By SEAN WISDOM | SproutLoud Vice President of Channel Marketing
The allure of Digital Marketing is undeniable.
Just imagine making it through a day without a smartphone, laptop or tablet, with no access to the internet or social media. Unthinkable. Today’s consumers dwell in Digital spaces, often lingering to the point of dependence. How could we possibly choose a restaurant or a movie without having read the reviews? How could we buy products or attend events if we don’t do our research online? Face it — we’re obsessed.
And Brands know it.
Digital Advertising is what Brands need to do to expand their reach and get their message heard. Channel Partners know it, too. But it’s not always a natural fit. To your Channel Partners, the idea of launching Digital ads is a scary thought shrouded in uncertainty. But what’s so scary about Digital? Well, let’s take a look at three reasons why Channel Partners don’t use Digital Marketing:
The Digital Fear Factor
- Fear of making a mistake.
Your Partners have spent years doing Traditional Advertising: newspapers, TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, promos, etc. Even if they want to do Digital as much as the next guy, they still see it as something new. Frankly, they’re afraid they’re just going to get it wrong. They’re worried it’s going to be a waste of money. And that kind of fear and stress can have a paralyzing effect.
- Fear of change.
Compared to the uncharted waters of Digital, Traditional Marketing stands out as tried, true and trusted. It’s easy to convince yourself that if people are still printing newspapers and putting up billboards, then someone must be reading them. And when your Partners think about how uncomfortable Digital makes them feel, they tend to default to what they know and how they’ve always done it.
- Fear of doing the wrong thing.
Research shows that Brands are increasingly investing in Digital Marketing, but they’re not asking or expecting their Channel Partners to follow their lead. According to a recent Gleanster Research report, when Brands offer Co-Op or MDF funds to their Partners, Digital Marketing doesn’t even make the Top 3 options. Instead, Brands are allocating the most Co-Op and MDF money to:
- Traditional Advertising
- Email Marketing
- Promotional Items
Yet, if you ask local businesses what they believe will help them drive more sales, the same Gleanster report noted, those local businesses say Social Media and Local Websites. So, if Brands want Digital, and their Local Partners want Digital, why wouldn’t Brands encourage, cajole and incentivize their Partners to invest in Digital?
The truth is, Brands know how hard it can be for their Local Partners to get it right when it comes to Digital Marketing. And — just like their Partners — they’re hesitant to invest in uncertain outcomes.
Why are Partners Afraid of Digital?
The choices seem endless, and it can get a bit dizzying.
Put yourself in a Local Business Owner’s shoes while she’s managing the store, the employees, the customers and less-than-stellar sales figures. And at the same time, she’s got to quickly decide whether to invest in Pay-Per-Click, Search, Dynamic Local Display, Data-Triggered Marketing Programs, Reputation Management, Directory Listings — OK, you get it. There are too many choices.
Seasoned marketing professionals take years to acquire the expertise to develop and deploy the right Digital Marketing strategy at the right time. The truth is, your Local Partners are entrepreneurs and experts at what they do best: running their businesses and selling your products. That doesn’t always mean they’re experts at marketing. So finding the time to identify which tactics to use takes time that they just don’t have. Here’s what your Local Partner really wants to know: Which tactic will drive more sales?
Unfortunately, there are plenty of vendors available to answer that question. Your Local Partners are bombarded on a daily basis with fly-by-night vendors that promise to turn your Partners’ dollars into Digital Advertising success. Weeding out which vendors deliver great results and which vendors don’t have a clue is difficult when a Partner already has so many balls in the air.
Most of your Partners have been burned before. At one time or another, every one of your Partners has invested funds with at least one fast-talking “Digital Expert” only to find out that it was a waste of money. Understandably, your Partners are wary of disreputable vendors. So, they tend to hold back. And the local marketing budget once again gets spent solely on Traditional Advertising. But if antiquated marketing methods are leading to less-than-stellar sales, more of the same won’t get you a different outcome.
The Drive for Digital
Brands know that targeting the right message to the right customer makes a difference. Digital Marketing done well does just that, and it can have a significant impact on driving traffic, leads and sales. Today, innovations in Through-Channel Marketing Automation are making it easier than ever for Brands to lead the way and set their Channel Partners up for Digital success.
Here are three strategies to make sure your Partners will invest in effective, Brand-preferred Digital tactics:
- Use a funding strategy that drives Digital adoption.
The first step is to implement a funding strategy that allows Brands to incentivize Digital tactics. Offering Co-Op and MDF funds has been the typical option for Brands who want to influence their Partners’ marketing choices. But the traditional Co-Op and MDF process is so cumbersome and time consuming that nearly half of the $70 billion that Brands make available to their Partners each year is left on the table. More tech-savvy Brands are using Through-Channel Marketing Automation to instantly fund Digital Advertising as soon as the Partner launches the campaign. No pre-approvals, no claims and no waiting for reimbursement. With instant funding, Partners are more likely to adopt Digital campaigns.
- Make sure local execution is integrated.
Conventionally, the main reason Partners don’t adopt Digital is because it’s hard to find a reputable vendor in their local market. But next-gen Brands choose an innovative Through-Channel Marketing Automation Platform that comes with integrated marketing vendors. These vendors are hand-picked, best-in-breed marketing service providers that handle all the local execution as soon as an order is placed. Having the vendors integrated in the Platform ensures that your Partners get exceptional local execution and save the time and hassle of selecting and managing their own local marketing vendors. This innovation allows Partners to launch campaigns in minutes instead of days or weeks. And for your Partners, time saved means more time with customers and potentially more sales.
- Let analytics be your guide.
Brands can now centralize the building, funding and execution of all Channel Marketing activities in one Through-Channel Platform. This means that Brands and Partners can get real-time analytics on every campaign that is launched. Partners can analyze the same performance locally that the Brand can see globally, across their entire Partner network. This means Partners can steer investments in marketing based on historical performance as they compare both Traditional and Digital tactics. This level of deep insight allows Brands and their Partners to see the true value that Digital tactics are creating at the local level. More clarity will drive more Digital adoption.
Driving Digital Adoption
Digital is scary — at least that's what major Brands thought five years ago. And it’s what Local Partners are thinking today. But with the latest technology, Brands and Partners can re-think their funding strategy, improve local execution and get better insight into the true value of Digital. With instant funding, integrated marketing service providers and embedded analytics, Channel Partners will never be scared of Digital again.
About the Author
Sean Wisdom is the Vice President of Channel Marketing for SproutLoud. He has been at the forefront of some of the biggest innovations of the past 20 years including smart devices, mobile applications and marketing technologies. Sean has created the messaging, sales and marketing strategies for major brands like AT&T, Verizon and Dell. He has extensive experience with indirect channels and has developed marketing, sales and compensation strategies for both consumer and B2B partner networks. Sean has a passion for Local Businesses and has spent a career helping improve their sales and marketing performance with innovative software technologies.More Content by Sean Wisdom