Must-Haves for Your Channel Marketing Platform
With the advent of the Software as a Service (SaaS) based marketing automation platforms, over the past few years we have seen the rapid evolution of several channel marketing platforms. However, before you make significant investments you should make sure that the channel marketing platform that you are consider can satisfy a set of several core and advanced requirements.
At ZINFI, we have coined the term Unified Channel Management (UCM) as a way to indicate the comprehensiveness of a channel marketing platform. Today, several acronyms are used by various analysts firms to describe basic categories under the channel marketing platform umbrella. Here are the basic definitions that are being used.
a) Partner Relationship Management (PRM) – This category primarily focuses on enabling a vendor selling through the channel to recruit, train and manage their partner base effectively. PRM tends to include applications like partner onboarding, partner training, deal registration, market-development funds, rewards, rebates, etc.
b) Partner Marketing Management (PMM) – The entire focus for this platform is to enable the partner run integrated campaigns to generate leads. Some analysts are calling this Through Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) or Through Partner Marketing Automation (TPMA). However, both TCMA and TPMA refer to the same thing.
c) Unified Channel Management (UCM) – At ZINFI, we refer to the combination of PRM and PMM as Unified Channel Management (UCM), since you need both set of capabilities to truly manage a channel end-to-end. When someone is referring to a channel marketing platform,they may be referring to UCM or components of UCM. However, the term channel marketing platform is now broadly used.
With the definitions behind us, it is important for us to understand what the core capabilities of a channel marketing platform are. In order to define the capabilities of a channel marketing platform within the context of an organizational channel maturity framework (please refer to our article on Channel Marketing Automation Can Increase Channel Management Maturity) it is important to break down the feature sets into three levels, from the most basic to the most complex:
- Level 1 (starter capabilities) – In this phase you need a set of capabilities that allow you to recruit, train and manage partners. Therefore, your channel marketing platform should have the following capabilities:
a) Partner portal – You should be able to share channel program content with your partners based on their type and location.
b) Documents management – You should be able to share data sheets, pricing information, program information, etc., through a downloadable interface for both PC and mobile platforms.
c) Basic market-to capabilities – You should be able to send emails and other communications to inform partners what you are doing with your programs.
- Level 2 (advanced capabilities) – If you are in this level, then your channel marketing platform should have the following core feature sets:
a) Partner Profile Manager – This is a CRM-like database where you would house all your partner records. However, the capabilities of a Partner Profile Manager (PPM) are more advanced than a basic CRM. The Partner Profile Manager (PPM) not only houses records, but also integrates with your training, certification and sales tracking tools to make sure you have comprehensive profiling capabilities.
b) Deal registration – As your channel starts to grow, your channel marketing platform should be able to address your need to protect the deals generated by your partners to minimize channel conflict. This is a core capability that your channel marketing platform must have. This capability should directly link not only to your Partner Profile Manager (PPM), but also to your existing CRM infrastructure so that you can seamlessly track how your partners are performing.
c) Advanced market-to capabilities – In this level, your channel marketing platform should allow you to have advanced marketing capabilities – e.g., search, social, syndication and events. By using this tool, both your field marketing and channel sales teams should be able to effectively segment, profile and market to the partner base and keep track of their engagement to substantially increase program effectiveness.
d) Advanced learning management – The ability of a channel partner to effectively market and sell depends to a large extent on the partner’s knowledge of the vendor’s products and solutions. This is where Learning Management System (LMS) features come into play in your channel marketing platform. When you are evaluating a PRM platform, make sure the LMS capabilities match your requirements.
e) Multi-partner demand gen – Your channel marketing platform should give you the ability to completely set up co-branded campaigns for your partners to use and drive demand. This is incredibly important if you want to drive partner-led demand generation and want to equip your partners with state-of-the-art integrated campaign assets and tools.
- Level 3 (mature capabilities) – In this phase, you will need to make sure that you have true end-to-end channel management capability and that your channel marketing platform gives you comprehensive capabilities to manage your channel to its fullest potential
a) Advanced portal capabilities – You should be able to localize your content, promote the content via various means (such as search and social) and track effectiveness.
b) Incentives management – Your channel marketing platform should allow you to dynamically manage various aspects of your partner incentives program using market development funds, rewards, rebates, and other incentives.
In addition to these core capabilities, your channel marketing platform should have a dynamic reporting and analytical engine allowing you to cut your data in multiple ways and understand what is working and what is not. Channel marketing is complex, and it requires a balanced and integrated approach using programs, process, automation and people.
Now that you have a good sense of the core capabilities a channel marketing platform must have, please feel free to navigate through www.zinfi.com or sign up for one of our deep-dive webinars if you want to learn more about how some of these capabilities can take your channel to a new, higher level of performance.