Through Channel Marketing Automation Basics For Indirect Distribution

Posted By
Emily Buchan

Manufacturers selling indirectly through a network of partners, such as distributors, dealers, contractors, and value-added resellers, lag behind companies who sell directly to customers when it comes to reacting to trends in buyer behavior. It’s no secret the internet and quickly advancing technology have changed our lives dramatically—especially in how we shop for goods and services. 

Why You Need To Modernize Your Indirect Distribution Model

People are searching for you and your partners online, and they want products quickly and answers instantaneously. Outdated communication systems and processes between manufacturers and their indirect partners are causing indirect distribution channels to fall behind their direct channel counterparts. But, making matters worse, solutions for direct distribution such as traditional CRM and marketing automation aren’t fit for indirect models where multiple organizations need the same resources.

When solving the digital communications problems inherent in indirect distribution models with through channel marketing automation your focus should be on:

Transforming each of these areas for rising buyer and partner expectations is key to modernizing your indirect distribution channel and getting a leg up on your competitors. 


What is distributed marketing?

The idea that two are better than one generally applies and is certainly true in the selling of building materials manufacturing. The more people selling your building products the better with this caveat: the way they are selling it, the message around your product, and the collateral used to sell the product need to be consistent and on-brand. 

Distributed marketing is just that. It is the centralization, customization, and management of marketing content distributed to your network of channel partners from the corporate to the local level for the sake of selling products without disruption or inconsistency of product messaging. 

To put it even more simply, distributed marketing is providing your partners with the marketing materials they need to accurately and adequately sell your products. Here is what Jay McBain, Principal Analyst for Forrester, has to say about distributed marketing: 

"With 75% of world trade flowing indirectly (WTO), the time has come for channels, partnerships, and alliances to be enabled with the same level of passion. The third stage in sales and marketing transformation will be anchored around effective partner management and through-channel marketing automation (TCMA).

Enabling partners of all types to leverage vendor content, messaging, branding, and demand generation initiatives in their local markets is critical to driving a winning customer experience. Those brands that can balance their direct and indirect execution while ensuring consistent customer expectations through distributed and localized marketing will have outsized success in the market."

What is through channel marketing automation?

Through Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) is a horizontal solution for selling building products through specifiers, retailers, and installers. TCMA allows manufacturers to grow their co-marketing programs through their indirect partners, including outside sales reps, distributors, dealers, and big box stores.

These partners of building materials manufacturing play a critical role in the customer buying journey and need to be supported with integrated campaigns including distributed/syndicated email content, social marketing, and online content, video content, web content syndication, physical marketing assets, as well as traditional television, print, and radio advertising.

All companies need to be creating content today and get exposure through local marketing initiatives. But, your distributors and indirect resellers have constrained marketing resources at their disposal. Thus, for a building products brand to support distributed marketing at scale, it must have an automated system backed by control mechanisms, workflows, and analytics to drive the performance of campaigns through channel partners. Specifically, TCMA should:

  • Provide partners with self-service access to digital marketing assets and collateral
  • Route leads to specifiers, retailers, and installers. Then allow partners to effectively manage and nurture leads as well as provide lead scoring and tracking while you, the manufacturer, monitor the customer’s sales journey
  • Provide channel partners with valuable, scalable, brand-consistent marketing campaigns 
  • Provide automation tools for national and localized campaigns 
  • Provide feedback and metrics to track success, including a high-level overview of their processes to see friction points in campaigns, measure click-through rates and cost per actions of digital marketing, get feedback on website traffic and conversions, receive net promoter scores and revenue generation from campaigns, and more

Amplify brand voice to your customer’s customers.

Building materials manufacturers typically have hundreds or thousands of third-party channel partners engaging with your customers in the sales process. Leveraging those voices as an extension to internal branding and demand generation efforts provides a cost-effective way to reach more customers and simultaneously drive more business for specifiers, installers, and retailers who participate in your partner program(s). 

