The pandemic drove ecommerce to new heights for two years, but now customers are returning to physical stores. Some customers want a physical experience when purchasing products or services. They want to know the name of the person helping with an insurance claim and to know the local business benefiting from their transaction. As businesses refocus on the customer experience, it’s essential that national brands realize that supporting local partners will energize and enable them to fulfill customer needs. The challenge begins when looking at the 53% of partners who are in the lowest levels of marketing maturity classifications, which includes the 38% of partners who classify as developing marketing maturity.
Local partners want training, education, and best practices from their local marketing programs. They want marketing recommendations and guidance about what to do and how to do it. And they want programs with simple, intuitive interfaces that make participation easy. This presents companies with powerful opportunities to improve the channel marketing experience.
BrandMuscle collects data through 1.5 million active channel partners across their platforms and solutions, and they produce the annual State of Local Marketing Report, the most comprehensive annual report on local channel and partner marketing. The report collects seven years of data with millions of data points about how local marketing happens, how to market well, and how programs can support local business owners. According to that data, what The BrandMuscle® Local Marketing Maturity Matrix™ classifies as developing partners present a strong opportunity for local marketing programs, because those partners are on the cusp of understanding the value of marketing and just need a push towards participation. If brands can help these developing partners advance in their marketing maturity, they can unlock significant revenue growth for both the partner and the brand.
According to BrandMuscle data, these partners’ number one priority for their local marketing programs is to receive training, education, and best practices. They want marketing recommendations. They want guidance about what marketing tactics to use and how to execute them.
While these partners look for guidance, the challenge is that many programs make it too hard to use the current offerings, and their partner experience is less than stellar. 76% of BrandMuscle’s survey respondents reported that program processes and policies were too hard to understand or use, and 84% said the tools provided weren’t easy to use or intuitive.
Finally, program familiarity is an issue. 27% of partners surveyed by BrandMuscle did not know what funds or marketing tools were available to help them grow their business through their marketing program. They weren’t even aware of what was there for them.
Bottom line: Brands need to invest in improving the channel marketing experience.
BrandMuscle data continues to show that partners admit they aren’t marketing experts. 88% said they lack marketing expertise. 28% don’t have the time to spend on marketing, because they’re busy running their local businesses. 58% are selling competing products, which means that several brands are vying for the partners’ limited attention and even more limited marketing dollars. Finally, half are not investing enough to realize accelerated revenue growth, with 50% investing less than 1% of their revenue on marketing. Partners need help finding creative assets and content. They need assets that are more localized that national marketing tends to be, and they need more digital offerings. They don’t know where to access their marketing funds or where to spend their marketing money. They need someone to do this for them. Senior leadership in the channel space should be aware that the partner ecosystem is pivotal to an organization’s success. It enables partners to easily select compliant creative, spend their co-op and MDF channel funds, and select marketing programs so they can get back to the primary role of running their business and focusing on customers.
The good news is that there are many proven ways for companies to improve the channel marketing experience. Partners’ challenges present opportunities for brands to drive incremental revenue through their partner networks by helping them market better. A key finding that Forrester continues to surface each year is that reinvestment and marketing promotes revenue growth.
Because investing in your marketing program and your partners’ marketing maturity drives growth, businesses benefit from remembering that if a sales organization owns the channel funding program, it can then be seen as an expense line item, rather than a growth investment. That often impacts the efficiency of the program. Also, many local business owners may not see the value of marketing or see it as an investment. This past year, partners who reinvested 1% or more of their revenue on marketing activities saw a 14% higher revenue growth. That’s an incredible number. In BrandMuscle’s Local Marketing Maturity Matrix, marketing investment is an indicator of marketing maturity, and marketing maturity leads to greater revenue growth. The most mature local marketers achieve two times greater revenue growth than their less mature peers.
Driving incremental growth through the channel involves three factors: