Automation Fusion: How Caterpillar & Others Drive Direct and Indirect Channel Revenue
2016 was a challenging year for many manufacturers, who are seeing significant change, consolidation, and digitization across their industry. However, it was also a year full of powerful insights that can be carried forward for a more productive and profitable 2017. To that end, I wanted to share a few of my own experiences I think you’ll find quite useful in the New Year.
Channel Panel Insight
I recently hosted an exciting panel discussion. In Automation Fusion: Blending Platforms to Drive Direct and Indirect Channel Revenue, Zift Solutions brought together:
- Kevin Espinosa, Digital Experience Manager, Caterpillar, Inc.
- Maria Chien, Service Director, Channel Marketing Strategies, SiriusDecisions
- David Johnson, Director of Product Marketing, Oracle/Oracle Marketing Cloud
Our thought leaders keyed in on the fact that technology itself doesn’t solve channel challenges, particularly when it comes to the adoption of programs and portals by partners. Often, technology solutions and approaches must be blended to solve multiple, modern channel challenges. Moreover, prescriptive guidance and a strong understanding of the types of partners you have is essential when you’re marketing through the channel.
Caterpillar Mitigates Adoption Challenges
During the panel discussion, Kevin Espinosa shared what Caterpillar is doing to mitigate channel adoption challenges. The industry-leading manufacturer works with nearly 180 independent dealers (partners) who have traditionally relied upon face-to-face deals for the bulk of the company’s 90+ years in business.
Due to such a personal, high-touch style, the past decade’s shift to digital marketing has been a challenge to navigate for many of Caterpillar’s dealers. MAPI and Zift examined channel collaboration and found that the majority of today’s manufacturers have been slow to adopt channel marketing and management technologies and are still underutilizing data and collaboration tools.
Clearly ahead of the curve in the manufacturing space, Caterpillar is actively working to align processes and systems between itself and its dealers to drive success. Kevin defines a third of the company’s dealers/partners as actively engaged and willing to try the digital marketing tactics or technology Caterpillar rolls out. Another third of Caterpillar’s dealers tend to be more cautious, with a wait-and-see attitude and desire to know how others fare before moving forward with new initiatives. And of course, there is that remaining third that are slower to try anything new or different.
To move everyone forward while addressing the needs of both high and low-touch partners with varying marketing resources and capabilities, Kevin recommended using some of Caterpillar’s winning strategies:
- Start Small: “We start with a select group of dealers to demonstrate how new technology, techniques and processes can work for and provide real business value to partners,” he said. Demonstrating bottom-line benefits to end users drives momentum for new solutions. In addition, their dealers like to see how other dealers are using new solutions. Kevin said there is a lot of benefit to demonstrate that this works for the construction equipment industry and it isn’t a generic solution.
- Respect Legacy Systems: “Of course, digital is great. But you have to respect the legacy systems on which partners have long relied,” said Kevin. New applications, software and technology solutions should work within or in tandem with the systems and tools sales teams and partners are already using. Cloud-based open platforms that integrate well with established infrastructure and systems make transitioning to digital much less disruptive.
- Educate: New technology should always be accompanied by built-in support, partner services and training to get the dealers up and running quickly. “Anything that we roll out at Caterpillar has an education element, be it a webinar, playbook, video or training,” said Kevin. By keeping communication flowing and sharing best practices, education builds trust.
While today’s technology can streamline adoption and encourage partner engagement, the burden ultimately falls to people and processes to create a personalized partner experience that clearly illustrates the overall benefits of channel programs. I emphasized this very point during this year’s 2016 MAPI Marketing Council Meeting, where we unveiled Zift and MAPI’s collaborative research results.
Must-have Manufacturer Resources
Don’t miss these must-have resources to examine how manufacturers can successfully navigate today’s channel changes, engage dealers and partners, and empower better performance throughout 2017:
- On-Demand Webinar: Automation Fusion – Blending Platforms to Drive Direct & Indirect Channel Revenue: With real-world industry examples and best practices applicable to both the channel and the direct-side, this is a must-watch webcast for marketers. Watch it here.
- MAPI & Zift Research Report: “Collaborating with Channel Partners to Drive Faster Growth” examines how industrial manufacturing companies are utilizing modern digital marketing and collaboration tools to enable profitable growth and increase channel revenue. Read the full report.
- The Manufacturers’ Black Hole of Lead Management: See why lead status is an abyss for most manufacturers, how good leads get lost and follow leaders to new heights with a straightforward safety checklist. Explore the Infographic.
- Manufacturers & Channel Partners: A State of Disconnect: Check out this Infographic to see how many manufacturers still rely on outdated methods for distributing content and leads to their partners – and what can be done to align programs and technology for better results. See the Infographic.
About the Author
As a prominent thought leader, Laz Gonzalez brings unparalleled channel expertise to Zift as Chief Strategy Officer. Before Zift, Laz was Group Director of Channel Sales & Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions serving as a strategic advisor to leading B2B channel programs worldwide.