- 73% of channel partners (CPs) are experiencing a shortage of in-house marketing and finance skills
- 89% feel that maximising brand awareness is a challenge in the industry
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe customers rank ‘transparency and simplicity as a key factor in buying decisions
BT Wholesale has today published new research from the UK Channel, with 73% of respondents reporting that they are experiencing a shortage of in-house marketing and finance skills. This is fueling challenges around maximising brand awareness, an issue suffered by 89% of CPs.
The research reveals that the top business priorities in the channel over the next 12 months are generating new leads and attracting new prospects, and increasing revenue from existing customers. This is unsurprising given the ongoing predictions about the future of the UK economy, and so soon after the disruption and challenges of the pandemic.
However, the survey of 100 senior decision makers in the channel also revealed that navigating the shift to all-IP is a low priority with only 18% selecting it within their top two choices. With the PSTN switch-off happening in 2025, it’s vital that partners understand the steps they need to take now ahead of this change. All-IP will bring so many benefits to UK businesses, and they are looking for partners to be their guide into the digital future. The channel needs to foster consultative customer relationships and encourage them to future-proof infrastructure by transitioning now.
Channel partners feel they understand their customers. Business plans are shaped by customer feedback and advice (55%), research of industry trends (53%), and partner/vendor feedback (48%). While, 65% feel that transparency and simplicity matter most to customers, more so than value for money (55%) and ease of technology being purchased (49%). Only 29%, felt that having an existing relationship influenced decisions.
Faye Dominey, Head of Marketing at BT Wholesale, said: “Channel partners are focusing on growing revenue to protect themselves from the economy, but what is yet to be fully understood is how the move to all-IP can bolster and future-proof revenues. It’s a unique technology shift that will support the future of the UK’s fixed connectivity, becoming the bedrock of digital capabilities that can protect and grow businesses.
“The pandemic has evolved customer requirements, and they are prioritising transparency and simplicity over value for money. They are looking for long term partners that support them in growing their businesses through innovative technology, meaning it’s more important than ever to know customers inside out and to have a consultative two-way relationship. Partners in turn require the same from the channel ecosystem. They require relationships that allow for seamless purchasing, selling and open conversations that drive speed and quality of delivery. Collaboration fuels opportunity which benefits all.”
The power of marketing
The research also reveals that 90% believe there is a strong link between marketing and sales. Yet, 89% believe it’s challenging to maximise brand awareness in the industry. Considering revenue growth is a top priority, not being able to stand out from the crowd impacts partners’ ability to reach financial targets which highlights that CPs need more guidance in growing their business using marketing channels.
Social media is the top lead-generating channel (71% rank in tier top three), followed by telemarketing (49%). LinkedIn (98%), Twitter (95%), and Facebook (90%) are the three most commonly used platforms, but Reddit has potential with nearly 60% planning to use it in the next 12 months.
Demonstrating how vital digital marketing channels have become to partners, face-to-face meetings and events rank lowest with only 18% selecting it among their top three lead-producing channels, alongside direct physical mail. As an effect of the pandemic, and specifically the rise of remote working, channel partners have evolved marketing strategies so that relationships are created and enhanced in new ways.
A lack of in-house skills
Challenges around maximising brand awareness can be linked to a lack of in-house skills. Marketing and finance (both 73%) are the areas with the highest skills shortages for CPs, yet nearly half (45%) handle everything marketing-related in-house.
The channel does see the issue, with 78% intending to increase investment in MarTech tools and 73% in upskilling marketing teams. In fact, partners predict they will spend, on average, £36,050 on marketing activities over the next 12 months. What’s required is guidance on how best that money can be invested to improve ROI.
In the short term, with a gap in resources available and desired output and impact of marketing, there is a need for ‘off-the-shelf’ marketing materials, with 88% agreeing that it would help to engage and sell more.
Christopher Wellbelove DL, Senior Marketing Consultant Partner Plus at BT Wholesale, said: “With channel partners prioritising driving leads and generating revenue, it’s crucial that marketing doesn’t get sidelined and that investments are made into activity that will add value.
Partners clearly understand the link between marketing and sales, and while the shortage of in-house marketing skills can be daunting, there is a plethora of useful tools and support available to elevate their business to the next level.
“When it comes to branding and content, sales support and incentivisation, and marketing resources, BT Wholesale’s Partner Plus proposition has never been stronger and has something to meet all partner marketing needs. Our all-in-one Hub plus our hands-on consultancy support means that CPs can be optimistic about meeting business goals, particularly ahead of the all-IP future. With transparent and simple access to dedicated experts and ready-to-go engaging marketing assets, partners can rest assured that we’re in their corner and we’re continuously ramping up the support and resourcing available to reflect the road ahead.”
The research was a proprietary online survey, conducted in May 2022, via Cavell, that reached 100 channel decision makers with an average of almost 10 years of experience in the industry. Over 50% of respondents were company directors, with 90% coming from SMEs with up to 250 employees with the balance coming from larger organisations.
Additional information came from several structured, one-hour, in-depth interviews with senior personnel from BT Wholesale, Daisy Communications, and Cedar Telecom. This insight was complemented by a bespoke UK channel reseller survey commissioned from Coleman Parkes with fieldwork conducted in May 2022.