The Channel Institute, a training and certification body for channel business professionals, is today publishing the results of research conducted with more than 200 channel marketing leaders worldwide.

The goal of the research was to understand what these channel visionaries see as being the greatest challenges for technology resellers to achieve success in digital marketing in 2019.

channel programs

Although a wide range of challenges were mentioned by respondents on channel programs, there were three standout challenges that were mentioned most frequently and appeared key:

  1. Data management.
  2. Vision and capabilities.
  3. Proving ROI.

1. Data management

The successful collection, management and analysis of data is seen as being critical. Recent changes brought on by GDPR were frequently mentioned as being a major challenge, especially for resellers that were heavily reliant on email as their core digital tactic.

Data is also viewed by vendors as being critical for channel partner management training and also as a way for their resellers to become more meaningful to their customers over time. Michelle Chiantera, VP global partner marketing at Cisco says, “Our channel partners will need data and insights about their customers in order to provide them with personalized touchpoints. Data is the fuel that will help them gain deep insights about their customers, become more personal with them, and further drive loyalty and advocacy.”

2. Vision and capabilities

Technology resellers that still expect activities such as local events and mailers to be their mainstay of partner marketing channel programs into the future are likely to get left behind according to the respondents. Many VARs in particular are viewed as being “lifestyle businesses” that lack the vision to make the leap to the digital marketing age and will eventually fade away.

The winners will be those who understand digital challenges such as overcoming ad blockers, embracing video as a key marketing tactic and understanding the rapidly growing importance of “voice search”. Ultimately the difference comes down to the leadership’s vision and successful allocation of resources.

According to Meaghan Sullivan, head of global channels at SAP, “Channel partners that are locked into traditional ways of thinking and marketing are likely to get left behind. There are a variety of new partners coming into the market such as a new brand of ISVs which create an expanded ecosystem.  The partners that are able to embrace modern marketing techniques and have greater fluency in digital marketing will have much greater opportunities in 2019 and beyond.”

Emmanuel de Visscher, VP global partners at Xerox says, “Clear and compelling differentiators will be even more critical for technology reseller partners and channel sales training in 2019. Resellers increasingly need to be able to position products as “solutions” linked to a specific business case, differentiated from their competitors. They then need to be able to clearly communicate this message through digital channels.”      

3. Proving ROI

In a co-op funding model both vendor and reseller need to be able to trace ROI back to digital investments in order to keep investing in those tactics. Resellers need to have the right systems (Analytics, Tracking, CRM, etc) in place if they are going to be able to track sales back to the original digital investments.

According to Michael Kelly, founder of the Channel Institute, “Our research reveals two elements in particular that vendors believe will make the difference between digital marketing success and failure for their channel partners. Firstly, their growth orientation – are they looking forwards or backwards? Secondly, how good are they at managing and analyzing their digital marketing data? Technology resellers with a forward looking digital perspective combined with the right data management resources are already far ahead of the pack.”

Survey methodology

In July and August 2018, 214 individuals with the title “Channel Marketing Director” or higher who work with successful partner programs at technology companies with more than 10,000 employees worldwide were asked digital channel marketing-related questions about what makes a successful channel partner program for this Channel Institute survey.

Although all of those polled work with partner channel programs at large technology vendors, they were briefed to provide insights only for technology resellers that are classed as “Small and Medium Business” (SMB). The challenges for companies of this size are seen as being distinctly different from those of large sized technology vendors.