The customer buying journey is becoming ever more dynamic and more open across many different platforms…mobile, social, search, digital, offline, even crowd-sourced.

In B2B as much as B2C, people are more educated and more accustomed to having a lot of choice, and so marketing has become more complex to keep up.

More sophisticated marketing is now just as critical for companies who need to engage with resellers – those who grow by re-selling through other companies.

The Channel or, as we call it, B2B2B (vendors who sell to partners who sell to end-users) now have more choice than ever on what they re-sell – and as barriers to launching Start Ups reduces, mindshare is becoming increasingly competitive.

At this week’s Smart IoT event in London, the key message was that almost all business models and markets are being massively disrupted – beyond all recognition and faster than we ever thought possible.

The effect? Since 1955, organisations in the Fortune 500 have changed by around 89%, and the average time for a Fortune 500 company to stay within that Fortune 500 has reduced from 60 years…down to just 12.

As an industry, our clients are these large, established brands which rely heavily on resellers to both maintain market share and grow market value – so our job is to ensure their status. Channel resellers need to be inspired by a connected offering which is then promoted via all the dynamic and sophisticated marketing routes they have become used to outside the channel.

We recently relaunched the entire EMEA channel programme for Lenovo, the world’s leading PC manufacturer. We were tasked with developing its strategic offering and taking it to market to recruit new resellers and get existing resellers to re-engage.

It was a process that reinforced our focus on connecting all the marketing channels to reseller channels. So what are the key factors to consider in forging those connections?

  • The key message is fundamental: Don’t just sell features and benefits – inspire on an emotional, human level (they are people not just sales functions).
  • Marketing Automation is important for the channel too: MA is a commonplace driver in the customer journey, but it is less common to use the same level of sophistication for resellers (we created 9 different streams of communications for Lenovo)
  • Select advertising wisely: banners and articles are still necessary todrive awareness but review results weekly, and switch funds quickly to activity that’s getting better ROI.
  • Don’t forget print: cost-effective digital is key – but we are seeing real impact with quality Direct Mail using interactive formats for higher impact. Also consider innovations like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to improve interaction, tracking and results.
  • Social can be tough to get right: we used LinkedIn with highly targeted advertising, sponsored posts and Inmails – but if you work with an agency who knows what it’s doing, the impact can be incredible. With appropriate copy and judicious interpretation of the complex guidelines, we achieved 65% open rates compared with LinkedIn’s average of 15%, and more than double the average CTR % on banners & posts).
  • Incentives should be behavioural and multi-layered: most channel programmes use incentives to strengthen the proposition. Using multiple incentive values and rewarding multiple actions for joining/learning/attending/selling, ensures a wider variety of participation and increases success.
  • Sales enablement, feature and benefits: we still need the standard content pieces, so don’t forget the videos, playbooks and infographics. Comms and social campaigns need these to help resellers understand the opportunity and the value proposition.

Finally, the destination for all communications, whether website or partner portal, needs to be simple and integrated – from the moment the reseller registers, right across every interaction moving forward.

If all the tools, the training, the sales enablement and the rewards (MDF, deal reg, incentives) are connected, partners can educate themselves and close deals more easily.

This connected approach is now what’s making organisations like Lenovo more successful.