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C4 Professional Marketing Luncheon: Barriers and new strategies for reach and recruitment

When it comes to identifying the barriers holding back channel partners, the two dozen channel marketing professions leaders attending a recent C4 Luncheon weren’t shy about sharing their thoughts.

One of the first challenges they identified was the struggle to differentiate themselves from competitors when many of them are sharing strikingly similar messaging.

“With so much information coming out of so many different sources without a remarkably different message,  it’s no wonder nothing resonates. Our partners are literally drowning in content,” said one participant.

That’s why we need to get back in front of people and make the personal connection, another participant added quickly. “People like doing business with people and it’s just not the same trying to build a connection over a screen.”

One way to cut through the clutter, suggested a third participant, was to double down on one or two subjects – like the future of work – and then be laser-focused with messaging that aligns between vendor and partner.

Employee churn growing

Another issue that many agreed makes it tough to build momentum is the “excessive turnover rate” of staff with partners.

“It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. You have to keep starting over and over again because there is always a new person,” said one frustrated leader.

While colleagues nod in agreement, one suggested that the problem would be getting worse once organizations opened up post-Covid. “There’s already a mad dash for global promotions.” With expected work-from-anywhere programs expected to be commonplace, the leaders said Canadians who would never have thought about applying for a global position are doing so now because they can continue to work from the comfort of their own homes.

One silver lining to remote was identified: “Partners don’t care where the help comes from. “It used to be that we needed expertise in every city. Now, we can have pods of expertise to service multiple marketplaces,” said one member.

Borderless execution

Asked by discussion moderator and C4 President Corinne Sharp if dealing with head office during the pandemic had created or eliminated barriers, the responses acknowledged that different perspectives remained but there was more emphasis on “borderless execution.” that helped to optimize costs and time of functional teams.

Other challenges identified included:

  • Keeping up with the pace of change.
  • Back office issues around supply: instead of getting one order for one thing, we get 100 orders for one thing.
  • Sales gets priority. Marketing follows a distant second.

When the conversation moved on from barriers, and into new strategies for partner recruitment. Sharp posed the important questions: how do we enable our partners better? And help them get the resources they need?

More proactivity, less reactive management

The overwhelming strategy favoured by members was to target fewer partners, creating deeper and more valuable connections; leveraging the resources and relationships that already exist while adapting to incorporate and accommodate the “new normal” that has developed over the past year.

One member reflected on the opportunity to focus on their ideal partner criteria, explaining: “We had a plethora of partners, so we were reactively managing everybody and chasing whoever was calling us next to build programs. Now, we have been very structured, very cadenced, and very organized in terms of the programs that we’re building. We are now showing growth by focusing on a fewer number of partners in all of the different practices and segments, breaking it down in terms of who is performing in what different market segments. Using data from analyst activity and reports, we’re determining who we are going to be focused on going to market with.” 

The discussion shifted to the idea of going back to the basics to further reach, including re-establishing relationships and reconnecting with previous partners, leveraging existing resources to help with segmentation (identifying where the strengths and gaps are), and creating new momentum by establishing new relationships.

Petting zoo syndrome

Things that weren’t working particularly well were virtual events, especially ones that required expensive incentives. One participant called the petting zoo syndrome where people only paid attention when you offered them something like a bourbon tasting or cooking class.

The current use of MDF funds did not receive much praise, with some suggesting it was really throwing good money after bad. 

The group agreed hybrid events with both live and virtual components would be “the next big thing” but there was little agreement on how they might be conducted. There was agreement however, they would be more expensive than either a live or a virtual event.

The luncheon was sponsored by Ingram Micro.