Channel Champion Blog

The Path to Channel Marketing Automation

Part 2 in a 3-Part Series

by Matt Beatty

At the end of my first post (Choosing the Right Partners) in this series, I mentioned that each step in a vendor’s relationship with a partner generates information that can lead to better ROI. CCI has organized those steps into the Partner Investment Lifecycle:

Partner Lifecycle Infographic

The challenge at each of these steps is to understand what information and/or data to collect and how to collect it, make sense of it, and use it to make both you and your partner more successful. As a sales engineer, I tried to manage relationships with distribution networks using CHAMP plans (Channel and Alliance Management Process). I know how cumbersome it can be trying to gather partner metrics using this approach.

Because CHAMP is spreadsheet-based, it is very difficult to bring disparate information sources together to create a holistic picture of each partner and the business they have with you. It might take you three weeks to manually collect all the partner information you need to make an accurate assessment. Then it might take another three weeks for your manager to review and approve it. By that time the data can be hopelessly out of date.

Given that many organizations don’t have the same field sales forces and field marketing forces as in the past, and manual approach to partner management becomes all the more challenging.

Enter Automation

To provide a higher level of service than what was possible using CHAMP plans, CCI started using advancements in web technology to build what we refer to as a “joint marketing planner.” This automated solution allows vendors and their partners to collaboratively plan integrated marketing campaigns. Instead of planning just one activity at a time—say, an out-bound telephone outreach campaign, you can use an online, wizard-driven planner to put together multiple marketing activities, all aimed at driving distinct ROI for a specific product for a specific duration of time. The planner can keep track of how many overall MDF dollars are distributed to a partner, and how each of those dollars will be spent—all good metrics to have when it comes time to measure campaign and partner success.

Next Step: Web Service Advancements Pave the Way for Joint Business Planners

Too often in the past, vendors’ work with partners was based on information from the past: this is how the partner performed last year selling these products to these customers while competing again these companies.

Competition has become too fierce and technology has advanced too far to settle for this kind of driving by the rear-view mirror approach to the channel. The key to effective channel sales now is being able to combine real-time data from multiple sources to paint an accurate, up-to-date picture of partner performance.

When it comes to this kind of instant information sharing, the simple fact of the matter is that the less humans have to do with it, the more accurate and the faster the sharing can be. Communications that take place directly between electronic devices over a network is known as “machine-to-machine” (M2M) communications. Web services are designed to enable M2M communications. These services have progressed to the point where developers can now use web APIs (application programming interfaces for either web servers or a web browsers) rather than more technical programming to get machines talking to each other.

This, in turn, means that it is much easier to develop planning tools that use web APIs to capture, analyze, and share information from the different systems and platforms vendors and partners use. In my next blog, I’ll talk about how joint business planners gather information, such as sales pipeline data, vendor certifications, marketing campaign metrics, POS data, and more to build multi-faceted, data-based, and real-time representations of joint vendor/partner activities. By enabling vendors and partners alike to track performance in real time, these representations lead to stronger, more collaborative, and more flexible partnerships.