Technology companies continue to explore new go-to-market routes to keep pace with buyer communities that expand as fast as pressure on prices increase. Channel partners have been an important component in B2B technology sales, and we now see the emergence of channel eco-systems. To find out more about emerging dynamics, we caught up with Jane Waight, Founder and Managing Director at Marketing Cloud.
RF: What are the biggest changes in the enterprise technology buyer community you have seen since the economic crisis of 2008?
JW: There’s a distinct transition, as IT is increasingly understood to enable and deliver business transformation for the enterprise. This has been accompanied by a shift in buying behaviours and decision maker ‘evolution’. Enterprises fully appreciate that IT is now a key business differentiator – the C level (and CFO in particular) decision makers play a more important role (supported by the CIO) in the IT buying process.
RF: How has this impacted the role of partners?
JW: Partners play an essential role – geographical proximity to the client and vertical and solutions specialization guarantee that they truly own the customer, including at the C level. Partners determine the success of individual brands proposed as part of an integrated enterprise solution and their resulting ‘share of solutions wallet’. The diversified buying points have spurred partners to flex their sales team composition to address new audiences.
RF: You cite 70% of partners want vendors to provide more marketing enablement. What does this entail?
JW: Partners welcome vendor led support on sales and marketing enablement that complements their business plan and marketing objectives. They welcome help across the spectrum of content, promotions, sales incentives, opportunities to co-brand with the vendor, supported execution, and lead generation for partner fulfillment. Reporting and measurement is also a critical piece of the value to partners, helping both the channel and marketing teams at the vendor to understand the effectiveness of their efforts and improve the level of understanding of individual partner performance, engagement and loyalty to brands.
RF: Why do vendors find marketing enablement for partners challenging?
JW: Vendors are really trying to improve their marketing enablement support for partners. The challenges vendors experience are often attributable to a lack of functional alignment and focus across various vendor teams including Channel sales, Channel programs and promotions / incentives together Channel operations and the marketing operations, product marketing and marcoms functions. At times vendors struggle to appreciate or understand the partner’s own business goals and branding objectives. Vendors who consider these partner needs drive greater loyalty from their partner base.
RF: Arguably one of the values partners bring to the table is their proximity to customers. How would you describe their approach to ‘thought leadership’?
JW: The broadening decision-making groups combined with the need for the sales process to cover business transformation solutions means thought leadership is now a requisite. Progressive partners are accelerating training on ‘business architectures’ and enabling their sales teams to conduct more business led conversations with clients. But there is much more that can be done. We see this as an exciting growth opportunity for vendors willing to re-think how they allocate co-funded sales development.
Note: The Marketing Cloud is a strategic consultancy working with IT vendor brands and their partner ecosystems, focusing on partner productivity and profitability, improved partner marketing strategy, process and alignment.