Are You a Burden on Your Partners?


Back in 2011, while writing one of my first white papers on partner enablement, a seasoned channel colleague told me about the three elements a manufacturer must provide to its partners in order to make them successful.callout-1Since that conversation, the channel has seen many changes…again. Four years seems like a lifetime ago in terms of the channel, but those three elements have always stuck in my mind; and they are still sound rules to live by.

So as we head into 2016, let’s revisit one of these three simple rules based on what I’ve been observing with our clients. Let’s talk about what it means to be “easy to do business with” so you don’t become a burden to your partners.


Whenever someone asks me to explain the channel, I always feel I need a whiteboard and three or four colored markers to draw it out for them. It’s not a simple task. But if you have a good product or solution, and you have a loyal set of partners, it doesn’t take rocket science to build revenue. If it is priced well, has a competitive advantage in the market, you’ve done your job to properly incentivize partners and show them how to sell it, your offering should move.

But the truth is, the channel has NEVER been easy and it will continue to get MORE complex. What starts out as a well-conceived and well-executed solution quickly becomes encumbered by complicated deal registration systems, convoluted MDF procedures, a difficult incentive model, and the daunting task of bundling multiple vendors into one alliance.

What started out as a great idea is now buried by layers of programmatic sediment weighing down your program and your partners.

Simplify! We gain sales and partner loyalty by not just building a great solution, but by creating a channel program that is easy to navigate and does not add unnecessary weight to a partner. I won’t try and solve any problems with this post, but there are a few simple points to think about – which should form questions in your mind and expose the real problems.callout-2Three simple questions, but simplicity is the key to being easy to do business with. If you have to fumble and stumble over your answers to these simple questions, you just might be a burden. You probably need to have a strategy session.

Building partner sales and loyalty is a complex process as it is. The manufacturer has to continue to introduce innovative approaches to enable partners.

With a sea full of partners with limited attention spans, manufacturers who act strategically, actively enable their partners, and respond to their needs will win both wallet and mind share.

7 Must-haves to Enable your Direct Sales Team


Technology over the last five years has integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives, and it’s not just coming from Silicon Valley anymore. It’s spreading (some may think like the plague—thanks mom), from New England based start-ups to the newly termed Silicon Slopes of Utah. Huge surges of technology start-ups resembling the dot-com days have emerged. Everything has become more efficient, better integrated, and dare I say more complex. Especially as we start talking about direct sales teams.

Whether you’re talking inside sales or outside sales, account based selling, or consumer sales, the complexity of setting up an efficient “knock your socks off” sales team can be difficult and complex. Lets explore some must-have technologies and the keys to drive “real ROI.”

Tell me if you’ve heard any of these words from your executives over the last year: automation, acceleration, predictive, attribution, prescriptive, data viz, modeling, alignment, etc. the list goes on…If you have, you may be experiencing symptoms of stress, blurred vision, neck pain, or fatigue. They are looking for answers and demanding results. Technology has come a long way over the last few years and if your sales team hasn’t evolved you’re behind the ball.

Let’s break it down: Think integration, think automation, think acceleration, and think accountability, and we’re off to a great start.


  1. sMarketing - An integration and alignment of Sales and Marketing from both a vision and technology perspective.
  2. CRM - A robust hub of data commonly referred to as a CRM—call me a nerd but I prefer a multi-relational database.
  3. Marketing Automation - A system for automating outreach allowing for prospects to be targeted, nurtured, and prioritized.
  4. Predictive Tools – We’re talking predictive dialers, robust forecasting, modeling, neuralytics, and predictive/prescriptive analytics.
  5. Sales Automation - Gone are the days of a cubical farm of dialers hitting every number in the phone book. Your message needs to be thoughtful, on-point, and prescriptive. Let’s talk sales enablement, sales efficiency, sales coaching, and automation. This technology enables your sales rep to be efficient and on-target.
  6. Social Selling  – An informed team with ties to social media tools and online media to aggregate the pie in your face data coming at you every second from every angle—just try to keep up, “I dare you.”
  7. Prescriptive Results - What we used to call diagnostic reporting or data collection has evolved and now requires thorough analysis, modeling, and prescriptive business intelligence with result driven analysis. We not only need to show what we think will happen, we show how changing just one variable in the complex direct sales formula modifies the end result.

