Time to Read: 3 minutes
I am proud to say that we serve some of the most experienced and talented channel marketing executives in the world. One thing is consistent in my conversations with them: What is coming down the pike? The best ones work diligently to anticipate future changes and steer their ship accordingly. Because I am often asked about trends, I’ve decided to share what I believe to be the top channel marketing trends for 2017:
Getting more digital spend allocated at the local level. Marketing execs understand that the shift toward digital has already occurred: Several surveys and forecasts (ZenithOptimedia, ClickZ Intelligence Report, etc…) not surprisingly indicate that total digital ad spend will grow significantly faster (3x), once again, than global total ad spending. In fact online advertising spend is forecasted to pass TV ad spend next year.
Along with the shift to digital, is the shift from “mobile friendly” to “mobile first”. Of the digital ad spend, ads on the mobile channel is now topping 50%, and is expected to get to up to 60% by 2018. Managing mobile well means location marketing, being found in the local “mobile-ification” of searches, having mobile-friendly emails, videos for mobile, and of course, mobile-friendly social media.
While the above shift is no longer surprising, what is surprising is that few marketers feel ready and confident in their digital and mobile media efforts. (This was confirmed by a recent ClickZ Intelligence survey of client-side and agency-side respondents). Moreover, small and medium sized business owners, who rarely have marketing backgrounds, simply are overwhelmed and under-trained in this new media world.
So dealers have the urge to do something, but the “do something” is generally not in sync with the brand efforts at all. The result can have brand-damaging consequences. A good example of this is the Miracle Mattress store in San Antonio, which launched a “Twin Towers sale” promotion, making light of the September 11 attacks. The public backlash and damage was so significant the store owner has to announce an “indefinite” closure of the store.
Today’s “gap” between brand and local digital media spend poses the biggest challenge for today’s channel marketers, and leads me to the next top trend for 2017:
- Improving alignment between trade partners and the brands’ digital efforts. When dealers spend money on traditional media, many brands have programs in place to incent compliance and alignment. However, when dealers do their own digital thing, too many brands do not yet have programs in place to ensure that alignment. Our clients are the world’s biggest brands and they saw this coming a few years ago. Since then we’ve launched our Digitalfusion™ product to help our clients deploy brand compliant and effective digital media through their local trade partners. There is a lot involved here – solid expertise, programs to integrate the digital efforts into the MDF and Co-op programs, how to offer solid branded content while allowing local customization, etc.
- Improving dealer engagement. In full disclosure, this may be less of a trend, and more of an every year important priority. How do you get more of your dealers to market locally with the same message, same frequency, same timing, and same promoted products that you’re doing at the national level? This becomes even more challenging with the shift toward digital and the tendency toward the detached, disjointed local activities we discussed above. In our case, we advise clients to make sure that there are aligned goals between their brands and their dealers. We also provide platforms to support incentive structures that will encourage and reward the desired dealer efforts. Finally, we provide reporting to give channel executives early visibility to specific local non-spending or “out of the zone” activity, so the execs can take timely action to encourage proper alignment.
Mastering the Execution of Content. Content continues to be King, as they say, and in 2017 channel marketing execs can expect more content in the form of storytelling, user generated content, interactive content, and even virtual reality. We’ll also see more content deployed in video forms such as livestreaming, video in email, and other. However, while we acknowledge that Content is King, providing content that is updated, relevant, and created in an efficient and affordable manner can be quite a challenge. Again, with the shift toward digital, content management has become an even bigger challenge, as content frequency has skyrocketed while at the same time, poor content choices no longer have negative local consequences; they have swift negative national and even global brand consequences.
At Channel Fusion, we have worked toward a healthy balance between localized digital content provided from the brand and content that is developed specifically for the local brand. Our dedicated marketing specialists reach out to the local dealers to develop a combination of industry relevant news and content, along with dealer-specific content.Because every dealer is different, the human component becomes very important.Our marketing specialists can adjust and work effectively with a dealer who wants to be very involved and active, as well as with dealers who prefer someone they can trust who will “just take it over.”
- Test, Analyze, and Refine! The wonderful thing about the new digital marketing landscape and increasing marketing automation is that we now have the ability to track almost immediate results from activities and adjust accordingly. In 2017 we will see more executives infusing a more robust test and adjust methodology across their organizations. However, going full board toward complete automation without keeping the human side of the balance in place can prove problematic, which leads to my next trend for 2017:
- Combine marketing automation with the human touch for real and credible conversations with consumers. Keeping with our mattress theme from above, let’s say a consumer creates a post as follows: “I just can’t get any good sleep since Dad passed away.” You are the mattress brand using an automated social media program, which promptly sees the “I just can't get any good sleep” part of the post and responds with a set chipper message telling the consumer you can get them back to sleep if they purchase your great mattress under promotion within the next 24 hours. How generous! But, of course, how off. Instead, the automated program could alert a real individual who could determine if and how to better respond. I would assume the latter approach would drive more authentic relationships with your consumers, and ultimately, more sales.
- Measuring ROI through to the local level. This has been the holy grail of marketing ever since I began my career. The good news is that we now have the ability to measure it, even at the local level. Before we implement any campaign, we typically have investment goals for it, such as expected sales returns. However, once we deploy that campaign through our trade partners at the local level, it becomes hard to measure its effectiveness, and we often lose control and visibility. At Channel Fusion, we have a suite of analytics and reports to provide insights with which our channel executives can make improved localized decisions. We believe no executive should have to steer the ship with blind spots.
I hope these 2017 Channel Marketing Trends have been helpful and I wish you the very best for you and your brands in the upcoming year! If you have any questions, or would like to learn more, please contact us or drop me a note.
President / CEO