Considering that over 64% of all IT spend dollars flow indirectly – equating to $2.26 trillion – according to Forrester, it’s incredible to think that channel marketing, or ecosystem marketing, is often given second billing and treated as an afterthought.
And yet that’s what recent qualitative research from Coterie found. Our respondents feel that channel marketing is the Cinderella of B2B marketing; often left on the sidelines when it comes to strategic discussions, remembered only at the last minute and always second place to its perceptibly more exciting cousin, B2C marketing.
It’s time for a change.
Raising the profile of B2B ecosystem marketing and demonstrating the broader context of achievements, must be a priority. This Cinderella effect has consequences for budgets, resources and ideas, a lack of which only further inhibit what channel and ecosystem managers can achieve.
But where to start? Below are five proven ways of elevating your ecosystem marketing:
1. Education, education, education
It sounds ridiculous to those of us who’ve worked in the channel for so long, but there are still many at board level who don’t understand how the ecosystem approach works. And it goes beyond just the board; everyone throughout your organisation should understand the who, what, when, why and how of partner marketing.
Practical tip: Create crib sheets that detail quickly and simply how your ecosystem approach works, why it’s important in the market, and vitally why it’s important to your organisation. Hold ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, or quarterly briefings on what’s happening in the ecosystem. Senior buy-in is essential, so target this audience first and get them on board.
2. A little more conversation (and a little more action!)
Half the battle is getting involved in strategic conversations about marketing across the organisation from the outset. This not only enables more access to budgets, but it ensures a more holistic marketing approach – whether it’s through, to, or direct. Buyers spend 68% of their journey digitally before speaking with a salesperson (direct or partner) so having a joined-up marketing approach is essential to capture their interest early.
Practical tip: Create a solid business case on why and how your team need to be involved early. Pepper it with new ideas and marketing methods that can be used by your team and the direct and B2C teams to demonstrate how a united approach would benefit the organisation overall.
The thing about Cinderella is she’s humble and not assertive. These are not great traits for an ecosystem manager who needs to elevate channel marketing! Demonstrating you and your team’s broad achievements is essential to get noticed. Seek budget for rewards for your team to keep them motivated and boast widely about your achievements. Your team work hard – it’s time they got the recognition they deserve.
Practical tip: Use highly visible rewards systems; whiteboards, loud bells, nights out, pizza delivery at lunchtime – whatever it takes to get noticed around the building (the smell of the pizza is always a winner to get people asking questions!)
4. PR the PR
Getting your achievements, news and strategy acknowledged in the media is a great way of getting noticed externally. But PR isn’t just about external recognition. You need to PR the PR; shout about the PR you’ve received, send links, post across your social media and get your team to do the same. Use internal newsletters and bulletins to ensure knowledge of your achievements reaches board level.
Practical tip: Your organisation might already have a PR person or agency. Find out who the right people are to get your news out there. Go armed with news, stats, facts and achievements to make sure you hit your message home about the importance of ecosystem marketing.
5. Dare to be different
The perception is that B2B ecosystem marketing lacks the sexy vibe of B2C. But that doesn’t have to be the case. B2B doesn’t have to be just unemotional, apathetic campaigns about feeds and speeds. Slack ran a great campaign around how it makes you feel to do less email, with fun, whimsical graphics. Cisco ran a cyber security campaign based around a graphic novel idea. B2B ecosystem marketing is different and we need to embrace it to get noticed.
Practical tip: Research the latest marketing campaigns and methods – The Drum, Campaign, Marketing Week are all great resources to help spark ideas. Also, check awards winners – what did they do, how did they get their idea to work?
In a busier-than-ever marketplace, companies cannot afford to ignore the money that’s pouring in via the channel. How they make that money flow in their direction is through better funded, more integrated and innovative ecosystem marketing.
A place at the table must be reserved from the outset and ecosystem marketing must be part of all strategic discussions if companies want to take advantage of the always-on, everywhere marketing approach that’s now the norm. It’s time we elevated Cinderella from the scullery to the board room and help ecosystem marketing shine.