The old man on the block these days is Marketing Automation—experienced, proven and robust. The new kid on the block is Sales Automation—up and coming, with the biggest potential for improvement in efficiency and cost. We are not talking “old and busted” vs “new hotness”, but taking the best of both to lower cost, increase ROI, and drive results.

Gartner predicts that the CMO will spend more on technology by 2017 than the CTO. Based on current trends in sales technology, I predict that the CSO (Chief Sales Officer) will also outspend the CTO by 2017. Keep an eye out for shifting budgets over the next few years.

7MustHave-WhereDoIStartHire a skilled professional or an outsourcing SaaS (Sales as a Service) company with a track record of results. Take a look at these companies that are changing the game in direct sales: LinkedIn,, SalesPredict, ClearSlide, ToutApp, Yesware, Salesforce, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua, InsightSquared, LeanData, Hootsuite, FrontSpin, and ConnectAndSell—to name a few.

7MustHave-Callout2Remember, leverage experts and don’t try to do it alone, but beware of “shiny object” syndrome. Meaning make yourself aware of new technologies and make changes as appropriate, but don’t chase everything just because it’s new. The key to measuring ROI across your entire direct sales funnel is consistency—you can’t measure something if the foundation keeps changing. Leveraging a robust technology stack all the way through the sales funnel is key to “real ROI”—it’s possible, it’s here, and it’s what your executives require, so make it happen.

Expand Industry Knowledge through Insights Brief

With so much on our professional plates, it can be a challenge to keep up with today’s fast-paced tech industry. MarketStar’s Insights Brief is a short email that contains relevant articles and insights regarding trends in the industry, making it easier for you to read what matters most.

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Keep an eye out for your first Insights Brief, and happy reading.

It isn’t you, it’s me. Retail has changed and are brands losing out?


Most people have heard those words at one point or another in their lives. When it comes to the love triangle of retailers, brands, and customers, is the customer choosing competitors or retailers over your brand? After building retail solutions for five years, I’ve learned that the new face of retail isn’t about selling the customer the items you want, it’s about selling the customer what they want.

Retail was once an unshakable distribution standard, but now it’s an omni-channel experience, where purchases are made wherever they are convenient. It was once consistent and reliable, but mobile Internet came along and online sales grew at a dizzying rate. Insiders were convinced that the death knell for retail had been called. But did you know that online sales have never surpassed brick-and-mortar retail? That’s right, never.

In 2014, 80% of all sales took place in stores, while only 6% were through e-commerce, and half of those were ultimately transacted through a brick-and-mortar store.* What’s more, the rate of online sales growth per year is slowing down at an incredible rate, indicating that retail and e-commerce may be stabilizing into a form of synergistic equilibrium.


Retail isn’t fading into obscurity, it’s evolving to match the customer’s tastes, lifestyle, and access. Retail is no longer a fixed experience that can only happen one way, it’s an experience consumers decide for themselves. Retail is now everywhere and everything.

What matters now isn’t where you get the product, but how you get the product. Smartphones have created a limitless gateway for customer interaction, the key is making sure customer eyes and screens stay on you. This isn’t lost on retailers, who have begun using big data to better reach customers. These retailers aren’t as concerned with which brand customers purchase, only that they make a purchase. Brands and retailers each see the customer as exclusively theirs, often with differing marketing messages which can confuse customers, who ultimately purchase based on value and convenience over loyalty.

