Executive Corner, Part VI

Business and marketing planning: failing to plan is planning to fail

Planning is a discipline many solution providers struggle with. Your business moves so fast; your customers demand immediate satisfaction. Taking the time to develop a vision for the future and write down a plan often takes a backseat to close the quarter or responding to a new RFP. But planning is critical for success, at least that's what we found when we asked your peer solution providers.

In both our State of Partner Enablement and State of Partner Marketing studies, IPED asked partners what role planning played in their business and how they wanted to engage their vendor partners in the planning process.

The marketing plan delivers growth

Creating a parketing plan isn't just a good idea. It turns out it's a growth accelerator. Less than half of your peers say they always create a marketing plan for their business — 41% to be exact, according to the IPED Channelytics study. But the partners who said they always created an annual marketing plan for their business were projecting a 38% higher growth rate over the next 12-18 months than partners who did not always create a marketing plan.

Keeping in mind that some of those other partners who didn't always create a plan said they sometimes created a plan or created one opportunistically for specific vendor funding. However, only the ones who've built a marketing plan year in year out — regardless of what their vendor asked of them, projected higher growth.

Source: IPED Channelytics State of Partner Marketing

We also found there was a correlation between your peers who always created a marketing plan, and their propensity to invest in marketing resources and possess digital marketing skills. These partners are hiring marketing talent at a faster rate and investing more in new methods of reaching prospects. Twice as many of these partners plan on hiring new marketing staff in the next 12-18 months, and for those partners under $20M in revenue, they are twice as likely to engage an external digital marketing agency to assist with marketing efforts. As for talent in general, digital marketing skills and social media capabilities are the top sought after new skills for those who are disciplined marketing planners.

Your peers want guidance in business planning

When it comes to overall business planning, your peers are a bit more committed to the discipline, with 69% of partners saying they create a formal business plan in addition to the planning process they go through with their vendor. By contrast, some partners still create formal business plans opportunistically. These partners create plans for only their strategic vendors or only if a vendor program requires them to deliver a business plan customized for that vendor's business. More often than not, these plans are created only as program requirements for the vendor, or as a requirement to obtain some level of marketing funding or product rebates.

Source: IPED Channelytics State of Partner Enablement

Your peer solution providers would welcome changes to how vendors engage with them in the business planning process. There is a pervasive skepticism that the vendor planning process is nothing more than a "check-the-box" activity, solely focused on generating a forecast target vs. an exercise which delivers value. According to the IPED Channelytics State of Partner Enablement study, some of the improvements and changes your peers are looking for include:

  • 45% want a process that looks at the holistic business, not just the vendors' product
  • 41% would like vendors to provide better templates and guidance in the planning process
  • 30% said business planning would be more valuable if vendor CAMs better understood their businesses

In general, your peers would welcome a more business-centric vs. product/forecast centric planning process with their vendors but have a sense that asking their vendors to help look at the business as a whole may be a bridge too far.

Measure twice, cut once

Better planning discipline not only yields higher growth but improved relationships with vendors. Partners who take the time and invest in developing comprehensive plans expect greater success in marketing and demonstrate to their vendors a commitment to excellence.

There is no doubt this translates into opportunities for greater engagement and trust in the solution provider and vendor relationship, as well as a higher probability of success for your business.

Jeff Hine

Consultant - IPED, The Channel Company

Jeff Hine is a writer and consultant focused on the issues impacting the IT Channel. Anchored with nearly 15 years of experience as a solution provider, he brings to the table a real-world practical perspective. Throughout his career, he's built IT consulting businesses, sold technology to Fortune 500 firms, led marketing functions, helped launch managed services offerings, and trained hundreds of solution provider executives to expand their cloud businesses. He's currently leading content development for Channelytics, a subscription service harnessing the collective research and knowledge of IPED, a division of The Channel Company. In his spare time, Jeff writes science fiction and is the lead singer in a blues classic rock band.