It is essential to gather insights into how you can improve your customers’ experience and their customer’s experience and garner an understanding of why they feel the way they do. Partners benefit from a manufacturing brand’s efforts to analyze and understand the customer’s buyer’s journey, and make improvements to go-to-market strategies based on those insights. 

Deliver a more consistent brand experience.

Inconsistency is a trust killer. Through Channel Marketing Automation helps your brand provide a streamlined and consistent experience for your customers. From the tone of your emails and social content to the descriptions in your catalog your partners need assets that make it easy for them to consistently share your brand, and with it, build recognition, trust, and in the end, loyalty. 

Likewise, third-party channels have different marketing maturity levels; with TCMA, channel managers can further provide the strategies, tools, and assets to enable top-performing partners while providing additional support for those partners who need more rudimentary assistance. 

TCMA also enables consistency with customizable branded sales and marketing content, including logos and graphics, so that each partner in the channel is delivering the same level of brand messaging to customers even when it is tweaked for their unique local market. For example, whether your partners are in the snowbelt or the sunbelt, they can customize the message and content to better serve their end-users with unique building material needs based on their climate. These customizable assets allow you to control the message and your products’ value add while helping your partners inform their diverse audiences.

Enable syndicated campaigns.

Through Channel Marketing Automation leverages the trust that local partners have built and helps them execute rich media campaigns using digital tools, syndication, and physical assets provided by your marketing teams and internal salespeople.  TCMA tools such as website, email, SMS, and social media marketing syndication and automation features can either fully automate the end-to-end process of getting your message to your customer's customer or provide the convenience of an asset repository for your partners to pull from.

For building materials manufacturers, shared assets with TCMA helps to:

  • scale your business by doing more with less
  • build brand awareness, reach more customers
  • Increase your market share in places you couldn’t go alone
  • grows your revenue potential as your channel partnerships grow 
  • strengthen the relationships with your channel partners

For small contractors with minimal marketing resources, this can create a night and day difference in their willingness to recommend your brand to their clients. In effect, you can be partially filling the role of their marketing team by providing: 

  • Affordable, high impact campaigns to scale their business
  • Customizable assets for co-branding 
  • Ready-made resources to give customers are the information they want and need
  • Increase in brand trust and loyalty across customer demographics
  • Personalized messaging across national, regional, and local campaigns 
  • Increased (qualified) lead generation and product sales

For building materials retailers, shared assets with TCMA:

  • Provides them with focus, sales playbooks making purchase intent conversations easier to close
  • Provides them with convenient, ready-made marketing collateral for easier sales
  • Builds long-term, continuous relationships with key decision-makers
  • Provides them with tools, information, and assets that allow them to grow and market their own brands at the same time creating a win/win
  • Allow retailers to do more with fewer resources, like a smaller workforce and a smaller marketing budget

For specifiers/influencers, TCMA and an asset repository help to:

  • Provide them with the latest products specs and installation guides
  • Gives them 24/7 access to specs and installation guides/videos so they can self-serve
  • Gives them access to other resources they might need, and therefore position yourself as a go-to entity for finding information
  • Builds loyalty between your company and the architects, engineers, contractors, and builders

Drive partners to profitable revenue faster.

By offering proactive marketing support, your company can onboard new partners, scale partner revenue generation efforts, and build partner loyalty more quickly. As brand loyalty wanes with changing buyer expectations, implementing tactics to improve brand loyalty is critical to maintain and grow market share. With maturing business intelligence and marketing analytics tools, brands can get real-time feedback on partner performance and make clear the next best action. Likewise, with increased collaboration costs per lead go down, sales close rates increase, and most importantly, each partner is seeing positive results in their own business which leads to channel fidelity. 


Why Through Channel Marketing

Through-channel marketing is seen by many B2B marketing pros as a logical follow-on to customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation. With an increasing amount of B2B revenue flowing through or being influenced by third-party channels, they realize that extending and amplifying the brand is an important next step. Forrester survey data finds that 50% of global marketing decision makers whose firms focus primarily on B2B are currently implementing or have already implemented a TCMA solution.

