Channel marketing is changing, but not in the way you might expect.
Like every other facet of sales and marketing, channel marketing is being affected by the rise of newer, faster, and better technology. We’ve finally hit a point where technology is getting out of the way! New tools and the data they capture and create are allowing for more, higher-quality relationships. The result is more human interaction, not less.
Copper CMO Morgan Norman calls this new wave of marketing the Relationship Era. “We’re living in a new Relationship Era,” he says, “where intimate customer relationships and deeply personalized customer experiences are no longer a nice-to-have: they’re the de facto way of doing business and the bare minimum required to meet customer expectations.”
Perhaps nowhere is this more true than partner marketing. SaaS end users don’t always expect one-on-one communication, but partners do. It’s easier to build and maintain a handful of high-quality partner relationships than it is to do the same for 10,000 users. But, once your partner program grows beyond a few partners and channel managers, a partner management tool like Allbound can help keep everything in order.
While technology is the primary driver behind the trends listed below, the result isn’t more data or more tools—it’s better relationships and a more fruitful partner program. By nailing a few fundamentals, you can set the stage for a rewarding and effective partner program.
1. The Free Flow of Data Between Sales and Marketing Tools
Most companies rely on a sales and marketing stack—that is, collections of tools—to get the job done. There are tools for email, live chat, CRM, ad optimization, and so much more—all of which help companies communicate with their prospects and users at different points in the funnel.
With the rise of specialized, configurable tools, it’s vital to productivity that each piece of your sales and marketing stack are optimized to work together and allow data to flow freely. An email tool, for example, is much more useful if it can share data with an analytics tool and a live chat tool.
By shifting the focus away from tools being the heart of workflows and instead making partner data front and center, you’ll unlock a more efficient and effective partner program, along with better relationships with your partners.
This unified flow of data is most effective when you have a partner platform tool. Your partner relationship management tool houses the majority of your partner data and is also where the bulk of the communication happens. If that tool can “speak”—-i.e., pass data back and forth—-with other apps, it sets up your reps for success. They can see the whole picture when talking to a prospect or partner—demographic data about the contact and company, interactions with emails and other content and revenue data.
2. An Emphasis on a Frictionless Partner Experience
Over the last few years, the rapid growth in excellent sales and marketing tools has shifted the entire industry towards a more enjoyable user experience.
While UX design isn’t a technology in and of itself, it’s worth mentioning here because consumer-grade products are increasingly popular at the enterprise level. Why? Because they usually offer a far better experience for the end user than enterprise software.
This trend has had a significant impact on the B2B SaaS world where many companies place considerable emphasis on design, product, and UI. The same pattern is now trickling into the channel marketing world. Your partners are getting used to using software that provides an excellent experience and, increasingly, they expect it from their partners as well.
Here are just a few of the ways you can create a better experience for your partners:
- Give your partners a functional platform where they can find information and easily contact you. This platform should be a destination that increases their engagement with you and your product.
- Create content to address all of the questions they might have and that helps them sell your product. Content should address both prospects and existing partners.
- Offer training so that your partners are well-equipped to sell your products. This seems obvious but should be prioritized and emphasized within your platform.
- Utilize feedback from your users in the product development cycle. Make your partners’ lives easier by continually iterating on your product (and keeping them informed of the improvement).
- Treat your partners like your best customers. Monitor revenue by segments, monitor churn and inactivity, implement marketing automation to increase engagement and send reports along with sales tips.
Keep an eye on ways you can improve your partner experience, but don’t let design get in the way of building relationships. The basis of every successful partner program is strong relationships with the right partners.
3. Best-Of-Breed Tools Shaking up the Enterprise Software Market
When choosing software tools, modern enterprises have generally had two options: buy large, enterprise-focused packages that “do everything” but excel in nothing; or piece together smaller, best-of-breed software tools that each tackle one part of the problem.
These days, though, things are beginning to change. Even while the enterprise market continues to grow—-a recent Gartner report forecasts companies will spend nearly US$400 billion on enterprise software in 2018 alone—companies are proving that the future won’t continue being dominated by the old guard. Instead, best-of-breed tools—individual software tools built to perform a few functions very well—will become the logical choice for most companies.
Such a stack might include tools like:
- Salesforce for CRM
- Allbound for PRM
- Wistia for video hosting
- Stripe for payment management
- Marketo for marketing automation
- Zendesk for customer service
Each of these tools focuses on just one or two primary functions, and they each perform their specific functions very well. Since the team behind each tool can concentrate on a narrower problem, these tools can cater more closely to the particular needs of their user base, providing a better experience for their end users.
Copper is an excellent example of tools playing nicely together. By embedding their CRM directly into the familiar interface and workflows of G Suite, Copper makes it easy for users to update opportunities and manage their pipeline right from their inbox. Deployment is faster, learning curves are shorter, and the user experience is superior to other enterprise platforms.
A single CRM app can never replace a fully integrated sales and marketing solution. But by combining multiple apps to manage partner relationships, marketing automation, customer service, and social marketing, customers can build a full-featured solution: one that’s not just easy to deploy and use, but is also flexible enough for customers to innovate at their own pace.
So, as you consider improvements to your channel marketing strategy, keep these technology trends in mind. If a technology solution can help your team make better, faster decisions, then it’s worth exploring. If not, it may not be so disruptive after all.