Mark Roberts, CMO of ShoreTel, who asked a sea of channel marketers to take a good hard look at their MDF programs and ask themselves what branded yoyos, drones and sneakers had to do with their company, their value proposition, or their customer happiness. "How do we modernize and apply innovation with and for our channel partners and the millions we invest?" he asked "There has to be a smarter, better way."

And then he suggested the very thing my fellow #AllStars and I have been saying to our customers, to our prospects and anyone else who will listen: What if you took advantage of the amazing digital marketing resources available and provided your channel partners with the ability to purchase innovative, effective marketing activity with their marketing development funds?  

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My, how far we've come. Let's see how far we can now go.

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