agency profile
As published in Marcom Choices

Should You Advertise to the Channel? Yes and No
By Dave Dimmick

Should your company advertise to the channel? There are many compelling reasons to do so. On the other hand, there are some situations when advertising dollars can be spent more productively in other venues.

Over the years, we have developed a check list that helps guide this decision-making process. Developing a strong, practical rationale that answers the "Should we, or should we not?" question can help you achieve the greatest value for advertising dollars spent.

These guidelines can help you find the right answers for your situation as you undertake the process of building a successful channel marketing program.

Do channel-specific advertising when:

• Your message is only relevant to a channel audience--like messages about higher-margins, better terms, sales assistance programs, special pricing, promotions, SPIFFS etc. We frequently see advertising placed in channel publications that is identical to a company's end-user advertising. This is usually a tremendous waste of money. All competent resellers read end-user publications for product news and product advertising. So, if you already have an aggressive end-user campaign going, focus your advertising on channel-specific messages that they are not getting elsewhere.

• You want to recruit new resellers. Resellers make a major commitment of time and resources to take on an additional vendor's products. In order to convince and recruit new resellers, you need to offer a product and a channel program that will help them serve their customers and make them money. Your sales proposition must go beyond product attributes. How are you going to help them sell? What is your lead program? What about technical support? Is your warranty and return policy competitive? These are the messages that count with this audience.

• You sell two-step through distributors and don't trust your distributors to get your channel-specific message to their resellers. It is important to make sure all resellers hear your important program messages. Experience has proven that relying on some distributors to spread the word to their resellers can be detrimental to your success.

• You are advertising in conjunction with one or more distributors. When selling primarily through distributors it makes sense to announce new products and/or new programs through distributor-listing ads. Listing distributors names makes it easy for resellers to contact them directly. It also alerts resellers to which distributors carry your product. Listing ads may also provide leverage in encouraging distributors to place stocking orders.

• You have a great channel-specific web site and want to drive your channel to it. Channel advertising is a very good way to tell your existing channel partners, and prospective channel partners, about your program, promotion, pricing, etc. You channel-specific web site gives you lots of real estate to communicate complex or involved promotions and programs. "Teaser" ads to the channel have proven to greatly increase web traffic.

• You want to look like you're doing end-user advertising but, in fact, can only afford to do channel advertising. Many end-user technical publications have channel-specific demographic editions. While your ad only appears in the magazines sent to the channel, you look to the channel like you're doing national end-user advertising. This, of course, doesn't replace end-user advertising but it can help your image among channel partners until an end-user campaign can be launched.

• You have so much money you want to be everywhere!

You should not advertise to the channel if:

• You don't have anything to say to the channel that is getting to them through another vehicle. Product information may already be getting to them through end-user advertising. Pricing and special promotional information may be coming from their distributors. You may have a great reseller list and can communicate directly to your channel through direct mail or a channel newsletter. You have a great channel web site which is visited often by your channel partners.

• You need end-user leads. If you have an effective channel in place, the one thing resellers consistently need from their vendors is qualified sales leads. These, obviously, must come from end-user communications.

• You don't have enough money to maintain an on-going, consistent presence in channel publications. If you can't look like a long-term player to the channel, don't advertise. Save your money and use other communications tactics.

Careful consideration of these points is the first step in developing a productive channel communications effort. Of course, channel marketing must be seamlessly integrated into the overall marketing mix of a company. And like any marketing program, objectives need to be set, target audiences identified, competition evaluated, and a unique selling proposition or promise must be articulated. These guidelines help to start the process, but there is still a long way to go.
Dave Dimmick is founder and president of Dimmick & Fornari. The ten-year old advertising agency specializes in integrated channel-marketing communications for technology-based, business-to-business clients. The agency is headquartered in Redwood City.