With technology companies selling up to 90 per cent of their products via the IT channel, this audience has become a vital part of any marketing strategy.
The channel's prominent rise has caught vendors napping, and they now need to adjust their marketing activities to ensure that 'communication, communication, communication' is the mantra, and that this critical audience is receiving the information, education and attention it deserves.
Evidence suggests the enterprise marketplace is becoming saturated for technology companies, and there is a need to look elsewhere for business development. IT vendors are increasingly focusing on the mid-market and small business sectors, as the direct-sales model is neither practical nor scalable. This shift away from the direct sales approach to a channel-centric model means marketing must take the lead when developing the relationship with the vendor.
Efficient and responsive channel communications are key, but juggling partner programmes and ongoing communications demands a significant time investment from development and management.
This balancing act is exacerbated by a diverse channel partner target audience, spread across numerous tiers and types of partners and constituting a country, regional and EMEA remit. This scenario assumes communications are developed only on the basis of partner type and geography, without further profiling individual job functions and preferences.
Internal channel data can hinder intelligent channel communications. Databases are often not profiled sufficiently to permit a segmented channel approach, and quarterly defined channel marketing budgets can force marketers to develop generic communications. The crucial objective is to develop an intelligent communication strategy that works with the channel audience.
It is vital to get this foundation right to ensure vendors reach all the right partner organisations and key individuals with the right messages and pertinent information. Vendors should augment their databases with organisational and individual profiles, enabling the tailoring of future communications on the basis of personal preferences. These preferences should also define the content, medium and frequency of communications.
Providing customised information to the channel will lead to increased response rates, vendor engagement and partner satisfaction.
The final challenge is to devise a mixture of media for partner communications. A limited budget often forces marketers to consider online communications only, whereas an offline/online strategy significantly increases receptiveness within a crowded channel marketplace.
The channel marketing communications landscape has changed rapidly, and marketers need to ensure they are supported to deal with the challenging situation. With profiles and preferences defined by their target audience, presenting relevant content to the right individuals, channel marketers can ensure they develop strong relationships with the channel, and fill the direct sales vacuum.
A well-founded and consistent approach is the basis for a successful communication strategy.
Venessa Wilson is business development director of Planet Group