The #1 question I ask people working in the channel: How are you able to let go of the control and let your partners determine your success?
For me, transitioning from a direct-to-channel marketing role has been an eye-opening experience. Where I was once crunching demand generation metrics and cost-per-MQL, I am now running adoption reports on partner enablement programs and new deal registrations. My once cut and dry monthly business reviews have been replaced by…something else. Yes, there is still a big shiny number involved (how many new partner deals were registered last month), but there are also many leading indicators that influence that number that we just don’t have access to.
Jim Lenskold sums it up nicely: “Reporting ROI is probably one of the bigger challenges because it’s more complex within the channel. There are multiple parties involved and each has different relationships with end buyers. The challenge is really about access to data because the partners have a good portion of the data in terms of whether they are generating leads or whether they’re managing the leads generated by the OEM.”
To someone who loves control, this is an unsettling realization. In a direct marketing role (where you do the marketing yourself) you would have access to your CRM, marketing automation platform, social monitoring tool and web analytics platform to easily collect the data relevant to determine your return or potential return on investment. In a channel marketing role (where you’re giving your partners the go-to-market tools on your behalf) you rely on them telling you, assuming they’re even collecting the data in the first place.
So how often does this happen? Think about it. If you have 20 partners in your program’s top tier and each partner is working with 20 other vendors, how likely is it you’ll have time to sit down with them for a marketing heart-to-heart? QBRs on the sales side happen all the time. How many deals were registered and opportunities won? Were they channel initiated or channel associated? But let’s look at the marketing side. When was the last time someone went to a partner and asked them how many hits they are seeing on the vendor showcase of the partner’s website? Or how many clicks they’re seeing on co-branded email campaigns? How many times has a vendor asked what they can be doing better to help drive those key demand generation metrics?
I’ve been told over and over (and over) again in my new channel marketing role that I don’t work in demand generation anymore. I work in partner enablement and demand generation doesn’t live here. I beg to differ:
CEO’s want sales.
Sales are influenced from demand.
Demand influences marketing plans.
Marketing plans influence partner enablement plans.
How do we know how to enable our partners if we aren’t looking at the right demand generation metrics from the partner’s perspective? How do we even know the partner is collecting the right ones and that they really understand the buyer’s journey for our product?
This is what I’m referring to as the Channel Marketing Data Gap. It’s big and real. We can run all the warm and fuzzy reports on increasing rates of partner program adoption but if we aren’t asking the partner what metrics they’re seeing from their demand generation efforts and what investments would help improve them, the reports have little value. At the end of the day, if we want to see success in our partner programs, we need to establish a feedback loop with the partner supported by shared data that will help us determine how to best determine the joint-marketing investments that will achieve the highest return.