How to Enable Channel Partners to Continue Marketing During Downturns - BrandMuscle
How to Enable Channel Partners to Continue Marketing During Downturns
May 14, 2020
By: James Morse, Senior Director, Solutions Consultant

The cash register simply isn’t ringing the way it was just a few months ago. Many of your channel partners may be unable to work currently due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it is imperative they continue marketing, even with a reduced budget. Consumers are still being targeted by other brands during this time, and you don’t want to be looked over when it comes time for them to make a purchase.

Businesses that continue marketing during downturns fare better

AdAge wrote an insightful piece this past April titled, “History Shows Marketers Who Keep Spending During Downturns Fare Much Better.” It makes absolute sense, yet we are seeing marketing budgets slashed left and right. The good news for corporate marketing teams is that many of you have channel fund programs with accrued funds already allocated to your channel partners. Many of our clients initially approach us with fears of fraudulent behavior when it comes to their channel fund programs. They see partners applying operational costs for reimbursement or even a doctor’s bill. Traditionally, we have recommended channel funds be strategically focused on marketing campaigns and tactics that drive a high return on marketing investment (ROMI). We are temporarily going back on previous advice. Now, we suggest focusing on your channel partners’ operational needs where possible to incentivize them to continue marketing during these difficult times.

If you’re confident in your current marketing, don’t be afraid to ask for help in the form of marketing dollars or resources in order to execute an effective co-op program. On the other hand, if you’re not so confident, consider scaling back your efforts to focus on specific regions, product lines, or even marketing tactics where you see the most opportunity.

How do I incentivize channel partners to continue marketing?

Your partners are trying to navigate rent payments, employee salaries, and putting food on the table for their families over marketing at the moment. Here are a few ways to use strategic fund management to incentivize your channel partners to keep marketing:

1. Reevaluate your reimbursement percentages

First, reevaluate your reimbursement percentages. Know the tactics with the highest ROI and potentially reimburse at a higher percentage than normal. This will help lower the amount of out of pocket costs to your partners while still ensuring the shared investments lead to shared rewards. Our 2019 SOLM study shows “shared-spend co-op programs between the marketer and partner attain 20% better growth.”

2. Help channel partners stay in business

Next, consider assisting your partners who have accrued channel funds temporarily this quarter in areas such as their office rent and payroll. The last thing any of us want to see as business revs up again is a decrease in channel partners because they were unable to survive the downturn. While these areas might not have a direct impact on your brand now, they will undoubtedly have a positive impact in the coming months.

Your helping hand will be remembered, and your channel partners will have a stronger loyalty to you than before. By no means do we recommend allowing your partners to request reimbursement for operational activities without marketing first. These two should go hand-in-hand. Identify marketing thresholds that will help move the needle before operational activities are even available.

3. Allow co-op funds to be used for PPE

Finally, everyone is thinking about personal protective equipment (PPE), especially if they have a store, office, or dealership that consumers will be visiting. Consumers may not consider visiting these local businesses if they are not offered proper protective gear such as face masks or hand sanitizer. Allowing your channel partners to apply co-op funds to these types of items through preferred vendors is key, but like aforementioned operational activities, you want to ensure they are marrying this with marketing activities too. You can ensure the preferred vendors are utilizing your correct logo on face masks and hand sanitizer, or you can kit the items with branded flooring for safe distancing. Consider the changes in customer experience (CX) impacting your partners when reevaluating your channel fund programs.

Ready to empower your channel partners with effective marketing tools?

Contact the BrandMuscle to tearn about our fund management software and personalized marketing services.

About the Author

James Morse bridges the gap between business requirements and technical capabilities for both BrandMuscle clients and prospects in his role as Senior Sales Engineer. He has more than 10 years of experience in distributed marketing, project management, new client implementations, and co-op marketing for Fortune 500 brands. With a deep understanding of BrandMuscle’s software and services, James frequently and successfully leads large client onboardings, working directly with client stakeholders to truly understand their business objectives from start to finish. Prior to BrandMuscle, James held positions at Easy2 Technologies and Perceptis LLC. He holds a BS in Management and Economics from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.