Why the “Channel Stack” is a Terrifyingly Outdated Idea

Posted on November 5, 2015

By Scott Salkin



“If you are marketing technology, you are either: disrupting an existing category, creating a new category—or you’re at the wrong company” — Anthony Kennada, Gainsight VP of Marketing.


 You probably wouldn't choose to use this outdated Mac for work every day, so why rely on an outdated channel stack?

Wow. That statement from Anthony Kennada, an Allbound board member, comes from an article of his on ChiefMarketer.com, and it brought me right back to the exact reason we founded Allbound: to disrupt an industry – the channel – that has been seemingly left behind despite massive innovation and new technologies being introduced in every other segment of sales and marketing over the past few decades.

But, why not the Channel? How on earth can the category of indirect sales and marketing, one of the most important and complex roles in modern-day commerce, continue to be stuck on what have been called the seven most dangerous and expensive words in business: “we’ve always done it this way.”

And what can we do to change it?

Because it was made all too evident yet again in a recent article where it was very boldly proclaimed that “The Channel Stack is the Future of Channel Management.” Well, I’m here to tell you that very statement in and of itself exemplifies the terrifyingly outdated and expensive state of thinking that has left channel sales and marketing neglected of modernization, and has many channel partners fighting for their own survival.

Here are five very real and proven reasons why:

  1. You Already Have a Stack: Businesses large and small have invested heavily in technologies that align to their sales cycles, from list building and CRM software to apps for marketing automation, e-signature and contract management. A parallel channel stack leverages NONE of these technologies and only increases costs and headcount for management, administration and support.
  2. There is No Integration: Integration is one of, if not the most important requirement for every investment in your sales and marketing stack. For many businesses, platforms like Salesforce or API connectors such as Zapier or CloudElements act as a virtual “circuit board” that allows the different layers to communicate and work together. A legacy channel stack, while likely to integrate with Salesforce, typically has little or no integration among its own layers or with the other layers in your existing sales and marketing stack, which means…
  3. The User Experience Sucks: The channel stack seems to forget some very important people – the channel partners themselves and their sales reps who are front and center with your customer. Legacy channel portals and PRM systems focus on management and control. It’s time to move beyond those antiquated tools and shift your focus to partner empowerment and collaboration. A “stack” with multiple logins and user interfaces does just the opposite, delivering an un-friendly, disjointed user experience and crippling your chances at improving partner engagement and performance.
  4. Data and Analytics Are Terrible: Reporting and analytics have long been sensitive, even taboo subjects for channel sales and marketing leaders because of the difficulty gathering data and correlating it into real business intelligence. Now, try pulling data out of the multiple, non-integrated, wobbly layers of a channel stack. My gut tells me that you enjoy Excel as much as I do.
  5. ROI is Non-Existent: Make no mistake, the channel stack is an über expensive undertaking, both in acquisition and management costs, creating a complex and complicated behemoth. The aforementioned article recommends SEVEN layers for your channel with SEVEN licensing agreements, SEVEN invoices per month, SEVEN vendors to manage, SEVEN systems and user interfaces to learn and train your partners on, and ZERO leveraging of your existing investments in sales and marketing technologies. Is this how you want to invest your limited time and budget?

Adding a Channel “Layer” to Your Existing Sales & Marketing Stack

Unlike the hierarchical channel technology stack, a streamlined technology layer has the ability to centralize and connect the people, content and technology for running and growing a channel while providing access to reports and statistics that help accelerate performance. It’s time to say goodbye to the complex portals, legacy PRM systems and cluttered, disconnected systems that restrain channel performance in today’s digital enterprise.

Completely re-thinking—and modernizing the channel—not only empowers your partners to sell, it facilitates the sales process and shortens sales cycles. Power struggles are replaced by powerful partnerships, and working toward a shared goal becomes everyone’s mission.

The channel doesn’t need more stacked technologies. It demands an overhaul – an inherent channel layer to disrupt our industry, leverage your existing investments and headcount within a plug-and-play application platform, and empower your partners. No excuses. Just more sales, faster. That’s why we’re calling Allbound “Partner Sales Acceleration.”

Scott Salkin

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