Louis Foong, golf in MauritiusOn a recent business trip to Mauritius, I had the opportunity to play a few rounds of golf at the Tamarina Golf Club and Ile aux Cerfs Golf Club. The magical landscape between mountain and sea at the Tamarina was inspiring but I’ll save my swing scores for another day J The ocean views, white sand bunkers, lakes, volcanic rock features and the sheer variety of tropical trees and plants at Ile aux Cerfs offered an experience that just doesn’t compare with playing golf on a regular course. Needless to say, it was time beautifully spent.

Some of my golf buddies happened to be CMOs at organizations that depend heavily on channel partners for their B2B marketing. As we cursed and sweated over a bad shot or cheered on when we got lucky, the conversation drifted towards the common challenges that channel marketers struggle within their demand generation efforts. With each of these C-suite executives sharing what worked for them, I realized that what they are all missing is a defined strategy for demand generation. When they talked about strategies that worked, I noticed that almost every single one of them was an example of what I call “spike marketing”. These channel marketers indulge in frequent and repeated tactical plays, but there is no consistent effort to sustain their lead funnel. They can neither predict lead generation outcomes nor measure the effectiveness of their demand generation programs.

To summarize our discussion, here are:

7 Key Challenges Facing B2B Companies And Their Channel Marketing Activities:

  1. There are too many “experts” within the organization trying to steer and course correct marketing strategy. No sooner does a lead generation program start to gain momentum, when a senior executive decides to pull weight and changes everything. Any opportunities that were being worked upon are then lost and the team has to start all over again.
  2. No two channel partners are alike in terms of their domain expertise. The organizations that depend on these partners have to recognize these differences, and then ensure that they have a person accountable for managing and assisting different partners to perform to their full potential.
  3. With Sales and Marketing departments working in watertight compartments, many of these organizations suffer from little or no cross-trading. As a result, quality leads fall through the cracks and are lost.
  4. An unbalanced and unrealistic dependence on marketing automation tools is the bane of B2B lead generation. These companies are so caught up in bringing on shiny new toys that they fail to build organizational history and miss valuable insights they might have gained from their own prospect database.
  5. With all the fuss about Big Data and Analytics, most of these companies are lacking good list hygiene and list building practices. This is basic to lead generation! When clients ask me about list vendors, I always tell them to first use their own list. Next, I advise them to use a lead generation program that will offer a 360° view of their campaigns.
  6. High turnover of sales people is another common issue. Channel marketers that fail to incorporate employee-friendly policies, sound training practices and people development initiatives will suffer from continued attrition. As a result, these companies lose buyer confidence and qualified leads lose interest as they find they are dealing with a new face far too often.
  7. Among the larger marketing organizations, it’s typical to find people tripping over themselves. As too many people get involved with handling too many processes, the sales funnel starts to thin out and once interested buyers find other vendors who give them more time and attention.

How Can B2B Channel Marketers Optimize Demand Generation Programs?

Unlike B2C brands where consumers are often making impulse purchases and don’t care much about direct interaction with the seller, B2B marketers need to interact with potential buyers on a one-to-one basis, personalizing their offer in the best way possible. Social media offers tremendous opportunity to personalize and engage with customers, provided it is approached as one component of a holistic marketing strategy. Putting all your eggs in the social media basket will not yield the right results and you may end up losing time and money; a lot of it!

Here are some quick and easy tips on optimizing your demand generation programs within the channel marketing landscape:

  • Define your objectives and get team buy in. If you are unable to explain your vision and your strategy without a whiteboard, it’s likely to be far too complicated; so keep it simple.
  • Simplify your lead scoring models so it becomes easy for your channel partners and their sales reps to stay on target.
  • Customer profiling and account mapping needs to be a conscious and concerted effort with defined roles, responsibilities and accountability for everyone on your team.
  • Take care not to allow analysis-paralysis to set into your organization. While there is no doubt that measurement metrics and reports are important, you can use automation to gain empirical data. Now use that to focus on and give the appropriate direction to your demand generation plays.
  • Prepare for a marathon, not a sprint; it takes patience. Give your channel partners all the resources and training they need to stay in the game for the long haul. Short bursts of energy may give you spikes in volume but it won’t sustain long-term profitability and demand generation effectiveness.
  • Count the numbers, by all means; but remember that quality is critical. Ensure your channel partners are defining a true lead the same way you do. Establish these 5 important criteria: right company / demographic, right person, real pain point, realistic decision timeline and a willingness to engage. Forget the complicated flowcharts, a flooded leads database, and expensive structural solutions. Keep it simple and focus on the best quality of leads.
  • Aim for the highest VALUE you can deliver. Train channel partners to educate their buyers and build interest through various engagement mechanisms, both offline and digital. By thinking like a buyer, these channel marketers can truly begin to understand their buyers’ real pain points and offer real solutions. That’s when buyers will see value and offer the reward of conversion.

Is your B2B channel marketing organization struggling to achieve the desired results from demand generation programs? Are your channel partners on board with your lead generation strategies and practices? Would you like to discuss these issues with other channel marketers and find possible solutions? Join this exclusive, B2B LinkedIn Group to exchange notes with thought leaders in the industry.