It is not often that I like to argue with my editorial team over a point they’re making in a story or a feature, but this week I have to disagree with Brad Howarth’s contention that channel marketing programs have undergone a revolution. It’s more like a reverse devolution. You know, as in a process of de-devolution of power. Sort of like market centralisation with a vengeance.
That the reverse devolution finally happened is not surprising in itself. We can all attest to the truism of that age-old adage — Hell hath no fury like a CFO scorned when one of those esoteric variables, marketing spend, screws the shape and size of their Excel sheet as happens in times of revenue drought. What is surprising is the way the devolution and de-devolution processes have turned the idea of IT marketing on its head.
Theoretically, the marketing paradigm implies that marketing dollars represent an investment that should help resellers create skills, demand and, most importantly, revenue. In practice, the paradigm requires resellers to generate revenue in order to get their hands on (these days very elusive) marketing dollars. Sure, a reseller needs to prove they have the necessary skills to meet vendor criteria. But, unless they’re willing and capable enough to get themselves into the tier one, they can forget about market development funds.
When you think of it in a larger context of what is happening in the margin-poor IT market, there is an interesting piece of market Darwinism at work here. In fact, when vendors start tightening credit terms (and, make no mistake, the impetus for credit reduction is not simply an act of the insurance deity beyond vendors’ control), while at the same time competing with their partners and squeezing the life out of their channel marketing spend, the reverse marketing devolution certainly acquires a totally new dimension. Sure, the argument goes that the funds have just been re-allocated from low-results to higher-impact areas of marketing. But how much of that money really filters down to the channel these days? Have your say.