Channel Marketing Transformation – from Mass Marketing to Micro, ‘Word of Mouth’ Marketing (Part 2)

Written by Jonathan Calver, CEO, StrategyMix

Introduction

In Part 1 of this blog, we explained that most channel marketing programs are based on a traditional mass marketing paradigm and that this approach is not working as well as it did in the past.

And we explained why the traditional channel marketing approach is now failing (when it used to work).

In Part 2, we provide some guidance to help you transition to a more effective, micro, ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing approach.

This blog has been written for everyone in the channel – vendors, partners and distributors.

 

Part 2: How to Transform your Channel Marketing

If you agree with the notion that channel marketing needs to change, because the current mass marketing model is no longer working as well as it used to in the past, and that there is no reasonable likelihood that response or lead conversion rates are likely to improve, then we are left with a difficult question – what should we do instead?

This is a question that I have been considering since late 2016, when I first recognised that there was a fundamental problem with channel marketing.

At StrategyMix, we have also tested lots of different options. Here are some of my conclusions.

 

Solution #1: How to Improve Response Rates

To improve response rates, you need to increase relevance, provide more value and build trust. Let me deal with each of these in turn.

 

Increase Relevance

To improve response rates, we need to increase the relevancy of our offers to our target prospects. This comes down to “narrowing” our content, so that it is more specific for smaller target segments. This is where we get the term “micro” marketing.

A good example would be to focus on specific verticals. Partners can take this further and focus on specific verticals in their local geography by for instance organising a Round-Table event in their city.

This is a crucial concept for channel marketing. The idea that a partner eco-system (or the channel) can do what even the very largest vendors cannot – run industry focused events in every city in which they operate.

 

Add Value

We can also increase response rates by ensuring that our marketing offers are more valuable to our prospects.

To continue with our Round-Table example, we can add value to prospects by inviting a client to participate in the event. This adds value because prospects would much rather listen to someone in their industry, who has nothing to sell, than to you – see later.

You also add value by allowing your prospects to discuss common problem with their industry peers. End users, who are your prospects, are very attracted to these discussions, which is why they form industry groups and pay to attend industry-run conferences.

 

Build Trust

You build trust when you do “what you say you’re going to do”, and when you add value.

So, continuing with our example, when you say you’re going to run a Round-Table event with open discussion and then you do, you not only add value, but you also build trust. Your attendees will then want to attend your future events because they trust that they will get good value from them.

This means you not only improve your future response rates, but also increase the likelihood that these prospects will take your calls.

 

But how do we know this will work?

Because we’ve done it. The average response rate for a Round-Table event run by StrategyMix is 12%, which compares to a mass marketing response rate of 2%.

 

Solution #2: “Word of Mouth” Marketing

Part of the problem with mass marketing is that everyone is doing it, so there are just too many messages (emails, phone calls, etc). And a lot of these messages will “over promise” and “under deliver”, which reduces trust. It’s a case of “once bitten, twice shy”.

Eventually it gets to the point when nobody believes anything you say, which is why you need your clients to speak for you.

This is almost a new marketing solution – the ability to amplify your word of mouth marketing.

Here is an example.

I can tell you that Round-Table Marketing is the most effective form of marketing in the channel.

Or you can watch a 7-minute webinar extract, where one of our clients – a Dell-EMC Growth Partner of the year – tells you more or less the same thing.

Just click on this link to start watching: https://www.strategymix.com/webinar-extract-sempre-nz-on-abm-round-table-marketing-success/

Who are you going to be believe? Me or an industry colleague?

 

Solution # 3: How to improve lead conversion rates

If we are to improve lead conversion rates, our marketing needs to help form a connection between the person doing the converting (ie: a partner director or partner sales person) and the prospect.

This is not what we do with traditional channel marketing.

So, how do we establish such a connection?

The answer is that we need to engineer a conversation between the sales person and the prospect or we have to get the sales person to write (with a ghost writer) some content, such as a blog or white paper, that is relevant and worth reading, which they can then follow-up.

To continue with our Round-Table example, if a partner sales person is sitting next to, and having conversations with otherwise hard-to-reach prospects at a Round-Table, then they are forming a connection. These prospects will then be more likely to take that sales persons calls in the future.

