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  • To address the inherent challenges of channel marketing operations, channel vendors have implemented a variety of marketing enablement programs. Some types of marketing enablement programs have been used for decades, while others are more recent in origin. While the details of these programs can and do differ substantially, all marketing enablement programs are ultimately designed to increase the effectiveness and frequency of channel partner marketing efforts. There are three main types of marketing enablement programs in use today:

     

    1. Financial incentive programs

    2. Self-service partner portals

    3. Managed marketing services

     

    These three types of marketing enablement programs are not mutually exclusive, but rather they are complementary components of an effective marketing enablement system. In fact, companies with the best-performing channel marketing operations combine all three types of programs to equip channel partners with the tools, education, and resources they need to develop and execute successful marketing programs.

     

    Channel vendors face the same marketing challenges that confront all types of business enterprises, but they also face challenges that organizations with centralized marketing operations don’t typically encounter.


  • Channel vendors face the same marketing challenges that confront all types of business enterprises. They must deal with a growing number of marketing channels, create and deliver marketing messages and materials that are relevant to individual prospects and customers, and maximize the productivity of marketing operations. In addition, however, channel vendors face challenges that organizations with centralized marketing operations don’t typically encounter.

     

    1. Lack of Expertise and Resources - Many channel partners are small organizations that don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to run effective marketing programs on a regular and frequent basis. In a recent study by the Aberdeen Group, almost half (48%) of survey respondents identified lack of marketing expertise at the local level as one of the biggest challenges facing channel vendors.

     

    2. Maintaining Brand Consistency - In a company where a central marketing department manages all communications with customers and prospects, it is relatively easy to maintain consistent brand messaging. That changes dramatically when a company has dozens or hundreds of independent channel partners executing marketing programs. In the Aberdeen study mentioned above, survey respondents said that maintaining brand consistency is the greatest challenge for distributed marketing organizations.


  • Every day, thousands of companies around the world sell their products and services through independent or quasi-independent channel partners such as franchisees, independent agents, dealers, and value-added resellers.

     

    Channel-based selling is a major feature of the economic landscape in most parts of the world. For example, in 2012, there were over 700,000 franchised business establishments in the United States, and those establishments produced $769 billion in sales. Franchising is the stereotypical example of channel-based selling, but many kinds of companies sell through channel partners, including:

     

    • Insurance companies that sell through independent agents
    • Financial services firms that sell through independent financial advisors and/or 
broker-dealers
    • Technology companies that sell through value-added resellers
    • Manufacturing companies that sell through independent dealers or retailers
       

    Not only are indirect channel sales a significant part of the overall economy, many companies rely on channel sales for a sizeable portion of their total revenues. For example, many technology companies derive more than half of their total revenues from sales made through channel partners.


  • Companies that sell through independent or quasi-independent channel partners (what we’ll call channel vendors) face a formidable set of marketing challenges. For most channel vendors, the single greatest challenge is that many of their channel partners don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to run effective marketing programs on a regular and frequent basis.

     

    In addition, it’s exceptionally difficult to ensure consistent brand messaging and brand presentation when marketing programs are being run by dozens, if not hundreds, of independent channel partners. Finally, channel vendors often have little visibility regarding the effectiveness of marketing programs run by their channel partners, either because their partners don’t track the performance of their marketing efforts, or because they are unwilling or unable to share those results with the channel vendor.