5 Mistakes every Channel Marketer should avoid

Channel marketing is coming of age. No longer are marketers simply running purchase linked incentives or dealer schemes as a measure to boost the sales. Forward looking companies have begun to use big data to monitor, analyze and respond to various intervention techniques based on both empirical and historical data points.

There is an increased use of an integrated approach that marries the use of digital tools such as automated channel marketing, email marketing coupled with traditional Telesales to move a larger number of products down the channel and ultimately to consumer homes.

Driving this trend is the increased competitive nature of the business, multiple channel points and an ever increasing choice available to consumers. Channel marketers are increasingly becoming aware that existential knowledge may not be sufficient to manage trade marketing programs. The knowledge gap that exists often leads to marketers making serious mistakes in their planning and execution of trade programs.

Here is our list of the top 5 mistakes that most channel marketers make:

Mistake No 1: Assuming Data Exists

Make no mistake. Data doesn’t exist. At least not in the style, format, depth, source or intensity that you need to create a trade program. Data will exist is disparate groups in multiple storage points.

The most common source for all companies when it comes to channel database is their billing system. Yet, this may be faulty on several counts. In India, channel partners run businesses with multiple names. What may show as a business name and a business email id in the billing system may not necessarily be what the channel partner is actually using.

Another common data driven problem is the duplicity of data points largely caused by the legacy system of entering names in short. An Ashok Kumar may easily be data entered in one system as A Kumar and in another system as Ashok K and yet in another as AK.

The third problem is the multiple sources of data points that every channel marketer uses to build a comprehensive channel database. The Sales team, warehouse billing and existing marketing records are three key sources which invariably have multiple data gaps in them. Apart from the naming issue, there would exist the problem of lack of email id is one or the lack of a phone number in another.

And of course, chances are phones numbers are likely to be dead or changed and email id un-verified!


As a Channel marketer assume that good quality database simply does not exist and factor the necessity of creating a comprehensive high-quality database into your trade marketing program. Using a channel marketing automation tool will help.

Mistake No 2: Letting your channel partners become your marketers.

You may be running trade programs for the channel. Don’t make the mistake of letting your channel partners run the program for you! In a multi-tiered distribution system, in India, often support is taken from one channel to run marketing programs for the down tier. Channel partner most often than not, view trade programs as another backend support mechanism within their right to utilize. This often results in channel pilferage.

Worse still is the fact that you are then dependent on the channel partner as your marketing partner to provide you with results of your trade program effectiveness. How often have you experienced the startling discrepancy between what is reported by your channel partner and the on-ground feedback from sales?

Most channel marketers out-sourced their trade programs for execution to channel partners from two perspectives both of which are outdated philosophies in today’s age.

  • Channel partners are more in touch with the down tier and therefore it is easier to administer the program through them. While it is definitely easier to administer, the resultant loss due to channel pilferage, poor execution and lack of proper reporting make this approach non-desirable.
  • Executing a trade program via the channel save costs and budgets. Channel marketers do not take into account the heartache involved in trying to compile reports from non-compliant partners or the opportunity cost loss that is incurred due to pilferage.


There are specialized agencies today that focus solely on providing channel and trade marketing support nationally to clients. You have better control, better reporting and most importantly zero pilferage!

Mistake No 3: Letting your sales team become your messenger

The job of a sales guy is to sell. Don’t turn him into a marketing vehicle! What with multiple brands running multiple channel programs at the same time, the sales team will often end up doing both his roles badly.

Secondly, bear in mind that the sales team does not report functionally to marketing. Now imagine a scenario when the sales guy is asked by his RSM to make sales call and your request for him to talk to his channel partners about your program. Who do you think the sales person is likely to listen to? Whose task is likely to get top priority?

Trying to leverage the sales team to administer and communicate your trade scheme will result in delayed scheme launches, miscommunication or no communication at all to some sections of your trade channel. And the chances are you?ll never even come to know of it!


Use marketing automation to automate your messaging through multiple channels- SMS, Voice, Email and Web. This will ensure a unified communication messaging that can be tailored to different markets, partners and brands as the case may be. There are several such tools that one can use including ours.

Mistake No 4: Delaying Trade Rewards

Nothing upsets a customer more than being promised a reward and not receiving it or receiving it after a great delay. The first step in any channel loyalty program is to build trust so that future programs benefit from it. Bear in mind that channel partners often talk amongst themselves at dealer meets and non-receipt of trade scheme rewards is likely to be a hot social topic amongst them. An irate channel partner is more likely to shift his focus to the brand that promises and delivers.

Unfortunately, because of the way channel programs are usually executed- via the up-tier, through the sales team, marketers often find it difficult to release channel rewards for lack of adequate information. You wait for that last missing information to come in before releasing the reward. Often that ‘last thing’ becomes the proverbial ‘last straw’.


When you engage the services of a specialized trade marketing agency, set clear benchmarks on reportage. This will ensure that you are able to promise and deliver to your channel partners their rewards on time, every time.

Mistake No 5: Not building a database build up loop

Today is the age of data analytics. The more data points that you collect during and after your program and loop back into your system, the sharper and more effective will be your next marketing initiative. Understanding trends, buying patterns, regional patterns, and channel patterns will allow you to create sharper, more precise trade programs for different constituents instead of a one-size-fits-all program.

Unfortunately, most channel marketers make the fundamental mistake of treating each trading program as individual silos resulting in no future insights. So you keep making the same mistake repeatedly!


Invest in a SaaS based channel marketing tool that allows you to build a database loop. Engage with a specialized trade marketing agency to analyze the data points and recommend the most appropriate trade program.

Trade Marketing can be one of the most challenging marketing assignments a marketer can take up given the dynamics of the industry. It can also be the most frustrating or the most rewarding assignment. Make the mistakes shown above can lead to frustration while implementing the solutions can give the channel marketer time enough to broaden his responsibility by taking on other assignments.

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