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Confessions of a Channel Marketer: Amanda Smith

Since Allbound is a Partner Sales Acceleration Platform, it would only make sense that we feature someone from our own partner channel in the growing Confessions of a Channel Marketer blog series. Today’s confession is from Amanda Smith, VP of Key Accounts at Elevation Marketing, a b2b-focused marketing services firm that works with a range of channel-focused organizations including LifeLock, Avnet, Praxair and SanDisk among many others.

Amanda has a unique point of view on the dynamics of managing different types of partner networks, having helped clients support partners in vertical markets that include agriculture, high-tech, manufacturing, employee benefits and the green industry.

What’s your favorite thing about working in the channel?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’d have to say the most exciting thing is seeing the channel evolve and change over the years. Technology advances create marketing challenges our clients face within the channel. As a marketing agency, we have to stay on top of theses trends to figure out how we can help clients successfully communicate their offerings to and through their partners. It keeps us on our toes, but helps us recommend what’s best for our clients. But it seems old habits die hard, and historically not all of our clients have been receptive to adapting new technologies and strategies to their channel initiatives.

[bctt tweet=”Stay on top of trends in order to successfully communicate product offerings to, and then through channel partners.”]

When I first started working in the channel, social was really in its infancy. Now we’re seeing how powerful social networks can be when leveraged correctly to engage the right audience. Of course, before your channel partners jump into the realm of social business it’s imperative to understand who the end-buyer is, and then help partners connect with them in the right platform, at the right time and with the right message.

What would you say is the biggest challenge in channel sales and marketing?

Sometimes done is better than perfect. Most of our clients and their partners are spread thin and lack the internal and financial resources to develop strategy, launch, implement and track ROI for an effective closed-loop marketing campaign. When speed to market is sometimes the only KPI our channel marketing contacts care about, a campaign just has to get out the door and there is limited amount of time to make it happen. While we always work to look at things big picture, sometimes we’re only in charge of framing and delivering that picture, versus figuring out why we painted it in the first place.

Regardless of how much time and resources you’ve got, it’s always important to create forward momentum in all projects, whether its handling “just a tactic,” or a planning and managing a fully integrated campaign. The ideal path may not always be the possible when resources are limited, but you still have to make the most of each touch point. Ultimately you have to understand that not every campaign is going to be a grand slam. Some tactics are simply about getting on base and building your stats.

Tell me one tool, mobile app or magic potion you wish you had in the channel?

A Magic 8 Ball. Especially one that answers all things ROI related. That’s the question we get from clients all the time. “How does this impact ROI?” It would be amazing if you could just shake the Magic 8 Ball and it would navigate all of the complexities relevant to the specific organization we’re working with and generate an answer. We’ve seen ROI mean everything from deploying an email and reporting on that activity to exactly what lead sources are generating the most recurring revenue via closed-loop campaign reporting. In the end, it all comes down to how robust the reporting tools and technologies are within an organization.

What’s the future or “the next big thing” for channel sales and marketing?

Creating a holistic, human user experience across all customer touch points. This may sound intuitive and all marketers should be doing this right now. However, best practices don’t always line up with reality. User experience is no longer just focused on websites and digital interactions. It’s about how users are interacting with your brand. Which means strategies have to provide a consistent and meaningful user experience across all customer touch-points in the sales process. A customer’s experience with your social presence and face-to-face interactions should align. Because let’s face it; at the end of the day, most sales are closed in person, with a human and with a handshake. This is particularly the case in indirect sales channels. And regardless of the medium or channel, the messaging has to be cohesive, progressive, benefit-oriented and ultimately provide value to customers and prospects.

Share a story from your work in the channel – a program that was highly successful, a partner interaction that was memorable, etc.

Being relatable. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some incredible projects, campaigns and events with clients and colleagues over the years. Oddly enough, what immediately comes to mind is a pre-show direct mailer we recently created for a client for one of their largest trade shows of the year. Our client worked to scrub the list and we worked to design and message a piece that would stand out from the clutter. All said and done, we had an 18% conversion rate at the show. The sales team had great dialog with the attendees and were thrilled that they were actually qualified leads to boot. I’d attribute the success of this to three things, a targeted list, relevant content and a human user experience.

Allbound is fortunate to have like-minded people like Amanda, and organizations like Elevation as part of its partner network. Knowing that there are others out there working each day to bring transparency, efficiency, efficacy and innovation to the channel is encouraging.