December 2012 Feature

2012 Trends Point the Way for 2013 Channel Marketing

by Dale Taormino

Looking ForwardAs the end of the year approaches, it’s natural to reflect on some of the key trends of 2012 and how they will impact the direction for 2013. At CCI, we recognize that channel marketing is part art and part science. Perhaps, in the beginning of our profession we relied on our art skills more than our scientific skills. But in 2012, we celebrated the science of channel marketing by making huge strides in our practice and approach to the way we do business. Here are the top three trends of 2012 that helped tip the scales away from the art of channel marketing toward a scientific approach.

Trend #1: The Shift to Marketing ROI

Organizations that previously saw effective marketing by the channel as nice-to-have but didn’t really expect great results from partner efforts are shifting their expectations. Instead, vendors are looking at ROI much more seriously than ever before and placing increasing focus on how to improve channel marketing execution. The trend has been accelerated by large vendors focusing on growing their business by targeting the SMB and SME markets. This has been an area where they have been less successful with corporate marketing at reaching prospects. In order to get to the “last mile,” vendors have realized that partners are closest to these prospects and are key in this space.

With this shift, instead of just marketing with partners, vendors have begun to market on behalf of partners by allowing partners to outsource their marketing through a full-service marketing services and platforms. There are more channel marketing automation tools to manage campaigns, events, and social media on behalf of partners in an effort improve data tracking and performance. Helping partners market more effectively with greater ROI has hence become a key objective for many organizations in 2013.

Trend #2: Individual-Targeted Sales Incentives

The last year has also seen a growing number of individual-targeted sales incentives – particularly those focused on the “pre-sale” behavior side. While vendors still target incentives at the partner organization level, organizations are recognizing that with the complexity of B2B technology sales, influencing “soft skills” behavior among sales reps and other key partner roles is an important component to their partner strategy. We expect to see more of these upstream-type incentive programs in 2013, likely linked with entity-level programs to drive alignment between the field and management.

Trend #3: Big Data and System Integration

The big data trend we’ve seen take hold in other areas of the enterprise is making its way to channel marketing and sales. In the name of both channel ROI and “ease of doing business,” organizations have taken a bird’s eye view at the systems and processes in place to support partners. You know what they’re finding? Executives are finding that there is a big discrepancy in data tracking, data integration, and data reporting compared to the transparency of data in all other areas of their business. For 2013, we expect vendors to look at their systems and processes in an effort to integrate and automate their business with partners to provide greater intelligence and insight. It is this final trend where we see the scales tipping in favor of science over art.