Exploring the underutilization of through-channel marketing programs

In late 2018, OneAffiniti commissioned a survey of 100 IT brands and channel partners by Forrester Consulting, the internationally-renowned market research agency. In a series of blog posts, we will examine the key findings of the Forrester study, such as: 

  • The top challenges that partners face in executing marketing campaigns
  • The importance of incentives in motivating channel partners to conduct marketing
  • The important role that services play in driving partner engagement
  • The high demand from channel partners for digital marketing solutions

In this post, we’ll focus on perhaps the most significant conclusion of the Forrester study: the persistently low utilization of brand-provided through-channel marketing platforms by channel partners.

The results of the study reaffirmed what many in the industry have long-suspected: brands are not doing enough to make their platforms accessible to time-strapped partners. Furthermore, brands are not providing nearly enough assistance, from technical training to premium content, to jumpstart partners’ marketing efforts. Here are some of the biggest pain points that the study highlighted.

Brand-provided platforms are not user-friendly

A large percentage of partners (40%) says it’s a challenge just to access brand-provided platforms. Some of those partners persist and eventually gain access, but inevitably a portion of them throw their hands up and decide not to bother with marketing.

Of the ones that do gain access, many partners (37%) encounter problems navigating the platform and 44% say it’s a challenge to find and use tools. More than half of partners (52%) complain of inefficient processes and workflows within the platform and even more (54%) describe integrating the platform into their existing systems as an issue.


of partners say it’s a challenge to find and use tools within a TCMA platform


complain of inefficient processes and workflows within the platform and even more

Partners need better content

Much of the content provided in TCM portals is geared toward promoting the brand. However, many partners would like to include other types of content such as neutral thought leadership content that would be interesting to end-buyers at different stages of the buying cycle. Many are also looking for content that aligns with the identity of their business, which may be very different from that of other types of channel partners.

Nearly half of partners cited a lack of downloadable sales and marketing content when explaining their reluctance to use a brand-provided platform. Similarly, a whopping 71% of partners said they would be more likely to use a TCM platform if the brand made more content available and 66% said they want more content that is customized to their specialty.

Partners & brands are not deriving maximum benefit from through-channel marketing

A large percentage of partners who are using brand-provided platforms are not fully realizing everything through-channel marketing has to offer. They are still using it mostly as a strategy for communicating with existing customers, rather than acquiring new ones.

While 59% reported that although the campaigns improved customer retention and increased customer references (47%), relatively few reported increased sales/revenue (35%). That means that most partners are not using TCM platforms to drive growth, a troubling situation that brands need to address if they want partners to fully realize the benefits of TCM.

Explore the Forrester study further

Brands do not need to accept that so few of their channel partners will take advantage of their marketing platforms. Low utilization should not be a given. Instead, it is a symptom of flaws in how brands are trying to engage with partners. If you’re interested in further exploring the findings of the Forrester report, including how brands can improve the situation, check out the Forrester report in its entirety or take a look at the four additional articles we’ve published examining some of the study’s most significant findings. The next article focuses on the major challenges that partners face in executing marketing campaigns.

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