All of a brand’s efforts can culminate in a competitor’s product being sold in the last moment of sale, because the customer’s eyes are inevitably on the retailer right before purchase. It’s like taking your date to Prom, and having your date leave with someone else. The retailer knows what the customer wants from the minute they walk in the door, and thanks to big data, they often know where they are in the store, and what might entice them to pull the trigger today. All the customer needs is a nudge, and now your date is theirs.

So what can you as a brand do about it? Your first step should be to shore up your customer engagement model. Rather than rely exclusively on former customers and sales associate recommendations, or new signage and merchandising to draw the eye, you need to actively engage the customer in a direct motion that appeals to their sensibilities. This includes sales events, demonstrations, awareness campaigns, gamification, data execution, re-targeting, and engagement platforms that provide meaningful direct interaction. You need to woo your customers and make them feel special at all times, otherwise they will move on to the next relationship.

Not-you-callout2This is why it’s so important to be aware that the retail channel isn’t just a destination. It’s the entire journey. You need to make every effort to ensure your customer leaves the dance with you, and isn’t distracted by what the retailer or competitors may offer. You just need to adjust your strategy to be where they are, when they need you to be there, and if you do it right, you won’t hear them say: “It isn’t you, it’s me…”

*Brick-and-Mortar Retail Is Alive and Well,, 2015

Do You Enable Your Partners for Success?

Enable Your Partners Banner

We are currently seeing a very interesting trend within the partner channel – the need for enhanced enablement. Our view is unique because with so many great clients, we have a very broad vision of the channel as a whole. We are positioned to see emerging trends, and quite honestly, we are able to anticipate how the channel needs to evolve.

The biggest part of this constant evolution is how much more the partner seems to be dictating the terms of the partnership. The pendulum of power has swung from manufacturer to partner and it’s interesting to see how our clients are reacting to this.

Not long ago, manufacturers were clearly out front in the relationship and driving the channel value propositions. They created a strong channel program, partners hitched themselves to this flagship platform and that’s how they did business. They relied on one large manufacturer to be their lead product and they took full advantage of discounts, rebates, and MDF. Everything else just became a part of the rate card and everything ran relatively smoothly.

Enable Your Partners Subheader

Partners have moved to building a solution that includes many products and services. It’s not just a one-brand install any more. It’s a cloud solution with a security layer and cloud storage, mobile devices (with service), thin clients on-site with virtualization software, and an integrated communications piece to bind it all together. It’s a more complex (and at times, convoluted) solution, and rarely does one large manufacturer dominate the message. So with large manufacturers being just a part of a more diversified solution, what makes THEIR program so special? What makes them stand out with the partners?

It all comes down to enablement – and not just enablement on YOUR products and YOUR programmatic systems. Provide them with a marketing and demand generation engine.

It’s time to be the manufacturer that truly enables the solution-selling partner. We are talking about enablement that drives pipeline and sales, not just knowledge and incentives. The trend is to provide a program that generates leads (not lists…actual leads), self-serve automated marketing platforms, ready-made marketing campaigns, and concierge support.

Enable Your Partners Callout

Many manufacturers have struggled with generating demand in the past, and it’s always been a headache for partners. But in the age of cloud solutions and a new recurring revenue model, customer demand has rocketed to the front of the pack of priorities. The way we see it, it’s a great opportunity for the manufacturer to be the vendor that enables this practice. Make YOUR enablement platform the weapon of choice, and seize the opportunity to be the most valued player in their complex solution.

Many vendors are moving in this direction, some are not. Several have recognized this glaring need and they are not just ready to change, they are turning to us to help them enhance this enablement. Some of these vendors have recognized this, but are a bit paralyzed by their lack of know-how and organizational flexibility. And a few others have not recognized it yet and continue to overlook the situation.

We see all three cases, so we are speaking to all of our clients (and non-clients) about how we can generate true demand for partners and build a “through-partner” marketing platform. The question is, how are you enabling your partners?

Are you the manufacturer that enables, or is your head still in the clouds (no pun intended)?


