September 2015 Feature

5 Tips to Help Your Partners Survive the Digital Marketing Evolution

Meaghan_SullivanThe Internet has been around for a long time now. Rare is the company that doesn’t have a website, offer online specials, and send out emails. So what’s with all the interest in digital marketing? What do we mean when we say “digital marketing?” How can vendors help partners succeed at it? And how can partners help themselves?

To get to the bottom of all this, CCI spoke with Meaghan Sullivan, Vice President of Global Channel Marketing at SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software. In this role, she is tasked with accelerating global indirect revenue through channel marketing practices with a focus on VARs and distributors. Sullivan focuses on partner-lead demand generation activities to provide SAP partners with innovative programs, campaigns and resources that enable them to more efficiently market their SAP solutions and services. Prior to SAP, Sullivan was vice president of channel strategy at HP. Before joining HP in April 2008, she held various business and market development positions at Motorola, Pillar Data Systems and BakBone Software. Sullivan also served as senior manager of strategic alliances at Veritas and worked in product marketing as strategic account executive at Quantum Corporation. Meaghan has been ranked in the Top 100 Power Women in the Channel by CRN six years running from 2009 through 2015 as well as awarded #2 most influential sales leader in the channel by CRN.

Fundamentally, digital marketing is defined as a method of interactive marketing of a product or service using digital technologies to reach and convert leads into customers. Primarily a company utilizes digital marketing to promote brands, build preference, and increase sales. And today more than ever, the customer buying journey has shifted to online where 70% of customers have made their buying and purchase decisions before they even talk to a company about the final sale. This shift has resulted in companies needing to strategically focus on digital transformation and put the right resources, focus, and tactics on their marketing efforts in this area. The channel is shifting from a sales-driven model into the digital marketing era and those successful companies and partners will be all about consistency and execution. Studies show that companies that have embraced the transformation to digital have seen a 9% increase in revenue creation, a 26% increase and profitability, and a 12% increase in market valuation.

Get Educated

Partners that understand the fundamentals of digital marketing will have a huge advantage in the competitive marketplace. SAP research has shown that 90% of CEOs believe that a digital economy will impact their industry and yet less than 15% are adapting and executing a digital strategy. So what is holding you back? Partners need a strategy to transform and put the right resources in place. SAP offers a full day of face-to-face training completely free of charge to their partners all around the globe. This digital marketing workshop helps partners understand the sales funnel, does a deep dive on marketing tactics and the fundamentals of social media. It is critical that partners understand how the funnel is shifting and how digital marketing focus and tactics can help target new leads and convert customers into loyal and long-term buyers. SAP is on the leading edge of helping our partners succeed in the new Digital Economy and has been recognized for the efforts to improve its partner’s online presence in a recent IDC (International Data Corporation) report Digital Marketing: Helping Partners Succeed.

Develop a Digital Transformation Strategy

Once you understand the fundamentals of the digital marketplace, it is critical to put a long-term strategy in place at your company that unlocks productivity and shifts the resources in the organization to the tactics that will drive revenue. Digital marketing is a great way for businesses to prosper but having a clear focus with precision and a goal will help the team to know what to focus on. This new strategy should encompass four different areas of the marketing funnel: awareness, interest, desire and action. When an organization has clear goals and a way to measure ROI, the consistency and execution of the plan will deliver desired results. The right strategy will incorporate a variety of digital tactics such as Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google SEO, blogging, video content, and digital PR.

Drive Traffic

There are a variety of tools and tactics to help drive traffic to your website and lure customers to your solutions. As vendors move into planning for 2016 it’s a great time to think about which digital networks to invest in and which platforms your company can utilize to receive more exposure. First and foremost, companies should evaluate their website and make sure that it is optimized and functioning at its best with quality content, a keyword strategy, and an interactive social media strategy, which in turn drives more traffic back to the site for deeper engagement. Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a key tactic as studies show that SEO leads have an average close rate of 14.6% compared to outbound leads (such as cold calls) which have an average close rate of 1.7%. Having your website optimized for SEO and having a strategy in place now can increase your leads and grow your business for the next year. Many companies, including SAP, have various programs and offerings for their partners where they will bring in the experts to do a deep dive on partner websites and help overhaul and create a customer website that includes focused content, social media tools, graphics and the use of Google Analytics to track user activity and develop a content strategy to attract additional web traffic.

Become a Thought Leader

Blogging and creating a strategic content strategy can literally change the way your company is perceived and drive more business. [pull quote] In an industry where competition is tight, being a thought leader can separate you from the pack and put you in a leadership position. Creating a corporate blog is one of the most effective social media tools for acquiring new leads. HubSpot found that 57% of organizations that write their own corporate blogs have acquired a customer through a blog-generated lead. Blogs also result in driving visitors back to your website for increased traffic and can also serve as an effective way to provide fresh content for your website. Blogging also helps to increase the effectiveness of other media as well. As an example, businesses with blogs have twice as many Twitter followers as those that don’t because of the high synergy between the technologies. Blogs can enhance brand image, demonstrate expertise, and humanizes your company. Need help with creating content? There are several companies and resources in the market that can help with content creation such as where a little budget can go a long way. Meaghan’s tip: blog smart and blog often. Engage with key thought leaders on Twitter for social conversations to increase your followers, gain relevance in the market, and increase thought leadership for your company.

Resource Accordingly

Setting your digital marketing strategy is one of the most important, yet complicated phases of setting your plans for 2016. It is critical to have clear goals in place on what you want to achieve and to ensure a budget and the right resources to do a good job. This will likely challenge most organizations to create new roles, new agencies, and new structures that integrate marketing and digital tactics. There are several resources available to determine what to manage in-house vs. what companies might want to outsource. With pressure on budgets, making the case for funds for new digital marketing initiatives is always challenging. But it is a critical path to doing a website refresh, a new AdWords campaign, a new email marketing system, and allocating someone to manage the social media marketing. In this shifting world, the digital marketing strategy must be an integral part of all organizations and driven from the top down. With proper resourcing and focus, partners that employ these strategies are guaranteed to see ROI, new customers, deeper retention of existing customers, and an increased pipeline.