Marketers like the word “collaborate,” perhaps because it suggests two amiable parties investing blood, sweat and tears side by side to accomplish a common goal. According to Merriam-Webster, the full definition of “collaborate” looks like this:
…to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.
However, if there were an Urban Dictionary entry for “collaborate,” it might read more like this:
…to accomplish very little via a disagreeable group effort, especially through passive-aggressively pushing one’s own agenda at the detriment of the overall goal that was never truly agreed upon in the first place.
Urban Dictionary or not, I think it’s worth pointing out that the textbook definition of the word “collaborate” does not suggest alignment for outcomes or results. Moreover, the secondary definition means cooperate traitorously with an enemy. I think this fits the bill more often than not.
“Compete” is a much more interesting word. “Compete” comes from Latin com, meaning together, and petere, meaning to aim at or seek. Later competere developed the connotation strive together, which is the basis for the English term.
Why am I waxing philosophical about collaboration and competition? There is a general hierarchy of B2B marketing, and in most organizations, the natural place of channel marketing falls
somewhere between red-headed stepchild and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Does your corporate marketing effort compete with your channel marketing, or do you “collaborate?”
Corporate and Channel Collaboration
At no point, in the traditional sense of collaboration, does “corporate and channel collaboration” suggest that corporate and channel are working together towards common goals or that there is a relationship between channel marketers and the partners they serve.
I was reminded of the importance of corporate/channel alignment when I recently reviewed anonymized channel partner data from a company that knows channel marketing well. Elastic Grid, a fully responsive, cloud-based, through-partner marketing platform, has collected anonymous data about the wants and needs of 11K+ channel partners and practitioners who utilize its platform. This data has uncovered some interesting insights.
Given the misaligned nature of corporate and channel when it comes to marketing, it’s a surprise that both are after the same goals: That’s right, they’re actually already aligned. When asked to cite the desired outcomes of channel marketing efforts, the top two responses are clear: lead generation and collateral. Sound familiar?
Also, the success metrics for channel should sound familiar: They measure leads, appointments and revenue more than any other single metric. I would be surprised to hear a corporate environment measuring anything else.
Not convinced? Here’s a snapshot of the most prolific sources for sales leads within the channel:
We are more aligned than we think we are in terms of the big picture items: increasing revenue and how we go about doing it—acquiring leads. The third chart even shows that both corporate and channel are fishing in the same waters to acquire these leads, with the leading sources of contacts coming from CRM, email marketing and events.
So, while we tend to think there is plenty of competition between corporate and channel marketing, why is there not more striving together between the two players? I challenge my colleagues on both sides of the divide to share your process for collaboration – and more importantly, competition – to help reframe the conversation.
Isn’t it time for some healthy competition?