Channel Champion Blog

Automating the Joint Business Planning Process

Part 3 in a 3-Part Series

by Matt Beatty

iStock_000031163784_00In the second post in this series (The Path to Channel Marketing Automation), I mentioned a couple of ways that joint marketing planners help both partners and vendors create successful campaigns, enabling them to create plans that align with mutually agreed-upon business goals, drive leads to meet those goals, are easy for partners to implement, and that are measurable. In this post I’ll go upstream a bit and talk about how joint business planners add to that success.

Moving to Clarity in Business Planning

Joint business planners help vendors articulate their business objectives and then provide their partners and their internal organization with an easy way to review, revise, and come to mutual agreement on a set of business objectives. This type of tool also articulates the level of investment that the vendor is going to make in the partner.

Let’s say that as a vendor I am focused on Product A. I would use the planner to communicate to Partner X that, from our perspective, their revenue growth for Product A should be $1 million for the next fiscal year. I would indicate in the plan that I’m willing to invest $Y in marketing activities specifically targeting the product—plus another $Z in combined campaign-type marketing activities for the product.

The partner can then access the complete plan inside the joint business planner to review, revise, and/or approve the plan and the funding levels. Once both sides approve the business plan, the partner will have a clearly identified amount of money it can apply to Product A marketing activities. Then when it’s time to map out specific marketing campaigns, the vendor and partner can use the joint marketing planner to map out and come to mutual agreement on the specific activities the partner will carry out.

Putting Joint Business Planners to Use

Ideally, vendors will initiate use of these planners on regular basis (such as annually, semi-annually, or quarterly). They would define the segment of the partner population they want to focus on, and then have their field channel sales team engage with those partners using the tool.

We’ve seen many large vendor organizations doing some level of business planning using everything from spreadsheets to 20-slide decks. They use these tools to indicate what the investments are, what the growth objectives are, what the investment’s going to be for the lender, and so on. The problem with this approach, of course, is that you are essentially working offline with data that is stale the minute that you have “finalized” your plans. With an automated tool, the joint planning process enters the online world.

Using a joint business planner, the channel field manager might begin looking at a partner’s past performance, partner certification, and other criteria. Since joint business planners use APIs to hook into other corporate data sources, the channel manager can see what the partner did in the past in terms of sales for Product A and maybe another product, Product B. Based on this information, the manager might create a plan that focuses the partner on selling Product A and Product B.

Access to past performance indicators can also help the manager define what reasonable partner success might look like in the coming year. Thanks to web APIs, channel sales staff won’t have to manually search multiple platforms to access the most recent POS data, pipeline success reports, leads generated, or sales closed. All that information will be pre-populated inside the planner.

Connecting the Dots to Marketing Dollars

For example, the channel manager may be able to see what the company’s marketing investment was for Partner X last year. He or she may anticipate that partner revenues for Product A and Product B will grow by 10 percent. With an automated joint business planner, the manager will be able to see at a glance how well the partner marketed each product over the last period. Based on that performance, the manager might decide to give the partner a 15% increase for Product A marketing, while leaving Product B funding flat.

And because both the data and the resulting business plan are easily accessible to both vendor and partner alike, it is easy for the partner to review the plan, make suggested revisions, and come to an agreement on business goals.

Keeping Stakeholders in the Loop

The end result is that the joint business planner contains a clearly articulated, mutually agreed-upon business plan that includes historical performance data for that particular partner. The plan defines what success looks like for the partner in terms of growth objectives or other objectives on the business side, and clearly articulates what the vendor’s investment is.

This not only helps keeps the channel marketing and partner teams on track, it also makes it much easier for the channel manager to provide stakeholders with a concise, easy-to-read plan—one that connects the stakeholder to the data that formed the basis for the final plan.

The real win is that it becomes much easier to track each partner-marketing plan throughout the year. If you’re able to track actual performance against planned performance, you can adjust your plans in real time to reach the overall goal: helping your partners produce the biggest return possible from your investment in them.

Stretching Precious Resources

As field channel sales staff are being asked to cover more partners and drive more business with fewer resources, the automations I’ve described in this blog series can help channel marketers attain that elusive goal of growing market share in a static economy.

As I said at the outset, improving channel ROI begins with choosing the right partners. Once you’ve got the right team together, it becomes a matter of managing your investments in each partner. Automation, as it comes to life in joint marketing planners and joint business planners, puts the real-time information and data you need to maximize channel ROI right at your fingertips.