If you are a manufacturer, industrial company or technology firm, you may be selling your products indirectly using channel partners - resellers, OEMs, distributors, or even integrators. With indirect selling, firms have varying levels of channel partners as determined by company size and selling power. The larger the partner, the more resources you tend to give that partner. This model works great for a while but when it comes time to expand into new markets or target more market share, this approach could hinder your growth efforts.
Growth requires resources. If you are putting the bulk of your channel sales and marketing resources into supporting a small group of partners, it is at the expense of the smaller to mid-size partners that have great potential to drive sales and revenue. At some point, those smaller or less productive partners may just go dormant and look for other suppliers that will provide more resources.
Challenge 1: You may be missing revenue with small-to-medium sized channel partners because you focus exclusively on larger players.
At the same time, you are at the mercy of the rapid pace of technology change. The burden is on you to educate your partners AND ultimately your end users on new technologies that are changing the way their industries do business. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart devices are paradigm shifting in most industries however widespread adoption is slower than expected. As a result, channel partners don’t see an immediate need and are slow to sell newer technologies and embrace the change.
Challenge 2: You may need to determine which partners are ready to embrace the next generation of products and which are not.
Existing, but dormant, channel partners have great potential to drive sales and revenue; they just need to be re-engaged. Nurturing partners who already know you is often a far more efficient use of resources than going out to recruit new partners. Once re-engaged with sales and marketing enablement including the right tools and content, they can drive revenue.
Case Study – The Situation
The components division of a large manufacturer sells primarily through OEMs. The sales organization designates three classes of partners as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 accounts.
Tier 3 accounts include dormant OEMs, which means that they have purchased from the company previously, but they have not placed an order for a couple of years. One hundred and forty-five accounts were on that list and one account representative was tasked with re-engaging with the accounts.
In parallel, the Company introduced a full suite of next-generation products with new technology that required extensive education to the channel as well as to end users. The marketing challenge was to help the Tier 3 account representative narrow down the account list to focus their efforts.
The marketing team developed a campaign that integrated email automation with content marketing. The automated email campaign leveraged a variety of educational and operational content including blog posts, data sheets, online tools, brochures, ebooks, and guides.
The goal of the campaign was to categorize the 145 accounts into four major categories and criteria was set-up to determine where each OEM fit.
- Don’t Engage –These OEMs didn’t open emails or did not engage at all with any content.
- Engage 1 – Engage but lead with legacy products. This group opened emails and engaged with content talking about older products. They showed no interest in the new technology or new products.
- Engage 2 – Engage with legacy but has some interest in next generation products. This group engaged with top-of-funnel content on new technology but did not engage with any product-related material.
- Engage 3 – Engage with next generation products. This group engaged at all levels of the program.
The program identified 18 OEMs that met the criteria for engagement, with three ending up in the top category of being very interested in the next generation products.
The account rep is now focusing the majority of their time developing these eighteen accounts to identify new business. Due to the long sales cycles, it is too early to determine the resulting revenue.