For most manufacturers, whatever industry they may be in, their channel partners provide an important part of the marketing mix. If we assume ‘channel’ to apply to any sale that isn’t direct, then the size of the channel and its contribution to sales can vary massively.
For some companies, almost all of their sales may come from their channel partners. This is often the case for SMEs. Larger companies will likely be able to support a number of key accounts through direct sales and use the channel to support a larger number of smaller customers. This is probably the ‘default’ scenario.
Distribution sits within the channel and this is where the balance between size of customer and size of order can vary hugely. It isn’t fair to assume that distributors only deal with micro accounts, or that the volumes involved are always low.
It is probably fair, however, to assume that the size of the distributors’ client list is big. In fact, it will probably be the biggest of all channel partners and almost definitely bigger than the manufacturer’s own client database. This breadth is a big part of the value proposition offered by the distribution model.
Channel marketing, particularly with distribution partners, should be a two-way street. Both partners should feel the value in any product marketing activity, but there can be a tendency to treat ‘the channel’ as one, homogenous entity. In truth, each partner in the channel has its own priorities, so any marketing effort needs to take that into account.
Content is still one of the main vehicles for marketing and this is probably even more apparent in the channel. Sharing content with channel partners is one way of greasing the wheels of commerce, but simply sharing the same content with all partners isn’t necessarily the way to meet each channel partner’s objectives. And, as mentioned, it is important to try to make this a win-win proposition.
This is where an agency partner can help. Publitek works with a large number of manufacturers and many of the leading distributors in the technology B2B market. That makes us well placed to become a bridge between the two.
Publitek’s visibility into the industry means we understand the common audience and what they are looking for in content. We can do this because we know what the trends are and many of our clients rely on this knowledge when developing their own marketing messages. It also means we understand the objectives of our clients and, subsequently, how they overlap. We feel this cross-boundary access is unique to agencies like Publitek. We are trusted to contribute to the marketing efforts of our clients, by understanding their market and how they fit into it.
For manufacturers working with channel partners, the perspective will understandably be from their own viewpoint. They are interested in demand creation, which is where channel partners can help. Those channel partners are also focused on demand creation, but their perspective is slightly different. Working out how these two viewpoints can converge and augment each other is where a third partner can help. If that third partner understands both perspectives and points of view, the result will be greater than the sum of its parts.
The first step would involve getting all stakeholders around the same table to discuss objectives. Then, we could look at any existing content the manufacturer has available and how it could be repositioned so that it also meets the channel partner’s objectives. If the content doesn’t exist, we can develop new content. Every partnership will be unique, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to channel marketing. Distributors would agree, even if to the outside world the differences are subtle.
Subtlety is the keyword here. Just as languages have nuances that may not translate, marketing content has subtle differences in tone and texture, depending on the objective and audience. The importance of these subtle differences should not be underestimated. One way to address this is to create a persona for the target audience and view all content through this lens.
The relationship between manufacturer and channel partner is symbiotic, but each one of those relationships is also different. Both parties have multiple partners that they need to work with. They need to share objectives while respecting commercially sensitive information. An agency partner, like Publitek, can provide the perfect interface. You could think of us as a firewall, airlock, or any other type of protective layer. You could also consider us the glue, the grease, or the covalent bond that keeps both sides together.
The need for good channel partnerships has never been greater. Content is still considered to be king, but it needs to be differentiated content that meets the objectives of all parties. As a content specialist, Publitek is well placed to make that possible.