MarTech Interview with Heather K. Margolis, Founder and CEO at Channel Maven Consulting

“I always tell young women to listen to the advice you’re inevitably going to get, but at the end of the day, follow your gut.”

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Hi Heather, tell us about your journey into Demand-gen Marketing. What inspired you to start “Spark Your Channel”?

My demand generation journey started before we had email. In high school, I worked for a one-person insurance agency after school. This woman was obsessed with demand generation (in a good way).

Everyday I would mail merge (if you’re under 35, Google it!) lists of people into letters letting them know their safety inspection was coming up for renewal, their license plates were about to expire, their car was due for an oil change, etc. She loved purple so everything was purple, including the paper and the ink.

From there, I focused on Marketing and Demand Generation in undergrad and grad school. I earned a Master’s degree in Marketing and Marketing Technology. Later, I worked in Financial Services and eventually tech.

The best learning experience was doing demand generation completely wrong. I was bullied by a Sales Manager who felt Marketing was overhead, and I should create whatever he assigned even though I knew it was wrong.

Reading David Meerman Scott’s book, “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” was a huge turning point for me back in 2007.

I started Channel Maven Consulting in 2009 to focus on Channel Marketing both to partners and through partners. That business is thriving today, serving some of the technology’s biggest brands and their channel partners. We’ve always had a focus on new trends and strategies in demand generation. When leading demand generation with channel partners, my team and I have been frustrated that resources and platforms available today force partners to do demand generation the wrong way, including:

  • Forcing them to load their lists and send email through a third-party tool they aren’t licensed to use
  • Making them lead with outdated content and tools like white papers and microsites
  • Focusing on email as opposed to Social Nurturing and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and retargeting campaigns

These are all challenges that we’ve solved with Spark Your Channel, which we truly believe is the first through-Channel Marketing Automation that helps partners do demand gen the right way.

As a woman business leader in Marketing, what message do you have for young female professionals in the various B2B Channel Growth roles?

I always tell young women to listen to the advice you’re inevitably going to get, but at the end of the day, follow your gut. A couple of months after launching Channel Maven, I got a call from another consultant in the space, who said, “I know you’re just trying to get a new job in the industry, so why don’t you let me help you find a job.” Eleven years, 25 employees and millions of dollars in revenue later, I’m really glad I didn’t let him intimidate me.

What kind of technology drives Spark Your Channel? What AI capabilities have you infused into your Marketing Automation platform?

Our focus with Spark Your Channel is on allowing partners and salespeople to customize multimedia content (video, webinars, and podcasts) in addition to static content, and then integrate that personalized content into their own Marketing Automation tools and Social Marketing strategies.

We know that partners and salespeople already log into so many different platforms, so we don’t want that to be an excuse for them not to use it. Instead, Spark learns their preferences and sends them content, already customized, that they can share immediately via text, social, email, etc.

Tell us more about your Product Development approach and how it engages with your current Sales and Customer Service departments to solve unique challenges that your customers often raise.

For more than a decade we’ve been working with Channel Maven’s clients as they use existing tools and constantly wishing that it would do something differently or add certain functionality.

Our entire product development approach was built by taking a step back from the tools that exist, looking at how demand generation is done successfully today, and then building a platform that makes that possible for partners while still allowing their vendors and sales leadership to track activity.

Which tools and capabilities are you keenly following to build a strong Marketing and Sales alignment? 

We love the hyper-use of Video we’re seeing today. People do business with people, not companies, so if we can help our customers build that bond by leveraging Video, all the better. Spark Your Channel enables them to personalize videos not only with their contact info but also will video messages to individual customers.

We also see Spark Your Channel integrating with platforms that we’ve known and trusted for years like Hubspot, Salesforce, Mailchimp and Constant Contact.

What role can Sales coaching and training play in building high-growth teams?

I love that training and coaching are so much more widely accepted today. I’ve used executive coaches over the years, most recently David Mandell of VentureVoodoo. We also recently had Ash Beckham come do a workshop with our entire team about being authentic and inclusive.

Who is one superwoman character/fictional literary icon you wish to meet/profoundly replicate in your life?

I’m really struggling with this one. I have so much respect for so many non-fictional people. Having come from nothing and building something, I can really respect and empathize with everyone’s journey. My list would be a mile long for the entrepreneurial or demand-generation trailblazers. #WeAreAllSuperWomen. However, if I had to choose to meet a non-fictional character and could take my daughters, who are 2 and 4 years old, with me, it would be Rosita from the movie SING. She needs to find her confidence and when she does…look out!

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Sara Blakely of Spanx.

Thank you, Heather! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Heather K. Margolis is Founder and CEO of Spark Your Channel, creators of the Spark Your Channel through-channel marketing automation platform, and Founder and Chairperson of Channel Maven Consulting, a strategic channel marketing agency.

Margolis is a recognized channel marketing expert and a sought-after keynote speaker to a variety of audiences about entrepreneurship, building a service-based business and B2B strategy, B2B marketing, and channel marketing.

Margolis has a master’s degree in business administration from Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. She grew up in Massachusetts and now lives in Boulder, Colo., with her husband and fellow entrepreneur Simeon, their two daughters and dog Zoe.

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Channel Maven Consulting provides strategic Channel consulting and Channel marketing consulting to IT Channel organizations of all sizes. Channel Maven was founded by Heather K. Margolis. Heather has led channel programs for companies like EMC, EqualLogic, and Dell.

Channel Maven Consulting knows that no, singular Channel strategy fits every organization. That’s why we work with you to understand your current Channel Programs, define your goals, and assess your resources. Along the way, our clients don’t just find their place on the map, they gain insights on their unique advantages to successful implementation and continued agile management.