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Every year, analysts, influencers and prophets share their predictions for the upcoming year. One of the more well-known prognosticators is Jay McBain of Forrester, who recently shared his 2022 channel predictions. Now, it’s hard to compete with Jay, but I have always wanted to share my own predictions and trends surrounding the channel marketing industry. Last year, I even went so far as to predict I’d share my predictions this year. So — with this article, at least one of my predictions will be realized!
To flesh out my list, I reached out to colleagues within StructuredWeb, customers and other leading channel and tech leaders, pulling together five trends surrounding channel marketing automation in 2022.
As I gathered this list, a trend to my trends emerged. Each of these speaks to the importance of helping your ecosystem partners share and retell your Brand’s story in consistent, effective and digitally-enabled ways. When that help is wrapped in a personalized experience, it’s sure to amplify channel partner adoption, engagement and success.
Hyper-personalization of the partner experience (PX)
We’ve heard rumblings for years about the importance of building the optimal partner experience (PX). Recent research from Channel Insights found CX and PX were top channel priorities. Brands are getting the message, realizing they can’t treat partners all the same; each partner is unique with unique needs – MSP vs. VAR, small vs. large, or a partner in US vs. UK. So turnkey, one-size-fits-all solutions fit well, no one. Brands recognize they need to tailor PX to each partner — by industry, maturity, size, role, region, language and more. In short, they need to hyper-personalize the PX.
Personalization has emerged as an essential element in creating an exceptional customer experience, and it’s just as effective in creating exceptional partner experiences. Quoting from the Channel Insights report, “We market to humans and engage with people and teams—each with specific expectations.” As Brands continue to seek ways to differentiate their PX, and help it resonate with partners, hyper-personalization will be the driver.
Unleashing video marketing to partners
Continuing the theme of personalization, video has become the preferred marketing channel for Brands everywhere, and for the simple reason that it works — 72% of consumers say they prefer learning about new products through videos. And video works even better when you combine it with personalization.
Our friends at Idomoo report eight-times higher conversion rates and five times higher engagement rates from personalized video marketing. Given the mandate from consumers for personalization, it’s not surprising that we predict video personalization will increasingly find its way into video marketing efforts. Recently, we hosted a webinar on this very topic. Check it out here.
“High touch” automation for strategic partners
High touch and automation may sound contradictory but hear me out. Most (if not all) companies employ a tiered support model — high value customers get personalized, human support while the remainder of customers get automated, digital support. This level of automation will require Brands to embrace more sophisticated automation and analytics tools than ever before.
For channel marketers, most marketing automation platforms offer automated tools like email nurturing or social syndication that works well for many of their channel partners.
But what about high value, strategic partners? We’re hearing and seeing Brands look at ways to automate the high-touch, white-glove activities that go beyond simple MDF — such as marketing plan creation and project management. To differentiate their offerings, Brands will get hands-on to go hands-off — fully automating the strategic partner experience through a combination of technology and human support.
Syndication goes beyond social and website
Speaking of automation, most channel marketing automation platforms provide social and website syndication. However, Brands are seeking other ways to enable their partners with low-touch, always-on tactics like product catalogs, videos, webinars and more.
We expect to see a wider selection of syndicated formats provided by Brands, all geared toward increasing partner adoption metrics. In particular, video marketing — and the subsequent syndication of that video content — holds enormous promise for Brands as video now represents more than 80% of all internet traffic.
AI and ML
Related to automation, you can’t have a trend prediction these days without including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) as these technologies have found their way into virtually every aspect of business — including marketing. McKinsey predicts that AI and ML are on track to generate between $1.4 trillion to $2.6 trillion in value by solving marketing and sales challenges over the next three years
We fully expect 2022 to be the year that our industry embraces these technologies. . With channel partners busy as ever, channel marketing automation platform providers will work to embed AI and ML into the marketing and sales journey for channel partners and end customers, making those efforts more personalized, more relevant and more effective.
For channel marketers, AI and ML aren’t lofty concepts, they can become practical tools. Smart content creation is one practical use of AI and ML for channel marketers. Rather than sending one message, with one call-to-action, AI and ML-powered smart content curation could identify and assemble campaigns’ content based on a brands’ existing assets, products, marketing activities, branding and more. The same capabilities could be applied to content distribution. Instead of presenting every partner all the available campaign material, AI could intelligently select and deliver the most appropriate assets. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more observations around this increasingly important topic.
As digital transformation races forward, fueling by the lingering effects of the pandemic, Brands recognize that in order to win in this market, they must extend and improve digital marketing and marketing automation for themselves and their channel partners. My final prediction for the year is one that’s already well underway: channel marketing platforms, like StructuredWeb, will continue to invest in capabilities like automation, personalization, syndication, concierge services, and AI that allow Brands to keep winning.