We are in the middle of May and top channel vendors are realigning their engagement strategies for the next 4 quarters under COVID.
It is very common for B2B marketers to be spending 60%-80% of their market development funds (MDF) investment on some type of partner “Event” –customer or prospect focused. Industry events will be impacted well into the second half of 2021. While no one wants to hear this, it’s a fact that social distancing will not just be turned off. Rather, we’ll return to normal operations in phases over the next three quarters.
By the way, we’ve heard for years vendors ask the same question: Why are we spending so much of our MDF budget on partner events? What is the return on partner-led events? They have a hard time justifying event spending. Quite frankly, the returns have been hard to quantify from a marketing perspective.
Now, we have the perfect A/B test for event alternatives. As events are being cancelled and more marketing is going digital, you can see whether investments are worth it based on how partner sales perform.
Beyond A/B analyses, I want to share some best practices for these times, as there are ways to turn around the problem of planned event partner marketing, and still bring advantages to the sales cycle and revenue streams.
You can do this by leveraging your existing MDF budgets in a few different directions.
- Redirect some MDF funding to activity areas that may need more emphasis in under current circumstances. These include near-sales activities - demo equipment provision, trial schemes, proof-of-concept, telemarketing - rather than pipeline creation and lead generation targeted at industries being less effected by the pandemic.
- Onboard new target partners. Yes, this may just be the right time to invest in partner onboarding to ensure business continuity and fitness when we come out the other end of this period. You should consider redirecting some of your events MDF funds to onboarding velocity rewards set against desired criteria – registration/contracting, staff induction and training, access to systems, accreditation - and timeframe.
- Align more spend to demo equipment provision, trial schemes or lead conversion activity such as telemarketing. You may want to match these focus shifts directly to any sales realignments you are making to explore alternative revenue streams.
- Think about social distancing formats that could help your partner with prospects, such as video contact to utilize in communications (vendor created videos and/or in fact partner created with MDF event funds).
- Implement a fuller strategy around partner-led virtual events. Whether a simple partner-led webinar with vendor SME’s on the webcast or partner-led virtual events using your digital events platform, you can focus on attracting the right customer audience, offering rewards to drive effort and achievement of the desired activities set.
- Allocate MDF to a points-based reward and recognition scheme focused on high value activities around partner engagement, enablement, and near-sales behaviors. You’ll keep engagement high and top-of-mind.
- Consider rewarding product and sales personnel for successful completion of your solution and specialization training or certification. Implement promotions paying out rewards for specific sales (maybe ones that are being driven by the increase in remote working) or for prescribed sales and marketing activity that align to your sales playbook.
- Up the tempo on through partner marketing. Develop and offer more pre-packaged/out of the box resources and campaign materials your partners can quickly utilize in the market. Faster partner enablement is essential. And encourage deployment of these assets with marketing certification incentives that pay out rewards for successful execution of the demand generation activity.
During these times, it’s a good idea to rethink your channel incentives and get creative with MDF by refocusing spend from partner events to a digital engagement scheme, assigning key performance indicators to your goals so you can track, measure and report the progress of each element.
If you have questions about channel incentives or MDF planning, feel free to reach out through the Channel Marketplace Concierge service.