According to Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2019-2020, competitive insights and marketing analytics now consume over 13% and 16% of marketing operations budgets respectively. In theory this means that campaigns are now supremely effective due to improved reporting and insights, but reality would appear to be rather different. Gartner’s Marketing Data and Analytics Survey indicates investments are mismatched with their output, presenting a significant risk to the ongoing investment.  We caught up with Mirza Fur of Kingpin Communications to learn more about reporting trends and investments as well as current partner marketing priorities trends and challenges across his client base of high-tech firms. 

Mirza  co-founded the B2B Tech agency 23 years ago, it now has a team of 39 with offices in London, San Francisco and New York.  We began by talking about the Kingpin approach.

The agency helps B2B technology companies engage with audiences using the most appropriate tactics and often involving partner marketing. Kingpin’s approach is audience centric: Who are they? Where are they and what’s the most effective way to engage them and drive outcomes for customers? At the moment we’re running about thirty different campaigns globally. 

Partner Marketing Challenges and Trends Observed

Attribution: There’s increased focus on attribution models. Few seem able to cure this source of pain. Most existing tracking centres around simple linear models and one-person engagement; But today’s buying behaviour is distributed, particularly in large organisations. Multiple individuals are involved in every transaction and it’s hard to attribute a lead to a single individual or marketing trigger.

System Proliferation in the Martech Stack: At the moment there are about 7,500 individual martech software offerings available, of which, nearly 2,500 are European according to Scott Brinker (martech analyst) . We see organisations where siloed investments in tracking and reporting for sales and marketing by departments results in layers of unaligned, incompatible tech tools that don’t relate to one another. Reporting gets confused and retrofitting various pieces into a single CRM platform is a challenge.

Competency Based Partner Recruitment: This is an important shift, away from absolute numbers of partners recruited towards a segmented approach where target partners are identified using qualitative criteria (business priorities, technical competence, specialism, solutions expertise, marketing appetite resource and bandwidth etc.). Lookalike targeting in partner profiling and prospecting is also increasing. 

Partners as Major Accounts: As partner profiles improve its natural to manage partners as major account relationships rather than transactional resellers. Account Based Marketing and improved ‘to partner’ marketing drives partner loyalty and improves lead attribution reporting. A refocus on existing joint customers also avoids shifting attention exclusively to new leads. This approach helps clients appreciate the role partners play in lead nurture. Clients can add partner value with insights, audience profiling and research supported by partner satisfaction measurement.

Is Partner Marketing in The Marketing Tribe? Partner marketing is often the ‘odd one out’ in a marketing community. In most tech companies the function doesn’t report to the CMO. Global Partner Marketing, Channel Sales, End User Marketing need to collaborate rather than coexist and align sales and marketing investments. Improved attribution typically reduces barriers and drives more partner funds into lead generation. 

Benefits of Attribution 

Evaluating the Customer Journey: Some attribution work for clients leads us to look at the last three, six or twelve months to understand the touchpoints that lead to opportunities generated and the various outcomes (leads lost or closed). We identify where, how and who achieved these. Identifying touchpoints in real buying journeys also helps clients understand how customers experience their brand.

Understanding Co-Marketing Spend: It can be enlightening for partner teams to better understand the sales journey and investment prioritisation – one client discovered an inability to track up to 40% of their MDF funds and had to write this off as cost of doing business. 

Sales Process Improvements: Typically, sales leadership appreciate that marketing generates opportunities, which then pass to sales for conversion. Sometimes transparency attribution helps identify and eliminate issues and blockages in lead allocation and qualification pipelines.  Customer journey analysis enables us to add value to activities including event management and measurement.

Reinforcing Partner Value: This is where a practical competency-based approach really helps. Relationships can be elevated beyond a simple sales channel. Some clients pre-qualify and track lead allocation across partners. Understanding how partners sell and helping them to define what “good” looks like is key to partnership and partners’ success.

Keeping pace with marketing technology proliferation

Over the last three years we took a different approach and developed a tool to meet the need for a single view of truth.  We analyse audiences across organizations, channels and interactions. Some clients were wary at first and it took time to reassure that we weren’t trying to push a point of view, install anything else or do anything to muddy political waters. We share true views of investments, whether from partner or user marketing and generate insights and improvements from genuine buyer experience and intelligence.  One great example of this occurred with a national mass transportation company- a prospect for one of our clients. It transpired that 17+ individuals from the potential account had engaged with the client and/or partners for 4 months – in a human, uncoordinated way. These proactive, interested individual influencers and decision makers weren’t recognised or treated as ‘related’ contacts from one organisation.  

Evolving the role of agency

Digital empowers clients. They often have internal digital functions and feel less agency dependent. But internal’ competition is good for us. It keeps us on our toes and working to add value to customers and challenge the status quo. I believe our agency value is a constant. One great strength comes from being the external interface operating across functions and teams, we understand KPIs and use that perspective to build collaborative strategies delivering marketing and business goals. Also, agencies bring creative independence and ideas and creative impetus are our core business. The perceived value of creative has suffered because of this data focus. It’s easy to forget that, even in B2B, people sell to people and buying is largely based on fuzzy emotional elements. One of our clients (who we still work with) lost sight of this when examining lead attribution and prospect development. They lacked faith in communications tactics and cancelled all investments in events, trade shows and lead generation. They stopped pouring candidates into the top of the funnel, ceased all outward facing tactics and instead focused exclusively on outputs from an internal marketing automation programme.  It took 6 months to discover the majority of deals were not attributable to this source. But by then there had been no proactive new lead or data generation for 6 months and consequently no sales pipeline for the following 6 months. It was a mess, but it was valuable! Sometimes a client needs to get that point before they experience the realisation that marketing works.

We all believe that the obvious is the obvious. But sometimes when a third party tells you the obvious, it’s got more credibility behind it.  That’s another way that an agency can help.

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