The MarketStar Enabled Inside Sales Rep


Every company needs to acquire new customers and strives to increase sales. For many years, sales reps have relied on their instincts and dedication to close sales, spending hours researching new prospects, making hundreds of cold calls every day trying to reach the right decision maker, devoting weeks working a potential client, and even driving for miles with hopes of scheduling an appointment. Although all these activities help generate sales, they can leave even the most dedicated employee overworked and frustrated.

Today’s technologies present huge opportunities to improve efficiency and productivity for sales teams by helping them be successful while keeping them motivated and more satisfied. Sales processes that once consumed hours of reps time, are now streamlined to deliver better results by targeting the right prospects, with the right message, at the right time.

This infographic shows how MarketStar enables inside sales reps with the technology necessary to increase your sales and maximize your ROI.


The New World Order of Retail Staffing: Immediate and Measurable Sales Lift


We’ve spoken at length about the revolution occurring within retail. The new world order of retail, relative to how manufacturers are wanting companies like MarketStar to go-to-market on their behalf, is starting to take shape. It’s an exciting future, one which MarketStar is well prepared to excel in based on our heritage as a sales performance and quota-driven organization.

First, here is a little backstory. When our founder, Alan Hall, first pioneered the vision of an outsourced sales and marketing company that filled the gap in the buyer’s journey between consumers and their technological knowledge, there wasn’t a huge tactical distinction between our efforts with B2C and B2B activities. Everyone was on the same playing field and trying to understand how technology might improve their home or business; thus, operationally we did very similar things regardless of the audience.

shutterstock_112900897As the years passed and business buyers became more educated, and competition became fiercer for enterprise dollars, manufacturers began to rely on channels for distribution. In order to continue serving our clients, our business evolved and we developed a more formal sales organization that could meet the needs of that evolved audience.
When it comes to retail, we continue to focus fundamentally on the tactics we built our retail reputation on 25+ years ago, namely brand advocacy and store associate training. Until just a few years ago, the retail store was still the one-stop shop regardless of your stage in the buyer’s journey. A deliberate investment to influence the hearts and minds of store associates was still a dollar well spent for most manufacturers.

Today the retail store experience has evolved from being a holistic end-to-end buying experience. It’s no longer a linear process and there are multiple channels influencing consumer awareness, consideration, and research. Most consumer research and validation are being done right from their mobile devices. The shopping experience is no longer limited to an in-store experience. We’re relying more on the social influence of our personal networks to shape brand perception than ever before. This often changes the role and reputation of a store associate to “order taker” and “transaction specialist,” rather than a trusted advisor in the late stages of a buyer’s journey.

shutterstock_159873317What is required in today’s marketplace is a new perspective on sales tactics employed at the point of purchase. Savvy brands are shifting their focus from brand advocacy alone to assisted sales within the store. This is easier said than done because the individual, who is great at building relationships within a store and guiding a formal training, is not always the same individual who can stand in a store and provide assisted sales support to consumers.

Am I saying traditional brand advocacy activities are going the way of the dinosaur? Absolutely not. There are very specific points in the product lifecycle where advocacy should be the focus of a brand’s retail engagement strategy and we still love building those relationships on behalf of our clients. What we are seeing is that for some companies, brand advocacy is becoming an ancillary benefit that comes from the success a store experiences when sales are high; the associates recommend what sells, creating a circular effect.


There are four key imperatives to assisted sales success on this scale: Recruiting, Coverage, Sales Conversion, and Reporting. I invite you to contact me, or a member of our retail business development team, to learn how to leverage this information to increase your retail sell-through.

As I mentioned above, the profile for a successful assisted sales professional is different than that of a proficient Brand Advocate. From a retention standpoint, we’ve also found that having one individual try to do the other doesn’t always translate. Programs that hire and staff specific to the activity see better results and have better retention overall.

