In a business environment that is increasingly online and globally-focused, proper channel marketing is more important than ever for a growing business that wants to keep growing.
In 2016, and beyond, channel marketing is increasingly becoming channel management. Brands are increasingly looking for ways to strengthen their relationships with existing channel partners, providing more mutually-beneficial programs and strategies, which can also be leveraged as sales points when bringing new channel partners onboard.
So, what can we expect from channel marketing management in 2016?
Increased Use Of Shared Data
Who knows your customers better than you? No one. A channel partner may be highly proficient in their own area of expertise, but they're going to lack many of the specific details your sales, research, and marketing teams have been gathering on your market and customer base.
Fast-growing companies are increasingly opening up their databases to their channel partners, at least in part, allowing them to partake of the insights your own analysts have discovered. This leads to much more cohesive cross-channel marketing plans, and significantly more effective outreach to customers at every level of interaction.
Big data enables superior channel management like never before.
Targeted Channel/Vendor Outreach
In the past, there were two primary methods of getting vendors onboard. One was the let-them-come-to-us attitude, eschewing most outreach and waiting for channels to come calling. The other was, in effect, looking for the biggest channels and trying to form a partnership.
Today's analytics allow a third approach to emerge, one which will be far more effective than either other option: Detailed analysis and targeting of specific channels, based not just on their size or image, but on a wide range of factors including their geographical reach, existing industry contacts, and even their performance in past campaigns.
In a manner similar to the targeted hiring of middle- and upper-level management positions, channel partners can now be brought onboard based on best-fit principles, creating a leaner and meaner integrated channel system.
Today, the international market isn't out of reach even for mid-sized operations. There are potential channel partners in every corner of the globe, just waiting for new opportunities. Modern communications and transportation technologies make partners on the other side of the planet every bit as viable as partners in the next state over.
It's very likely that in the years to come, some of the biggest movers and shakers will be those who identified key global markets and leveraged that insight to partner with appropriate channel partners overseas. Combined with the research strategies above, this could be one of the most powerful options available for expanding brand reach.
And more markets are opening up all the time, as "third world" countries graduate to modern technological investment. Those with insight and first to market will benefit from increased revenue channels.
Greater Social Media Leverage
Social media is a great networking tool, of course, but it's also one of the most encompassing sources of genuine insights into customer\client needs as well as the effectiveness of your outreach. Joining into the same social networks as your channel partners -and vice versa- will give everyone involved far more insight into how the market looks at the ground level.
Likewise, this also gives you more raw intelligence on how your channel partners are really performing. Everything might seem sunny in their reports to you, but if comments on Facebook and LinkedIn are telling a different story, that's something you would want to know about and deal with quickly.
Smart social media utilization brings entirely new perspectives to the science of channel management.
End-to-End Customer Experience Management
When buyers/clients have more options for purchasing decisions than ever before, it's all that much more important to ensure your brand -and its partners- are delivering the best possible service at every stage of the process.
Even though some channel partners, such as transportation, are largely hidden from the buyer's view, their behaviors still affect the overall customer experience. Are customers buying in the morning or the afternoon? Is that transportation company delivering the goods when they're needed? Are their trucks behaving well on the road? What percentage of goods are damaged in transit?
Integration of data, marketing, and strategic planning allows these challenges to be overcome in order to create a far more cohesive customer experience which demonstrates excellence at every stage of the process. Better outreach and information-sharing will let you help your channel partners perform at higher levels, creating greater profits and better customer satisfaction all around.
2016 and the years to come will offer more opportunities for advanced channel management than ever before, and the rewards will be great for forward-looking companies who jump on the opportunity.