Top 5 Channel Marketing Trends: How Traditional and Digital Marketing Intersect

BrandMuscle | November 8, 2019
Earlier this year, we hosted Jay McBain from Forrester and Jason Tabeling, Executive Vice President of Product Management at BrandMuscle. They discussed five emerging trends impacting channel marketing and how channel marketers can prepare for these changes. This is the fourth in a five-part series.1. How closed-loop analytics will unlock business knowledge, and the ways technology and learning will accelerate measurement across the channel.

2. The ways conversational user interfaces (i.e. chatbots) will be applied across the channel and the benefit to partners and brands.

3. The impact increased marketing knowledge can have on channel partner revenue growth.

4. The ways digital is evolving traditional marketing channels and creating new opportunities for targeting, personalization, and optimization.

5. How historical data and trends will empower intelligent marketing fund allocation and improve channel partner participation.

A Discussion on Traditional and Digital Marketing

Jason: Speaking of media, our fourth biggest trend here is how digital evolves traditional. You can see top three priorities that digital media is here and a very important part of the mix. So what we think is missing so far is really important nuance: that digital is bringing new avenues to traditional. I have four examples here that Jay and I will talk through that kind of demonstrate this point.


So I will start with first one, which is events. For the last five years, events have been the top three to these local channel partners, number three this year, and traditionally this would just mean Hey, set up my booth at the event, whoever comes, I rely on the marketer to drive people there, the event organizer and I will have some conversations at the booth, maybe get some business cards, and then move on. But we think now there are a lot of ways with digital to capture people before the event. There are Facebook events you can set up. There are Facebook event ad types you can set up, programmatic direct mail or outdoor can help with this. At the event you can capture device IDs, set up geo fences and capture device IDs, you can email capture at your specific booth, to understand who came there at the event and then you can retarget those customers days or weeks after they made the event; even with some sequential content to demonstrate that them and you’re building a relationship over time. This is a way to extend the value of the event that your channel partners might be hosting today.

Jay: I love this, and I’ve become a connoisseur of events, because as I look back, I’ve gone to probably 50 shows a year for 25 years. So other than having a lot of air miles, one of the things you start to notice is that the events also have this idea of influence or marketing in them as well. The people that go to these events, who I call the super connectors — you’ll see them speaking at the event, you’ll see them sitting on the Board of Advisors. You’ll see some of the media sponsors at that event. You’ll see them show up on the front cover magazine, do webinars and podcasts, and you can actually start to build out the list of influencers for the potential audience that you’re going after. Once you build these influencers, they go to many other events, because the problem with events is there are hundreds of thousands of these around the world, and even in a very tight industry they probably have over a hundred events a year that you won’t be able to attend. But what’s interesting is there are super connectors that do that, and using all of these pre-show during the show and post show technologies and ideas, you can really drive that far beyond the event, which is pretty exciting. A lot of brands are using this to their benefit.

Direct Mail

Jason: Yes, so let’s look at another one that that’s out there. Obviously, direct mail has been around for a long time. What we think is really interesting here is the ability to leverage geo fencing, to do digital just like direct mail. So there’s this idea of addressable households, so no longer do you have to rely on zip codes or radius targeting. You can literally say address one, two, three, seven, eight, nine, 14. The three or four houses on the streets that maybe just moved or just had a kid or have engaged with your website previously, you can target just those audiences. And so that specificity reduces potential media waste, leverages the insights you might have on that potential customer or current customer, and can bring digital to life for them.


Let’s look at let’s look at another example here Jay, I think out-of-home is one that has in our world of channel partners has a lot of vanity value. Right? I want people to see my face on a billboard as I drive to work every day. That makes me feel good, and traditionally you cannot measure these. So there are two things that have happened here. One is you can buy in a much more real time programmatic way, the same way you can buy some display or video or other more strictly traditional digital media tactics. It’s been really great, but also you can now measure these with some foot traffic studies. So you can throw the ad up, and for the eight seconds it’s up, capture the device IDs that might drive down the highway. And for the 52 seconds that your ad’s not up, capture those same devices and look at what the lift is the people that came into your business. Did the people that saw my billboard or drove by the billboard, those device ids come into my store more frequently than those that did not? And now you have some data to validate this billboard decision outside of “Hey, I’ve always bought that billboard,” or “I’d like to see in my face when I drive into work” in the morning. So this is a great evolution I think to bring back light and data into a very traditional tactic.