Through-channel marketing requires more than just a repository of assets that a partner can leverage. It needs to provide the end-to-end management of marketing funds, campaign execution, and analytics to optimize investment and drive broader adoption. TCMA is now a critical component of the marketing portfolio that amplifies customer-facing content and messaging.

Forrester survey data finds that 73% of global marketing decision makers consider managing their channel partners to be a challenge, with 42% citing this as a major challenge. One furniture manufacturer customer we spoke with uses TCMA to facilitate 25 percent of their marketing budget and has 70 percent of their dealers actively using self service tools to optimize their local search, email, and social campaigns.

Who benefits from Through Channel Marketing Automation?

Really TCMA is a Win/Win for everyone involved. The building materials manufacturer certainly wins, but the partners really stand to gain a lot and maybe even more.  

Local partners help the manufacturer sell products and services locally, in markets that they just wouldn’t be able to reach on their own. Marketing large scale is difficult for manufacturers of building materials, and their partners are the key. And the partners benefit because they receive cost-effective marketing solutions and can co-brand their business so that both entities scale and increase sales and brand awareness.  

What is a channel marketing program?

A channel marketing program is designed to organize the organizations, people, processes that a product or service is sold through. In other words, a channel marketing program is that strategy that cohesively defines how an offering will be taken to market through the various intermediaries and value-added resellers along the sale.

Channel marketing is directly tied to distributor marketing and channel management when you are selling a traditional product, like construction and home improvement materials.

A good channel marketing program is built in stages and is continually improved, optimized, and reconfigured to match changing buyer expectations and market forces. ManoByte follows the "storming, forming, norming, performing" approach to channel marketing program development, illustrated below:

Schedule a Consultation about Your Partner Programs

As you successfully establish the necessary relationships, tools, and accountability frameworks for the "storming" phase, you can begin to build upon those frameworks and launch components of the "forming" phase, then the "norming phase," and finally, the "performing phase."

As the names suggest, the first two phases involve starting from a blank slate in building a partner program and channel marketing strategy while the latter two phases are when your company will really feel like the program is hitting its stride and starting to yield results.

Because of the scope of building materials indirect sales, each of these phases take on average 12-24 weeks, so building a full program generally is a two-year process. But it's well worth the effort. 

What is cross channel marketing automation?

It's common for "channel marketing" and "cross-channel marketing" or "omni-channel marketing" to be confused as the same, but they are not. While Channel marketing is how your product is delivered to the end consumer. Your channel includes the distributor, vendors, builders, contractors, and big box retailers. Cross-channel marketing and omni-channel marketing are methods used to combine marketing tactics and media to increase brand awareness, product sales, and campaign ROI.  This type of channel marketing is about utilizing all your channels of communication to create the best user experience while keeping a consistent and compelling brand message. An example cross-channel marketing would be receiving an offer for a coupon you found on social media, and utilizing it to make a purchase at a brick and mortar store. 

Omni-channel marketing is interacting with a brand across various media. For example, you might create an account and password on your phone, and then be able to access that account and password on a pc which creates a better user experience. 

Channel marketing automation enables building product manufacturers to deliver to the customer’s customer.Cross-channel marketing automation can help by using the building materials manufacturers collateral and campaigns, like lead nurture drip campaigns, automated Pay-Per-Click campaigns and other inbound marketing tactics across channels like email, social, video, television, podcasts, any other marketing channels. This means you can deploy cross-channel marketing automation as part of your through channel marketing automation strategy. Keep in mind just because you are deploying cross-channel marketing automation does not mean you are selling your offerings through a distributor channel using channel marketing strategies.

Interested in learning how to recruit, engage, guide, and grow specifiers, retailers, and installers into revenue driving forces for your building products brand? Here's ManoByte's Channel Program Strategy Approach outlining how to make it happen.