Marketing, Marketing Consultancy, Marketing planning, Marketing strategy, News, Strategy

Channel management is all about relationship building. The better you communicate with your partners and their sales staff, the better your product will sell.

Good channel management ensures your products and services are available to customers in the place that’s most convenient for them, whether that’s through a retailer, wholesaler, a printed catalogue, a website, or a combination.

The first key question you have to ask is whether to sell through third-party partners, or to go direct. The web makes the direct route more feasible for many companies.

Going direct has obvious advantages, because you have first-hand knowledge of customers, you can understand the market more easily, and there are fewer steps in the supply chain. The challenge is that it’s not always viable because of the number of customers. In the world of B2B companies often chose to deal with a small number of key customers directly, but they also have to find a way to access the other 80 per cent of the customer base, which means some sort of distribution channel.

If you embrace the concept of channel partners, the next challenge is find the right ones to do business with. The most effective way of doing this is to define your end customer and then work backwards up the value chain. Identify where the purchase occurs within a given channel and then look for financial strength, expertise, willingness to partner and their reach into the target market.  Their management capability and the strength of their brand and reputation are also key factors.

It’s all important to find channel partners that mirror your business ethos and can deliver on their promises and this starts and ends with your relationship.

Once you’ve identified your channel partners you need a programme of activity to keep them up to date with developments, stimulate their interest, address their needs and influence them. Incentives can work well, but are only part of the story. The other important element is knowledge and keeping your product front of mind through a rolling plan of communications and intelligent use of the phone, email and your website. Of course, in-bound activity is equally important and technical support lines where calls are answered in three rings and any in-bound email receives a response within the hour should also be considered.

Channel management is an ongoing challenge that can’t be left to its own devices. Finding the right partners in the first instance is no easy task. Then they must be nurtured and rewarded: you might have a better product than the competition, but if you’re not communicating its features and benefits your sales will suffer.

Dos and Don’ts

Do your research when choosing partners to make sure you get the best partners for your brand

Do offer incentives to sell your products

Do ensure sales staff know as much about your products as they can, so they are comfortable telling potential customers about them

Don’t treat all your B2B customers the same. The 80:20 rule applies. The top 20 per cent warrant direct account management. For the rest, use distributors or a partnership programme or both to manage the relationship.

Don’t be complacent. Good channel management is a journey, not a destination. You need to be proactive, but also ready to react to competitor activity.

Don’t neglect your sales force. Allow for inbound activity, provide support and product information that staff can call on at any time.


Marketing, Marketing Consultancy, Marketing planning, Marketing strategy

As a professional marketer since 1995 I’ve worked with many business leaders. Some had been through the process of bringing in a marketing consultant while others had no idea where to start. If you hire a sales and marketing consultant you want to make sure you hire the right person. Set up a successful relationship from the start to make sure you get the most for your investment. This information will help you do that.

Are they are legitimate consultant?

Don’t make the mistake of hiring someone who has decided that they’re a consultant when in reality they’re between jobs. You run the risk that they may walk out on you mid project if they get an offer of full time employment.

Can they provide references?

If they’re a good consultant that has generated results then their clients will have no problem telling you about it. Unless, of course the consultant has worked largely in confidence and both parties are precluded from discussing it due to a non-disclosure agreement.

Have they provided examples of their work?

Don’t simply take someone’s word for it if they tell you they have done certain types of work. Ask them to show you samples of marketing strategies and plans, sales tools and presentations that they’ve delivered for clients.

Are they willing to structure a deal in a way that works for you?

Consultant work is generally done either on a project basis or daily basis. Project based fees can work well for you as long as the project is straightforward.  The objectives and milestones should be clearly defined and the project should not change substantially once things are underway. Daily fees are good if the consultant gives you a weekly/monthly status report to account for their time and what they worked on.

Have they written a proposal with deliverables, milestones and payment terms?

A good consultant will provide you with a proposal that outlines the work, milestones and payment terms. Sometimes, in order to get a project moving quickly it isn’t always completely clear what the deliverables should be. If this is the case the proposal should outline the top level objectives and milestones should be agreed within the first week or so.

Does the consultant have the appropriate level of experience for the tasks you need accomplished?

Don’t hire a senior consultant if you need low level marketing work done. Similarly, be cautious of consultants who are more junior and promise the world. It’s tempting to hire someone who seems good and has a lower rate, but when they present to your Board they need to make the cut.

Does the marketing consultant offer the appropriate mix of strategy versus execution for your needs?

Some consultants are strategy only. They’ll help you figure out the big picture and provide you with a plan but refuse to get involved from that point on. Others are more hands on and have the desire to do both. The key is to make sure you don’t hire a strategist when you need execution, and vice versa.

Do you “click” and have complementary working styles?

This is undoubtedly the most important factor. If you don’t have good rapport with the consultant the project could turn out to be a disaster. For example, if they work off-site all the time and you want to bounce ideas around you’re going to have a problem.

Make sure they’re trustworthy and devoted to the highest quality outcomes. It’s important that you can speak freely and frankly. You should get things out in the open quickly and work with someone who shares your vision.