We know managing a channel marketing program is a lot of often tedious work. Getting a program running can be frustrating, so once it’s rolling, there’s a strong tendency for OEMs to want to “not rock the boat.” Consequently, on more occasions than we care to count, we’ll see RFPs for channel marketing services that are nearly identical to the one(s) sent out by that OEM years earlier.
Technology, best practices, and data gathering and analysis mechanisms improve, sometimes vastly, year to year. OEMs owe it to their retailers, and to their own bottom lines, to at least ask themselves, “Could we be doing something else to improve our channel marketing results?” Odds are the answer to that question is “yes.”
Assess Your Program
I often tell a story to prospective clients about a sales visit I made several years back while promoting my previous company’s co-op administration services. One of our sales people had been calling on the client for a couple of years, and finally, we were able to arrange the meeting.
Before I could even sit down, the prospective client said, “to be honest, we’re thinking of discontinuing our co-op program.” Shortest sales meeting ever, right? That statement begged of me the question “Why?” She talked about how the retailers expected the co-op funds. But at the end of the year, corporate had nothing to show for their expenditure, and all the retailers usually had were several hundred pens or T-shirts with their logos on them.
We proceeded to meet for three hours, as we worked on developing program goals and looking at tools that could be made available to the retailers to meet those goals (and, importantly, how we could measure them). What started as a “co-op is useless to us” conversation led to a multi-year services contract and vast improvements in their retailer marketing.
In short? If you’re not seeing the kind of results you want from your channel marketing program, you need to make some changes. But that doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bath water.
At the 50,000-foot view, start by developing quantifiable program goals, develop program outlines for how you’re going to reach those goals, and then look for vendors or partners who can help execute those programs. You can download our “Build a Better Channel Marketing Program” white paper for more details on how to achieve each of these. But starting at this phase of the process will rebuild your channel marketing program foundation so it can become a true area of growth.
Assess Your Tools
Many OEMs understand that they should offer a Marketing Resource Management (ad builders, asset management tools, web-to-print stores, etc.) solution for their retailers. But too many OEMs fail to understand that providing a tool or suite of tools to their retailers and simply saying, “Here it is! Log on and prosper!” is, nearly always, going to lead to disappointing adoption numbers and more-of-the-same advertising from the retailers.
The right tools should be easy to use, that’s a given. But they must also provide real value to the retailers and to the OEM. Gone are the days of retail advertising consisting of a newspaper ad running a couple times a week. A successful retail marketing mix may include not only print, but also online, outdoor, point of sale, direct mail, email, events / sponsorships, mobile, social media, broadcast, CRM and more. OEMs should offer tools that provide support for those media, but perhaps even more importantly, the tools to analyze which marketing efforts are working and which are not.
If you currently use MRM software now, look and see what percentage of your retailers are using the site. Assess which materials are accessed more often and which are largely ignored. Survey your retailers to determine what they are and aren’t getting from your current solution and what would be of most use to them. Take stock in whether your current solution allows you to incorporate your customer data or business intelligence to help boost retailer marketing efforts.
There are /scores/ of MRM tools available, at all different price points and feature levels (Download our 2013 MRM Vendor report). Determine first what these technologies can do to help you meet your program goals, and then develop a technology component to your program requirements. Finally, when you understand how you expect a technology solution to help you meet your goals, find the right product or vendor to get you there.
Assess Your Field Sales Team
Even the best planned programs and the right vendor partners can still leave an OEM with a program that is performing at less-than-optimal levels, and the key is to determine why. When we’ve worked with OEMs on their programs, and we notice underperformance, we typically first look at retailer participation and performance on a rep-by-rep basis. And more times than not, we’ll uncover a strong correlation. What happens?
No matter how much top-down communication corporate does to inform retailers about programs and tools and train them on their use, that will never be enough for many very busy retailers. Field sales reps typically have much more one-to-one contact with retailers, and they should be on the front line, training retailers and encouraging their participation.
But if those field reps aren’t properly trained, or if they feel there is no incentive for them to point retailers in this direction, you may find whole regional areas of retailers who aren’t fully using your program and are underperforming.
The key is to develop – and continue to improve – your internal policies and best practices to ensure consistency of message. Whether it’s providing more “train the trainer” sessions with reps on the MRM technology, or creating an incentive program that helps influence rep activity, your reps are often your eyes and ears to the dealers and your fastest way of reaching them. They’re a critical component to your program’s success.
How we can help
We at SilverGrass have more than a decade of experience working with OEMs and their retailers to develop effective and measurable channel marketing strategies. SilverGrass has relationships with a variety of vendors in the channel marketing space and works with our customers to develop their program goals and find the right vendor partner(s) to fulfill them. We consider ourselves vendor agnostic, vowing to choose the best vendor(s) our clients’ needs. We also offer program performance analysis, retailer marketing analytics, and ongoing program strategy.
Before you re-send last year’s RFP, or spend another day frustrated at your channel marketing program’s lack of ROI, drop us a line and let us know how we can help you lay the framework for a program that truly delivers channel marketing results.