In every successful marketing program, the focus begins with the consumer—and how they prefer to be served in the journey to purchase satisfaction. That goes for channel marketing too. This hasn’t changed, but in today’s marketing environment, the channel (i.e., the local retailer, dealer, distributor or agent) is more focused, data-driven, automated and accountable than ever.
Big ideas, programs and initiatives require support in order to be successful. You need allies who will advocate for your idea and help you win over even more people. For corporate brands with a network of local sales partners- agents, dealers, franchisees, retailers, etc.- your biggest ally is the person who communicates with your dealers on a regular basis.
It’s a business-changing day for a manufacturer when you find out that a distributor has agreed to partner with you and sell your product through their independent dealer or retailer network. Or possibly you are a manufacturer that has determined your service or product will be sold directly from corporate to channel sales partners -such as franchise and independently owned retail stores.
Many companies rely on independent distribution channels for their products or services. These companies also spend millions of dollars on national marketing campaigns, which keeps current customers engaged with their brand, and can help pick up new customers. Execution of a channel marketing campaign that supports the national messaging takes a marketing team that understands your campaign strategy.
Most national brands that have partners selling their products at the local level offer a co-op marketing program. For those brands with hundreds of local sales partners, keeping track of each partner’s marketing plan is a full-time job. Depending on your number of partners, it could add up to even 10 or more full-time jobs.
About this time every year, SA teams fan out across the country to meet and interact with clients and their local dealers, agents and local partners who participate in corporate programs designed to help them do more in each of their markets. When we hit the road, we’re interacting with local professionals via presentations, small groups, one-on-ones and social gatherings.
Much of what we do here at SA involves what we affectionately call “The Channel.” The Channel is a general term we use to broadly describe the people and activities involved in moving our clients’ brands to the end consumer. The Channel is complicated but I like to think of it in two distinct parts: Channel Sales and Channel Marketing.
For the past seven years or so, channel marketers have focused on brand consistency, resource/asset management and access, and availability of digital solutions, like ad builders, for an on-demand environment. The accrued benefits supposedly were cost savings, speed and efficiency. But there’s so much opportunity that hasn’t even been touched. And so much money going unspent—some say up to $25 billion.
Channel marketing programs are under constant scrutiny. The expectation is clear … performance delivery. Establishing the program’s objectives must be first and foremost. Defining measurable objectives leads to focused strategies and tactics. A channel marketing campaign objective might be: Increase participation with retail partners by 50% in the second quarter consumer promotion; Increase customer satisfaction by 15% of our signature product or service; or Drive a year-over-year sales increase by 20% in our Top 10 Markets.