According to the responses I received in a recent LinkedIn poll (definitely not statistically valid) there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to aligning the marketing efforts of vendors and channel partners.

Here is how I posed the questions:

  1. Do companies and their sales channel partners struggle to align lead gen plans?
  2. Is the alignment of channel partner marketing plans to a vendor’s master plan and MDF strategy a challenge for the vendor and partner?
  3. The respondents gave very thoughtful answers and I’ll share a few of the representative comments here.

MDF programs aren’t structured to fund effective down-funnel tactics

In our experience, very few vendors really have a well aligned MDF / Coop plan for their partners that allows for proper down-funnel tracking and attribution. In particular, most channel marketing dollars are still overweighted toward traditional forms of marketing (print, brochures, exhibits) and largely neglect measurable new media elements of the marketing mix like dedicated web landing pages, properly promoted webinars, search marketing, and social media. Bill Leake

Lack of trust inhibits cooperation and alignment

Neither [party] has much trust in the other – so sharing and integrating is particularly tough to do. Kevin McMahon

Lead sharing versus go-to-market strategy alignment

Unfortunately, what many vendors forget, is that their channel partners know their clients so much better than they do, that this strategy is not adding value to the joint sales process. The best way forward begins by aligning the vendor and individual channel partner go-to-market strategies.

Only then can win-win situations be created. With such a mindset, both parties are then more willing to align their funnel processes. And do what’s necessary to invest MDF, set up lead nurturing processes and systems. Paul Kemper

Return on investment

The other critical aspect (especially now) is the ROI piece – it’s really important that partners work with the vendor to help provide feedback on MDF investments. Why – each vendor goes through budgeting and in today’s environment they might need to reduce expenses. MDF is an important partner program investment but could be at risk if not utilized correctly (in general not on golf events and premiums or meals) and if ROI is not available to promote the importance of these funds to management. Michelle Kabele

Management tools are critical to facilitate alignment

Planning tools that I recommend and use:

  • Monthly calendar showing all the tactics, budget and reach
  • I like to use a qtrly “plan on a page” (tactical extension of the “plan on a page map”)
  • And a planning module I designed called: “Chart your own course” – which is basically a channel “business plan” which is designed to link sales planning to marketing execution. Michelle Kabele

Aligning skills to channel requirements

The hardest part is actually educating “traditional” sales reps or “marcom” resources who don’t understand the channel – how to measure, how to add value for channels. Many vendors just think the channel is a fulfillment group and they just “allow” them to put their partner logo on the vendor materials – sad really. Michelle Kabele

My own observations over the years mirror the opinions of these professionals on the topic of channel marketing alignment. In a nutshell for vendors and partners to drive more results from the MDF dollar several things need to be in place:

  1. A short, efficient process by which vendor and partner can integrate and align go-to-market strategies and tactics
  2. Availability of co-op materials and budget for “down-funnel” tactics, not just top of the funnel tactics for brand awareness
  3. Advanced B2B marketing skills at vendor and partner level
  4. Measurement of results and ROI calculation, at least to the campaign level.

Charles Besondy, Certified Funnel Coach for North America