Making channel marketing work in a modern B2B world
As Client Planning Director at MOI Global, I’ve worked with some of the largest international IT and tech B2B brands, including Oracle. Their size and the wide range of products produced by these global brands means that it’s usually not possible to sell to such diverse customers and markets alone.
Channel partners give a further reach to IT vendors
International IT and tech brands such as Oracle require the assistance of channel partners to distribute and resell their products, as well as provide tailored solutions to meet the needs of their customers. Channel partners essentially form the links from vendors all the way to the end-users, widening the reach of vendors, increasing their market share, reaching new customers, and penetrating new markets.
There are a few types of channel partner involved in B2B IT and tech, but the following are some of the more common ones:
- Resellers: They resell software and other IT products, usually without any modifications, to end-users.
- Distributors: They sell to other channel partners.
- VARs (Value-Added Resellers): They resell software, but usually as part of a complete solution for the end-user.
A landscape transformed – why channel partners need to rethink their marketing
Over my ten-plus years working in marketing, I’ve seen the B2B landscape transformed, with B2B buyers no longer waiting for vendors to reach out to them. The internet means that modern, digital-native buyers are proactive in their search for the right vendor, and it’s now common for decision makers to have researched multiple suppliers long before brands even know they exist – in fact, 87% already know what they are going to purchase before they even get to the website of their chosen vendor.
Modernising channel marketing
We now need to look at how channel partners can market their services to meet the changing demands of today’s B2B buyers. Here are a few of the ways channel partners can add to the integrated mix to modernise their marketing:
- Mixing creativity with technology: With IT vendors’ channel partners selling software and technology solutions, it makes sense that they should also use technology in their marketing efforts. Today’s B2B buyers aren’t sticking to one channel, so you need to go to where they are, but it’s now possible for channel partners to use real-time data to provide insight into who their customers are, where they are, and what they’re talking about, and then use this knowledge along with creativity to engage them.
- Social selling: 75% of B2B purchases are influenced by social media, which is where channel partners need to be if they want to engage with modern buyers. Social selling is about making genuine connections with potential customers while spending less money than when using paid media alone.
- Live events: A survey released in early 2016 by Connectiv showed that B2B brands think they’ll see 24% of their revenue generated through events by 2020. Not using event marketing means a lot of lost revenue for channel partners – however, you still need to plan carefully to create an event that engages today’s digital delegates.
- Content marketing: Much of the research by today’s B2B buyers is done before they even get to their chosen vendor, and it’s often by consuming content online. Channel partners can capitalise on this by producing their own content, whether it be videos, blog posts, infographics or whitepapers. Since channel partners often work in niches, they can provide much relevant and in-demand information and advice.
For more ideas of how channel partners can modernise their marketing, check out MOI’s Modern Demand Centre methodology, which incorporates the above into the full integrated marketing mix – we know the approach works because we recently won B2B Marketing’s award for Best Multichannel Campaign.
Getting over the fear of channel marketing
With different types of channel partners selling a range of products and services to diverse markets, it can be difficult to get channel marketing right. But to reach out to today’s modern B2B buyers, channel partners need a new way to engage, and a modernised approach to B2B marketing is the way to do it. Please do get in touch if you want to talk more about how channel marketing can work in a modern B2B world.