The other day I met with a good colleague in Germany in a lush Beer garden and we talked about Marketing Automation and Social Media. Unquestionable the hottest topics right now in the world of marketing. Dr. Ralf Leinemann, a well-known author of more than 11 books on such topics, inspired me where the journey will lead us. Below a short abstract provided by Ralf about his thoughts on Channel Marketing Automation.

When two marketers meet these days, the likelihood is very high that they will discuss marketing automation. Marketing automation seems to be the magic bullet for any kind of marketing challenge nowadays.

Is it real or is it just a myth? And, if it is reality, can it be successfully deployed in other areas as well?

No doubt marketing automation works. It is not just another fashionable marketing approach promoted by some service providers or computer geeks. It has become an integral part of new business models. Marketing plans have been developed and successfully executed on the basis of marketing automation solutions.

However, when looking into marketing automation for the first time, it becomes very apparent that the vast majority of examples and references are from B2C companies. Here, marketing automation seems to shorten the traditional customer journey defined in the AIDA formula from attention to action, i.e. to purchase. Interestingly enough, it is true for all major suppliers in the industry to showcase mainly marketing to consumer audiences.

The reason is not a different scaling in the B2B business. Yes, marketing automation is tailored for big data, but companies counting their customers by tens of thousands on customers and hundreds of business partners will benefit from marketing automation. Several automation solutions have actually been developed specifically for B2B environments.

B2B marketers should not relax and ignore marketing automation. Instead, they should rather explore two areas for implementing automation solutions.

Automation tools like IBM’s Unica have been developed for B2B environments with complex nurturing processes and lengthy sales cycles.

Other tools like Oracle’s Eloqua allow for integration of modules to support managing the channel. Channel marketing automation may even be considered the natural development away from busy partner portals, complex tools to manage co-marketing processes, MDF budgets or lead passing concepts. They will quickly make existing tools look old that provide pre-packaged campaigns and marketing assets to channel partners, since they can address partners individually per their respective needs. Tailored marketing automation tools could help companies to manager their partner landscape across the entire partner lifecycle from recruitment across enablement all the way to pipeline generation.

Again, marketing automation looks like a magic bullet. And indeed, an integrated channel marketing automation solution solves some of the most common issues, vendors and their channel partners have nowadays. It makes it significantly easier for a partner to work with a vendor. He receives actionable content for demand generation and access to tools for execution.

The vendor, on the other hand, manages an environment that scales with a growing partner community and is flexible enough to address an increasingly heterogeneous partner landscape, e.g. due to a complex product portfolio, acquisitions, or custom partner segmentation.

Ralf Leinemann

Dr. Ralf Leinemann

For B2B companies, channel marketing automation may be more rewarding than investing into “standard” customer marketing automation.

But – and there is always a “but” – an off-the-shelf-solution will not work miracles. Companies’ existing channel models are too different for a single tool to address them all. MDF funding schemes vary, partner eligibility for co-marketing differs from vendor to vendor, provided services vary. Since you do not want to take far too drastic measures and replace all infrastructure at the same time, the best solution may be to develop a frontend powered by an automation engine. It should integrate into an existing infrastructure like a budget management tool or a PRM system including lead passing, tracking and reporting.

Ralf spent about 18 years with Hewlett-Packard before joining Matchcode in 2007. He has published 11 books on marketing and communication related topics such as media relations measurement, industry analyst relations and social media marketing. They were translated into several languages including English, German, Russian, Chinese and others. Ralf has recently focused on business development maximizing the impact of channel marketing.