channel marketing

Channel marketing: how to maintain brand control while encouraging local marketing initiatives

In order to reach more customers worldwide, companies often employ channel marketing: working with local entities, or “channel partners” to sell their products or services. This partner network, often referred to as a distributed partner network, can include local branches, franchises, resellers, distributors, dealers and agents. But when a company involves multiple stakeholders in various locations, ensuring a consistent messaging and brand experience becomes much more difficult. How can central marketing at large companies maintain brand control while leveraging and encouraging local marketing initiatives? 

Channel marketing provides companies with some obvious benefits: by expanding their distribution network, it allows them to reach a wider market and create new revenue opportunities. A car manufacturer with dealerships in several geographic locations, or a hotel chain with international franchises will be able to grow their customer base and scale their revenue faster and cost-efficiently. In fact, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), nearly 75% of world trade comes from indirect sales channels. In addition to opening up new sales channels, companies with distributed partner networks benefit from a larger brand presence and gain more exposure through local marketing initiatives. For example, they can more easily engage their local markets with targeted, customized marketing campaigns including email, web, social as well as physical marketing assets. After all, local marketers will have more expertise and better knowledge of their own market, they should be the ones producing marketing content that will resonate best with their target audience. 

Still, creating marketing content at scale when managing a network of channel partners can be a big challenge for global marketers. Customers expect to receive a similar experience when they walk into the same restaurant or retail store chain regardless of the location. They should find familiar products or menus, similar prices and an overall consistent customer experience. An inconsistent in-store experience will leave customers confused and render your brand less trustworthy. The same goes for a company’s marketing activities: according to Salesforce, 75% of consumers now expect companies to provide a consistent experience across every channel (web, mobile, social etc). Having a consistent branding helps build brand identity and allows customers to connect with your company’s core values. It is also crucial to making your brand easily recognizable and allows your customers to remember your brand. Not only is this key to increasing trust and familiarity among your customers, but it improves the likelihood that they will buy from you or recommend your products and services: the average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently is 23%. That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure that every interaction with your brand, whether it’s physical or digital, or in one country vs. another, should embody the same messaging, company logo and design elements (such as colors, typography etc…).  

However, developing and maintaining brand consistency when your company operates in many geographic locations is a common challenge for marketers, especially when they need to communicate on several marketing channels and with a variety of target audiences. It requires a great deal of time, resources and coordination to deliver consistent and effective marketing across all touchpoints. How can global companies enable channel partners to create locally relevant visual content while ensuring it is consistent with the overall brand identity? How can they ensure that old logos or wrong colors aren’t used in their communications? And how can they gain full visibility into channel marketing activities?

How to manage marketing in distributed organizations

Relying on a broad set of stakeholders requires careful alignment between central marketing and locally distributed marketing teams. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to equip local partners with shared access to the right tools and resources so that they can easily create on-brand marketing material tailored to their specific regions. Distributed Marketing Management platforms (DMM), also referred to as Through-Channel Marketing Automation platforms allow companies to tackle this marketing challenge. Here are a few ways a distributed marketing system can help your organization’s distributed teams work better together:

  • Gives channel partners shared access to files

Brands create a huge volume of marketing content including images, videos, documents etc. These marketing assets should be centralized in a media library such as a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system so that teams across an organization can easily find and re-use these files. A DAM also acts as a brand portal where teams can find all branding elements such as up-to-date logos, templates and brand guidelines downloadable in one click. By giving channel partners access to the same repository, central marketing can ensure that no matter which file is used for future marketing campaigns, it upholds brand standards. 

  • Strikes a balance between consistency and personalization

In addition to ensuring content is compliant, channel partners are able to tailor marketing messages using validated templates stored in your Distributed Marketing Management system. It is up to corporate marketing teams to design the templates and decide which aspects local marketers will be allowed to edit, such as contact details, promotional offers, pricing, photos etc… These pre-loaded templates are meant to make it easy for franchises, retailers or regional offices to alter what they need in order to optimize their marketing efforts without having to do any ad hoc copywriting or design. Certain customizations can also be added automatically to templates – populating an address or logo, for example – depending on which user is accessing them. And since these templates are already approved, you ensure the consistency of your brand while maximizing your channel partners’ freedom to localize, and efficiently optimize their marketing campaigns. 

  • Uses approval workflows for a faster time to market

By providing channel partners with the tools to easily update and customize marketing materials, companies benefit from faster workflows and a shorter time-to-market. Distributed marketing systems come with a level of standardization and automation that help save valuable resources and streamline the entire content production process. Still, your newly created print ads, flyers or email campaigns can be sent to the person in charge who will review and approve the files, or if necessary, send them back to be reworked. This process, which occurs entirely in the DMM platform, is important for ensuring better speed and simplicity, but also for maintaining control and visibility into local marketing efforts. 

  • Controls user permissions/ roles and geographic usage

Finally, companies are able to control who sees what content within the system by assigning specific roles and permissions to different user levels (eg: administrator, contributor vs. user) or geographic locations. For example, for a car manufacturer, content can be filtered to specific geographic regions so that a dealership in the US versus a dealership in China will only see assets most applicable to their specific region. Likewise, access to content can be governed by a user’s permissions level, as well as other factors, such as business unit. This way companies ensure that local marketing teams select the most appropriate photos, articles or videos for their target audiences, as well as limit access to content that is intended for external communication.  Of course, certain content can be global in nature and be made viewable to all users and geographies. 

With a distributed marketing solution, your central marketing team can achieve its goal of better brand consistency and a faster time to market, while channel partners are equipped with the necessary tools to customize marketing assets for their local markets. In the end, it is designed to reconcile the need for centralized and decentralized processes within distributed organizations. In other words, it gives corporate marketing control and peace of mind knowing customers receive consistent brand experiences, while empowering extended stakeholders with a degree of autonomy to promote your brand.

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