We can also take this blog, as an example. If you read it and agree with it, then do you think you would be more likely to accept a meeting invitation with ME because I wrote it? Whereas you probably wouldn’t be so keen to accept a meeting invite from say a StrategyMix Reseller.

 

The need to adopt Account-Based Marketing 

If you are going to narrow down your focus, to increase relevance and thereby improve response rates, you have to target a smaller market. And if you’re going to target a smaller marketing, then it makes sense that you’re going to need a better quality database.

Account-Based Marketing is a huge topic and one that is very misunderstood. To do it justice, I am not going to cover it in this blog other than to say that the database building component is crucial.

To read more about Account-Based Marketing, you can click on this web page:

https://www.strategymix.com/account-based-marketing/

Or better still, attend one of regular webinars on Account-Based Marketing in the Channel. Just contact us and we’ll send you an invite.

 

The need for Sales and Marketing Alignment

In a micro marketing campaign, we are going to target a relatively small number of accounts.

Of these accounts, your existing customers are going to be the most responsive because they know you and trust you. And you DO want to invite your customers to your Round-Table events, because you want to increase your cross-selling opportunities and consolidate your customer base to prevent your customers from “wandering off”. And most important of all, you want them to sit next to and influence your prospect accounts. This is an example of how you can amplify word of mouth marketing.

After the customer accounts, the next most responsive group will be those prospects who are known to you and with whom your sales team has had previous contact. They may have met at a trade show or maybe there was an exchange of emails, which didn’t go anywhere, but they will still be more responsive. We call this the Red Zone. See image below.

Sales need to help marketing by identifying and sharing these known prospects. And this means that we need sales and marketing alignment. Sales needs to understand why marketing is requesting this information, what they are going to do with it and why it is in their interest to provide it.

The best way to improve sales and marketing alignment in the channel is to involve partner sales in regular channel marketing meetings, so they are part of the process and invest in it.

 

The need for Multi-Channel Communications

If you are going to target a smaller number of accounts, you not only need to improve your data, but also need to change your marketing approach to give yourself a better chance of your message “getting through”.

This is particularly true when you are targeting prospect accounts, even those in the “Red Zone”.

So, you cannot just send emails. Rather you need a sequential approach. You might start with a LinkedIn Connection to introduce yourself and then follow-up with an email and then a phone call.

Your might have to email and phone several times to “get through”. This is a more complex and expensive process, but it is financially justifiable if you have built a quality database of highly targeted accounts.

 

The need for New Marketing Objectives

With traditional mass marketing there is only one marketing objective, which is to increase revenue.

However, as I explained in Part 1, most sales do not come from a single marketing campaign. They come from relationships that has been formed through multiple campaigns.

We therefore need to change our marketing objectives and adopt the 3 R’s approach of Account-Based Marketing.

The 3 Rs stand for Revenue, Relationship and Reputation.

This means that the purpose of marketing Is not just to increase revenue, but to also create or enhance relationships between partner sales and prospects and to improve the partners reputation in the target market.

This is a longer-term, more strategic objective, which is more likely to grow a Partners business and therefore the associated business of their vendors and distributors.

 

Conclusion

Traditional channel marketing is based on a mass marketing concept, which sends generic content to a partner’s database.

Response Rates are declining and are selective. Lead Conversion Rates are low and Channel Marketing ROI is poor.

Nothing is going to improve unless we adopt a different approach.

To improve Channel Marketing ROI, we need to increase response rates by increasing relevance, adding value and building trust. We also need to improve conversion rates by finding ways to form a connection between partner sales and prospects.

For this micro marketing approach to work, we need to build better account-based databases, adopt a multi-channel approach and amplify “word of mouth” marketing, as much as we can.

If we do not change our approach, then we can only expect Channel Marketing ROI to get worse, yet to adopt a micro marketing approach requires the acceptance of change, which many will resist.

The question is: What will your company do? Will you embrace change and quickly adopt a new micro marketing approach or will you not?

Jonathan

Please leave a comment and feel free to suggest any improvements that come to mind.

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