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An emerging trend in the channel marketing space is the move by vendors toward through-partner marketing automation, which is aimed at enabling partners to easily access and use a vendor’s marketing materials as well as integrate the collateral easily into their own digital marketing. This includes the automation of sharing marketing collateral with partner Websites, social media and other communications channels as well as tracking the results of their engagements.

The ultimate goal is for the partners to achieve an improved ROI and for the vendors to have a fully connected and engaged partner in their marketing and sales funnels, said Brian Tervo, CEO and president, TIE Kinetix, North America, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider of channel demand-creation and sales-conversion solutions.

It doesn’t matter if the majority of a vendor’s business is direct or indirect or exclusively channel-driven. The challenges are the same: how the vendor can maximize the efficiency of its marketing programs, improve its ROI and generate more leads, said Tervo.

These issues can be addressed through a more holistic approach that includes an integrated partner strategy that is easy for a reseller to understand, said Tervo. “If vendors can’t clearly map this blueprint for the partners and guide them into adopting their brand more, increasing engagement with their communities, and using more of their campaigns and materials to promote their brands, it’s absolutely not going to be clear to the partner channel.”

Taking an Agile Approach

Tervo also advocates for an agile approach in which every step a partner takes to increase the adoption of a marketing program leads to clear results such as more leads. “Each step along the way between the reseller and the brand should be clear and not require a ton of effort by the reseller to engage,” he said.

Partners should always advocate for a pilot program first, said Tervo. A pilot program, entailing several partners, should be easy and inexpensive for a vendor to try out new ways and new approaches of improving ROI in the channel, he said.

One way to provide a “big picture” strategy that entails an integrated and agile approach is by implementing through-partner marketing automation. “Most brands today leverage marketing automation tools like [those of Eloqua, Marketo and Silverpop], but there is another class of emerging solution called through-partner marketing automation that takes the same kind of marketing programs for vendors and packages in a way that the channel can subscribe to and use without a lot of work,” said Tervo.

Through-partner marketing automation entails brand awareness, customer engagement, visitor experience and sales conversion tools to close the deal, added Tervo.

The integrated program should help drive demand creation and awareness of the brand through different communications channels, such as social networks and email marketing. To engage customers, vendors need to provide partners with promotions and content to help engage customers online, said Tervo. This is coupled with automatically pushing out content to partners’ Websites that help drive lead generation, and providing partners with the tools to close the deal quickly once a customer shows interest in the product.

Vendors have offered these types of services to their partners and it’s often a free cost and a simple integration process, but partners don’t often show the initiative or desire to oversee it or take advantage of it, which could be for several reasons, said Alex Smith, analyst, Canalys, Palo Alto, Calif.  For example, partners may not see any tangible value or get a lot of in-bound leads from Websites, he added.

“We are also familiar with partner channels who have not benefited from this kind of platform, but we also have seen the difference that occurs when these programs are implemented in a way that drives partner success,” said Tervo. “Just like anything, good technology [and concierge services] only get you part of the way there.”