Tools like Predictive Index we use to source candidates that not only match your brand’s persona but also show an aptitude and attitude in line with successful sales activities, ensures we ramp quickly and efficiently, and sales lift is realized sooner in the engagement.

Keep in mind a 60% sales lift in a store that only average one sale per hour, will have nowhere near the impact of a 60% sales lift in a store that average 6 sales per hour.

We’ve championed the idea that the customer is king in today’s retail environment. If the customer is king, why not deploy your team in their kingdom through a dialed-in coverage model, showing where results are mostly like to be seen. With the data available today, it’s not impossible to have 3-4 tiers of coverage based on geography, peak shopping hours, sales, buyer personas, and demographic data.

Converting the sale is ultimately what we are hired to do, and we work tirelessly to meet or exceed expectations. Our years of refining and optimizing B2B sales models and managing towards those objectives, has prepared us for this new world order of retail.

We’re not afraid of quotas or sales specific metrics and are working with our digital team, along with other Omnicom agencies, to integrate our in-store efforts with other omni-channel investments. The intent is to maximize awareness and brand engagement before a consumer even walks into the store. These integrated efforts are key to driving more of the right kinds of traffic into the right retailers to maximize sales.

As experience becomes more important to the last three feet of the sale, digital interactions that seamlessly bring the consumer’s online experiences together with their offline interactions and the brand are becoming the standard for dynamic and successful in-store activities. An in-store interaction is part of a broader brand experience and knitting those experiences together for brands so that the relationships don’t begin or end in the store is our vision for the future of retail.

We believe the years of activity based metrics are gone. As much of a brand advocacy motion’s influence is indirect, we’ve been able to meet client expectations in the past with activity based reporting: numbers around stores visited, sales associated trained etc.

More and more clients are asking us to report on very specific, financially focused metrics like Sales per Hour, Sales per Store, Customers Engaged, Ratio of Sales to Interactions Converted to Sale, etc.

The new world order in retail doesn’t have to be a scary or bad thing for your company. By identifying the areas of true change, and how to align with them, MarketStar is prepared to help your company excel at retail and not get lost in the competition.

If you are interested in the case studies used to validate this post, please contact Matt Peterson at who can set up an appointment to share with you our findings in greater detail

MarketStar Receives Marketo’s 2015 Revvie Award

Utah-Based Company Gains National Recognition as Digital Agency Superstar

Ogden, Utah; April 23, 2015 – MarketStar, the industry leader in outsourced sales and marketing, today announced it was awarded Marketo’s 2015 Revvie Award in the Digital Agency Superstar category. The award ceremony took place Wednesday, April 15 during the Marketo Marketing NationTM Summit 2015 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California.

MarketStar Revvie Picture1From left: Jason Holmes (Marketo CCO), Adam Jackson, Kara Harrison, Trent Cross, and Jace Garside (MarketStar Team); and Sanjay Dholakia (Marketo CMO) 


“MarketStar is honored to receive this industry recognition from Marketo,” said Dave Treadway, MarketStar’s CEO and President. “Our MarketStar teams leverage innovative technologies to deploy fully integrated solutions on behalf of our clients. These solutions empower our employees to deliver revenue-accelerating results for our clients and great experiences for their customers.”


Marketo is the leading provider of marketing software and solutions designed to help marketers master the art and science of digital marketing. The Revvie Awards highlight the most innovative Marketo customers, partners, and individual marketers whose programs have significantly impacted their companies’ revenue and built engaging, long-lasting relationships with customers through their use of Marketo’s Engagement Marketing Platform.
Revvie Award-Marketo SummitVaughn Aust, EVP of Integrated Solutions at MarketStar, said, “By combining MarketStar’s dedicated channel account managers with Marketo’s platform, we are able increase engagement and ROI for our clients. Our “Partnermation” solution combines email and content to uncover active partners, and includes automated nurturing and lead scoring to determine the level of interest.”