And it goes back to our comments about balance I think we did a hard to turn into digital and marketers that understand that obviously there’s so many nuances to your customer and getting to that magic number of seven, in terms of ways you can touch them or influence them along the way. the blend of physical and digital but now physical has some tools and abilities to actually blend in some digital as well. So I think this is fantastic and the work that is being done here is incredible to really drive that marketing for brands.

Jay: Yeah, I think in that can help influence that mix. That mix is really important. We get a lot of questions about digital today, but I think for us, we’ll manage millions of dollars for media this year, and still less than 50% at the local level is being spent on digital. I think that percentage should be higher over time, but it should never be zero, and I think that’s the mixed conversation we’ve had — what we talked about the top 20 priorities for 2019. For some of these channels, we know it should never be all of something, nothing of another thing, and that mix and balance of Jay been talking, I think is really important.

An Aside: Many Steps in the Journey

We’ve done several studies, and it’s interesting, almost the psychology you have the buyer. When you ask them why they made a purchase, how they got influenced in terms of buying one brand or another, a lot of times they’ll kind of rattle off some things, but there were many ways that they were touched along the way, along their early part of their journey. They can’t actually identify whether it was a billboard, a radio ad, a tweet, a heavier piece of content like an e-book or something. They have difficulty actually pointing out the seven steps, but the brain registers it as such, and when it comes time for vendor selection, it works almost the same way, so you can see this as effectiveness, and obviously the chance to hit a much bigger audience. So it’s interesting that our brains haven’t changed or evolved in the digital era. You want to be doing multi-tactic.

Connected TV

Yeah, it’s a great point. So the last example I have is potentially the most obvious of all these bits, but too important not to note: connected TV. People are cutting the cord at record levels. Hulu and other folks are out there, and it creates an opportunity for connected TV advertising, so those were over two billion dollars in 2018, which is up 40% year-over-year, and it just brings in the same TV video content that you’ve always had, the opportunity to buy, but on a programmatic level and with smarter intelligence. You can buy addressable households that we talked about earlier. You can buy behaviors and demographics that weren’t available with the traditional TV model.

So you’ll see these continue to increase as YouTube TV and Hulu and others continue to get prevalent in the marketplace. And I think, again, it makes an old tactic new again, because there is value in the mix of these tactics.

To summarize that point, I think there’s a lot of traditional tactics out there that haven’t been digitized, but there are still plenty that have and evolved, and it’s really opening up the opportunity to validate that media mix and look at ways to improve your measurement, targeting, and optimization with some of these traditional tactics that maybe those metrics and those optimization opportunities weren’t previously available.

Want to hear the whole conversation?

Check out our June 2019 on-demand webinar with Jay McBain from Forrester.

About the Presenters

Jay McBain, Principal Analyst, Forrester

Jay leads Forrester’s research and advisory for global channels, alliances, and partnerships. He focuses on B2B marketing in the age of the customer; understanding and navigating the complexity of multiple routes to market; ensuring contextual and relevant content to accelerate the indirect sales process and describing the technology infrastructure to build and support channel relationships.

Jay provides research, advisory, and consulting to companies ranging from Fortune 100 vendors to startups on the entire scope of their channel and alliance strategies. He is a contributing author and has been cited in numerous channel media publications, including Channel Reseller News (CRN), ChannelPro, ChannelE2E, The VAR Guy, MSPMentor, Channelnomics, Computer Dealer News (CDN), Australia Reseller News (ARN), eChannelNews, Business Solutions Magazine, ChannelLine, ChannelInsider, SearchITChannel, Redmond Channel Magazine, Vertical Systems Reseller, Channel Buzz, and SMB Nation. He also maintains a popular blog on channel trends.

Jason Tabeling, EVP Product Marketing, BrandMuscle

As EVP of Product Management, Jason Tabeling creates a unified strategic roadmap for the organization across its full suite of products. Jason joined BrandMuscle as Senior Vice President of Digital in 2016. Shortly after, he led strategic efforts to combine the digital, traditional, social media and event marketing teams at BrandMuscle into a single department and center of excellence for BrandMuscle’s clients. Today that team totals 95 and counting. Under his leadership, client demand and satisfaction have grown and employees have thrived.

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