MarTech Interview with Steven Kellam, SVP Marketing and Alliances at 360insights

Steven Kellam, SVP Marketing and Alliances at 360insights shares a few insights and tips to help scale channel partner management while diving into the projected growth of data and analytics in marketing and sales, in this quick QnA:

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Hi Steven, welcome to this chat! Tell us about your journey through the years…we’d love to hear more about 360 Insights… 

360’s story began over 12 years ago in recognition of the need for brands to better manage their incentive programs, provide a better user experience, protect the vendors from fraud and compliance issues and ease the burden of manual program administration. With a lot of hard work, a culture of giving back to the community, and a commitment to our customers and employees, 360 quickly grew and evolved into a global channel incentives leader offering rebate processing, SPIFF programs, co-op advertising and channel analytics. 

With nearly 30% of our revenue going into R&D, we created the Channel Success Platform™, the first truly integrated SaaS solution enabling brands to optimize their channel incentives spending. Passing the $100m in annual revenue in 2020, 360insights is now one of the largest CIM (Channel Incentive Management) companies in the world, serving over 250 of the world’s top brands with global coverage from offices in Toronto, Chicago, and London. 

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Take us through some of the key highlights of your recent Channel Pulse Reports: a few takeaways for our readers?

While 2020 was a challenge for all, there is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for those who are willing to be aggressive and effectively work to outperform their competition.

The winners are going to focus on increasing spending on the channel and incentives, but are looking to leverage better data insights to make the right decisions on where to spend effectively. We will see a big focus on data analytics and ROI management.

  • More than half (60%) of B2B Channel Leaders plan to increase their incentive budget in 2021.
  • Both B2B and B2C Channel Leaders are in full agreement that data analytics are “imperative to success” for their channel programs.

We will see continued momentum towards more automation, not just in the incentive space, but in the entire ecosystem surrounding partners and dealers. From PRM to TCMA, Vendors will be looking to leverage technology to create a better customer, partner, and internal administrative experience.

Data analytics are top-of-mind for both the B2B and B2C channel. Channel leaders are placing a higher priority on their data analysis efforts in 2021, with nearly two thirds (70%) planning to significantly increase their investment.

There is a recognition that sales and marketing enablement will be a key for success. Vendors are realizing that sales is a lagging indicator and they must invest in training beyond product to help their partners be successful and reach their revenue goals. Incentives will play a significant role in driving the behavior modification necessary to engage partners and align their sales and marketing efforts with the buyers’ journey.

What are some top channel partner technologies and strategies / predictions that you feel will shape the rest of 2021? 

  1. Partner Engagement – It all starts here, without partner engagement none of the following technologies are strategies will reach their maximum potential.
  2. Incentive Automation (IA) – The move from manual systems to automation will drive efficiencies, improve ROI, and allow for far better data analytics. 
  3. Integration – From Incentive platforms to PRM, TCMA and ERP, the expectation will be that all can seamlessly integrate.
  4. Single Pane of Glass – For both the partner and the vendor, a frictionless experience will be a huge part of improving partner engagement, partner experience and administrative efficiencies. 
  5. CX to PX – Vendors have realized that partners are customers and their expectations across all contact points are driven by their owner consumer experience. The winners are investing heavily here.

How have you seen channel partnerships evolve in the last few years and more so during the pandemic?

For suppliers like 360insights, so many of the engagements we are in begin with conversations about PRM. How are you engaging with your partner and how can we make the most out of integrating with your system or how can we help you find the right PRM?  Then there are the conversations about how to make the most of available MDF or CoOp funds by making Demand Generation easier for your partners with TCMA (Through Channel Marketing Automation). Channel leaders are looking to understand how they can effectively leverage Incentives and Rewards to drive behavior modification that leads to higher engagement in all automation platforms. It is truly an ecosystem, and with the proliferation of standard APIs this is becoming a standard expectation.

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Can you take us through some of the greatest challenges that you’ve observed businesses struggle with when it comes to their channel management plans / strategies? A few best practices to help here?

One of the biggest values of the survey is that vendors openly share their common challenges. It has been fascinating to watch this evolve over the years. It is no surprise that the two biggest challenges today for B2B and B2C channel leaders are partner sales and marketing capabilities and data poor analytics. The Covid experience has not created them – it has merely accelerated them. Even the surveys five years ago had these as key challenges, just without the same sense of urgency. 

The gap between partners marketing skills and what is necessary for success has been a major concern for years, particularly around digital marketing capabilities.  if partners can’t create demand at the top of the funnel with Digital Marketing and understand how to meet the buyer where they are in the buyer’s journey, they’re going to lose. This digital marketing challenge ties into the need for better data (i.e. sales, marketing, and presales measurements). How else can you tell who is has been successful with your incentives, and just as important, who will be successful if you invest in them. The data visibility across all partner metrics in one place will be a difference maker.

Engagement best practices have also evolved over the past year or so. Building a plan and a program to drive partner engagement, and then understanding how to reward correctly for participation in sales and marketing enablement has become the standard. It’s all about driving demand and preparing to sell well at every stage of the customer buying cycle. 

Can you throw light on what it really takes to effectively scale channel partnerships in B2B and B2C today?

It takes commitment from both parties to want to create strategic partnerships vs. a casual reciprocal agreement. Less is more.

  1. Get buy in at the C level from both organizations 
  2. Build a relationship between both parties at the CEO level – build trust
  3. Get commitment and engagement for both New Logo and Existing business Management 
  4. Get commitment and engagement from all the support department 
  5. Pull in both Marketing teams to build out value proposition and go to market strategy
  6. Set up mutual product overviews and sales training
  7. Create a mutually beneficial contract for each organization
  8. Create a win win situation for both sales teams
  9. Set measurable goals and objectives
  10. Meet on a regular cadence to review success 

A few must-dos that every C-level Sales and Marketing executive in SaaS should follow through 2021?

Commit to the channel – Empower you team to build trust – do what you say you are going to do – especially during our new “COVID” normal. 

Give your organization the tools it needs to be successful, which includes automating everything and allowing your people to think and act strategically.

Create unity and consistency in all departments – understand the CX to PX is real and that every touch point in your organization matters to partners.

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360insights360insights provides a single pane of glass into channel incentives and program strategy and execution. Their Channel Success Platform™ enables large brands to leverage data and analytics to rapidly plan, test, learn and optimize their channel programs.

Steven Kellam is the SVP Marketing and Alliances at 360insights

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