MarketStar, a Utah-based company, ranks among a select few agencies qualified to provide consultation and ongoing services to Marketo users. The agency announced its partnership with Marketo in 2013 as part of the organization’s commitment to offer best-in-class lead nurturing and sales process outsourcing.


Featured in:

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MarketStar — Finalist and Winner in Digital Category of Marketo Revvie Award


Every year the Marketo Revvie Award showcases Marketo customers, individual marketers, and partners who leverage Marketo to drive next generation marketing with unprecedented results. This year, Marketo received a record number of submissions in 16 categories of which MarketStar was awarded a finalist and overall winner in the “Digital Agency Superstar” category.


Marketo defines a Digital Agency Superstar as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) responsible for managing multiple client campaigns and millions of customer engagements. The category recognizes the partner who consistently delivers service excellence running Marketo for their clients. It also looks for submissions that share the value provided to clients and how organizations are empowering them to achieve their customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty goals.


MarketStar’s submission focused on the efforts and successes with our partner automation solution that: revitalizes partners, strengthens reseller relationships, and increases revenue.  Our solution combines email, content, marketing automation technology, and our channel Sales Specialists to cover partners that are typically ignored.



“MarketStar knows that managing a large population of partners and resellers with personal channel account management can be arduous at best and chaotic at worst,” said Vaughn Aust, EVP Integrated Solutions at MarketStar. “We successfully utilize Marketo, plus our channel account managers, to solve this challenge with unmanaged partners for our clients while maximizing engagement and ROI. This allows them to reach partners with consistent and strategic messaging, effectively progressing them from unmanaged partner status to valued revenue generator. MarketStar is honored to be a Revvie Award Winner and we look forward to The Marketing Nation Summit.”


The Revvie Award Ceremony will take place next week during Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco, California. Look for MarketStar’s blog post after the ceremony highlighting pictures and updates from the event.

The State of Partner Profitability


Recently, I represented MarketStar in a Partner Path webinar in which we examined the solution provider’s prospective as it relates to profitability from their relationships with vendors. Our MarketStar Insight team worked with PartnerPath to gather and analyze input from both, solution providers and vendors, to identify ways each side can improve the profitability equation. You can download the full webinar recording here.


Based on my experience in supporting vendor-partner relationships, we’re really seeing a trend over the last several years, in which solution providers wield much more power than they used to. They are more emboldened to trim unprofitable vendors from their line cards. To increase channel loyalty, vendors should consider the following topics we discussed in our webinar:



When working with the channel, front-end margin is easy to calculate for vendors, but it does not reflect true partner profitability. This is a much more complicated formula that takes into account commissions, overhead, capital investments, and other expenses. Solution providers will typically factor in how much opportunity the vendor offers through market demand, financial rewards, and program support, and then divide the opportunity by the amount of investment to be made through sales enablement, relationship, and the ease of doing business. If providers feel the relationship with a vendor takes more investment than the amount of opportunity they can experience, they will gravitate to other vendors.



So how do vendors enhance the opportunity and incentivize their partners? We posed this question to each group in our study and found differences in the way solution providers and vendors weigh the elements that produce opportunity. Solution providers prioritize market demand above financial reward. Vendors, on the other hand, believe that financial rewards are more important than product/brand strength, which improves market demand. Too often, vendors think all their partners care about is how much money they make. In reality, vendors should be asking themselves if they are creating enough value for the partner. If this is not the case, then the partner has to create that value to drive demand and that’s an uphill proposition for the partner.




In our study, we found another disconnect as it relates to solution provider investments. Providers rank unquantifiable relationship elements like resolution of channel conflict, experienced account managers, and trust in the vendor, as factors, which produce the greatest impact to their profitability. However, vendors rank these intangible relationship components as the lowest priority. Creating relationships and removing complexity from how business is conducted can be very expensive for vendors, but it is necessary for improving mindshare and loyalty.


You can get more insight from downloading the complete study, “The What and the Why of Partner Profitability.”