The BMA Phoenix May event focused on B2B channel strategies. Our goal for the panel discussion was to get to the heart of what opportunities and challenges exist for the technology channel and how marketers can optimize their partner programs. 30 valley marketers from corporations and agencies joined us for the insightful discussion. Our expert panel, moderated by BMA VP Programming, Renee Yeager, featured Tim Fitzgerald, Vice President, Digital Transformation at Avnet, Scott Salkin, Founder and CEO of Allbound, and Jon Hunter, most recently EVP of Worldwide Field Operations at OpenText. The 60-minute discussion covered many aspects of the current landscape in channel marketing and sales; here are some of the highlights.
Dramatic Changes in How Purchases Are Made
The technology buying process is changing and the shift is having substantial impact on the Channel in numerous ways. Decisions for technology purchases are no longer controlled primarily by IT. Line-of-business buyers in areas such as marketing, operations, and finance are driving technology purchases, and this shift is changing the sales conversation. Partner sales teams now need to be familiar with more than product specifications, they need to be able to have business conversations and prescriptively offer solutions based on the products and services that they sell.
Cloud and “as-a-service” solutions are also big disruptors in the Channel today. Faster and often easier to implement, with less risk than an infrastructure investment, companies are embracing cloud and SaaS solutions as one of their primary strategies to reduce costs, simplify management and accelerate time to value. This change is impacting compensation models for partners as revenues move from large upfront investments from their customers to monthly fee or usage-based costs.
Partner Engagement is Key for Suppliers
With such changes in how technology is being sourced and consumed, there is a sales skills gap in the channel that needs to be addressed. Suppliers understand the challenges partner sales teams are facing in terms of new technology buyers. Keeping partners aligned with their brand, while helping them transition their sales conversations outside of the data center and with a broader set of buyers, is a focus for both suppliers and distributors. New sales motions and compensation models are keeping suppliers on their toes to help the partners stay engaged in selling their products while they transition to the new normal of IT purchasing. Some suppliers and distributors are working to build ecosystems where they enable partnerships that expand partners’ access to resources and capabilities that they might not have in their organization today. And, by offering a new level of transparency, and by demonstrating a commitment to help the channel adjust their business models, suppliers and distributors are working to strengthen partner relationships.
Channel Marketing is Changing
Knowledge transfer is key for the success of channel marketing programs, specifically delivering information to partners in a way that they will absorb and retain it. While this isn’t a new challenge, the difference is that suppliers are now investing more heavily in modern platforms and systems to assist with information access and delivery. Enabling partners to easily identify and access relevant content at specific points in the sales cycle is a foundational need for channel marketers. And, with most sales people operating from mobile devices, factoring in mobile access and delivery for content is required.
With up to 70% of research being done prior to engaging in a sales conversation, channel marketing needs a fundamental shift. The traditional short-term program delivering BANT (budget, authority, need and timeframe for purchase) qualified leads is no longer the most effective sales model. Today, by the time the prospect gets to BANT, they most likely have a solution and vendor already selected. Channel marketing now needs to focus on helping partners with content and inbound programs that build their brand and drive inbound leads when the customer is doing their research and looking to solve business problem.
Evolution is Ongoing
While all sides of the channel are taking steps to meet the demands of business technology consumption preferences, there is much work to be done. Partners that build strategic plans aligned to well-thought-out investments in tools, training and resources are poised for positive outcomes.
Join us for the next BMA Phoenix event on July 19th for our panel discussion B2B marketing trends!
And, don’t forget to register for the Marketing Technology Summit hosted by BMA Phoenix and the Arizona Technology Council on August 18! Register here