Helping Agency Clients Who Reach End-Customers Via Channel Partners

By Karl Sakas

“How does a [B2B] company find out exactly what end users do with its products? … [T]he people who buy from us are not the same people who actually use our products in their daily work.” (Harvard Business Review)

Do any of your agency’s clients reach customers via channel partners? That can be a great way for your clients to grow—but channel distribution adds complexity to your clients’ customer relationships.

Understanding this “channel gap” complexity helps your agency provide greater value to your clients—and create upsell and client retention opportunities for you.

Let’s explore some of those implications, including example industries that use channel partners. My goal is to get you to think about how you can better serve your clients—and their end-customers.

When Your Clients Have Channel Partners

Reaching customers through channel partners can your clients grow beyond their capacity for direct sales, but it creates a significant gap between your client and their end-customers, because the channel partners are now the intermediary “buyer.”

Because there’s greater distance between your clients and their end-customers, there’s a risk that they don’t fully meet the customers’ needs—or that your agency’s marketing doesn’t fully resonate. I have some clients who refuse to work in industries that rely on channel partners, because of the information gap between the agency’s clients and the clients’ end-customers.

Your agency may be a channel partner itself for a technology provider. My clients include partners for HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Pardot, Salesforce, SharpSpring, and others. The technology provider benefits from your agency doing sales and service, while the provider shares revenue with you as a referral commission.

This “channel partner gap” issue applies to many client-vertical industries, where the buyer isn’t the end-user. Let’s take a look at a few of those, and then explore how your agency can capitalize on this.

Example 1: Financial Services

Earlier in my career, I worked at a social impact mutual fund. At the time, we had approximately 35,000 accounts. However, many of those were “custodial” accounts—they looked like a single account to us, but we knew they contained hundreds or thousands of sub-accounts that were managed by the intermediary (e.g., a retirement plan or an endowment).

The intermediary (a 401K plan, for instance) handled day-to-day client service for end-clients. We didn’t know the identity of all of the end-clients (our intermediaries did, due to anti-money laundering requirements, but they wouldn’t share that information with us).

Our marketing department did user research on direct end-clients (and “lost” prospects, too). We used it as a proxy for understanding what every end-client wanted, but this was definitely a segmentation gap—I suspect that indirect end-clients (who invested via the intermediary channel partners) were less engaged that the direct end-clients who were used to hearing directly from us.

Example 2: Live Theater & Music Shows

When a musician or other performer performs, they rarely know who’s the audience, because audience members typically bought their tickets via a ticket services provider like Ticketmaster. The ticketing firms generally don’t share customer information, because they want to capitalize on the information Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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