We're all in pursuit of that satisfying moment when our message and our tactics come together to really improve performance. But the biggest challenge for a lot of distributed marketing organizations is that they can't get that same level of visibility on the money they're spending with their independent partners.

In my experience, there is always a fear that the money you're investing is not creating the results you want.

No one wants to throw good money after bad. That's why brands and their partners need to know how to navigate three common challenges.

Challenge 1: Building the Right Campaign

First things first. Brands do a lot of research to ensure their message will resonate in-market for a national campaign. Brands have complete control over that message. Traditionally, if your brand markets through a channel partner, you're giving up an element of control.

When I talk to our customers, I find that they're spending a lot of OpEx on building a channel marketing infrastructure with agencies to create assets, with vendors who are supposed to manage the execution, and with all the departmental headcount it takes to get all this in the field.

But what we hear again and again is that big brands are really frustrated that so many partners end up going to market with advertising that's not brand-compliant. That's why it's crucial to use technology that integrates a digital asset manager (DAM) with an integrated ad builder that uses dynamic templates. Together, they allow partners to localize campaign assets within preconfigured brand guidelines.

Using marketing technology in this way helps brands ensure that...

  • Every ad will deliver the message that you envision.
  • Your brand and your partners will spend a lot less money on agency fees.
  • Your team won't need to dedicate so much time and headcount to reviewing and approving thousands of local ads.

If you're using leading-edge marketing technology solutions, you'll know that the money you're spending on channel marketing is focused on the message you want in each local market.

Challenge 2: Partners Don't Participate

Often, the biggest challenge in channel marketing is that partners don't participate. It's a nightmare scenario that's scary to any CMO. You're worried about spending a lot of money building campaigns with partners, and those campaigns don't get launched.

What we hear from the partners using our platform is that the claims and reimbursement process is the main reason they don't want to participate in brand campaigns.

A typical scenario consists of local partners who go out-of-pocket on an ad for the brand, and then wait 6-8 weeks before they get reimbursed for a portion of that ad. Let's face it, the idea of local businesses fronting ad dollars for multibillion-dollar corporations is a bit insane. That's why local partners don't want to participate.

There's a much more effective way to entice partners to participate in brand-preferred campaigns. Tie the money directly to the campaign tactic, and let the partner access that money as soon as the preferred tactic is executed through a centralized platform. When you're able to tie funds and brand assets together with a pre-approved vendor that you know is going to deliver best-in-class performance on campaign execution, then there's no reason for an extensive claims and reimbursement process.

To ensure the money you're investing is not being wasted, use a system that eliminates fraud but still gets partners their dollars immediately.

Challenge 3: Investing Only in What Works

Even if you've built ads that partners can customize without oversight and you've created a mechanism for partners to receive their funds instantly, it's still crucial to steer your partners' behavior toward tactics that you know will work. We're all in this weird spot right now, because partners want to use digital tactics, but they just don't know how. And brands also want their partners to use digital tactics, but they aren't confident in their partners' ability to execute them.

So, driving partners to preferred digital tactics (such as social media content syndication, reputation management, and pay-per-click) is crucial if you're going to ensure that the money you're investing is going to drive leads, traffic, and sales.

What really makes a difference for your channel partners is centralizing campaign execution in a single platform. With a robust SaaS marketing technology platform, centralized campaign execution works effectively, even for brands with thousands of independent partners. Access to analytics on a micro level allows you to see, for example, how many leads resulted from an email campaign in Denver, Colorado. Macro-level analytics lets you compare the performance of, for example, PPC campaigns with direct mail programs for a select group of partners or across your entire partner network.

With the depth and breadth of the insights now available to brands, they can adjust their co-op offers in real time to steer their partners to invest in programs that are proven to deliver results.

* * *

Today's marketing environment is probably the most competitive it's ever been. There are massive amounts of change and disruption from e-commerce, big-box retailers, and social marketplaces. So, brands need to ensure that every dollar they spend delivers maximum ROI. And the right marketing technology solutions will allow them to do just that.

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Good Money After Bad? Your Channel Partners and Your Co-Op Dollars

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image of Sean Wisdom

Sean Wisdom is channel marketing automation platform SproutLoud's vice-president of channel marketing and a B2B software solutions marketing veteran with a history in sales and marketing leadership positions at AT&T, Dell, and Verizon, among others.

LinkedIn: Sean Wisdom