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Is it time to say farewell to the three-tier approach?

The pandemic has prompted many channel players to pause and think about just how effective their current marketing model is

Partner marketing has evolved somewhat since the “pack and plaque” days of standard offerings with little or no customisation for different channel types.

But still more could be done to improve the current approach, according to research from Coterie and the University of Huddersfield, which found some dissatisfaction with the tiered approach.

The Ecosystems 2.0 research revealed that although there had been some efforts by vendors to shake up the bronze, silver and gold approach, such tweaks had simply caused confusion for partners and users.

The report indicated that it might be time put an end to the tiered approach, with many partners complaining that a system that ranks them largely on sales volume fails to take into account their expertise or ability to implement and understand a customer’s technology and business challenges.

Participants of the study also claimed there was a lack of innovation in ecosystem marketing and raised fears that the message they were trying to get across would be lost as a result of digital fatigue and general marketing noise.

It was not all gloom and doom, however, as there were signs that things are changing, with some vendors taking a data-focused approach and using the latest tools to improve their partner marketing. Efforts to measure and reward soft skills were also on the rise, and there were moves to make campaigns more personal.

“Our report highlights several areas of focus for those of us within this industry and raises more questions that will require an ecosystem working together to answer,” said Helen Curtis, founding director at channel marketing specialist Coterie.

“The end of traditional tiers as we know them is just one casualty of the ongoing pandemic, the full repercussions of which – and how it will shape our lives as consumers and marketers over the next several years – we will only discover once the dust has settled,” she added.

There has for some time been plenty of talk in the channel about the importance of ecosystems, the desire to use certifications as a way of identifying expertise and a recognition of the need to move away from using sales revenue as the key metric of a partner’s value.

But given the increasingly digital landscape, there appears to be an opportunity for a different approach as the channel starts to think of life beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today, due to this highly competitive and increasingly virtual global context, personalised relationships nurtured over digital channels are crucial,” said Shona Berry, the report’s principal investigator and a professor at Huddersfield Business School, which is part of the University of Huddersfield. “This has driven a more selective mindset in the construction of ecosystems and new modes of marketing engagement.”

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