Going Digital: How SAP Is Enabling Channel Partner Capabilities

March 11, 2016

October 02, 2015  |  By Monica Dozier

It’s undeniable: Consumers and b-to-b buyers are accessing information 24/7/365 to make buying decisions. And to meet the needs of today’s online buyers, b-to-b marketing has shifted. In the increasingly complex world of digital marketing, effective marketers must create “always on” campaigns for their sales colleagues and customers. Unfortunately, many channel partners lack the digital experience or capabilities to succeed in this digital world. Given parters' lack of digital expertise, how can suppliers enable their partners and help them meet the needs of digital marketing?

Digital MarketingSiriusDecisions research shows that new customer acquisition and expanding customer footprints depend on improved digital capabilities. However, convincing partners to look beyond lunch-and-learns and sporting events in their marketing efforts is usually a hard sell. Most channel partners are sales-oriented and relationship-focused and fail to understand the need for digital marketing.


Suppliers have the expertise and resources to create content to drive the digital buyer’s journey. However, they struggle to get partners to leverage that content. Partners are bombarded with a daily avalanche of marketing education and engagement offers from their suppliers. To enable partner success, suppliers must find a way to communicate the need for digital nurturing activities that support their marketing efforts. So how can suppliers cut through the noise, set themselves apart and help partners improve their digital capabilities?

Empowering Partners in the Increasingly Complex World of Digital Marketing

SiriusDecisions client SAP wanted to assess the current state of digital within its partner ecosystem and identify gaps in organizational competencies and resources. To accomplish this, it decided to approach its partners differently than it had in the past. SAP partnered with SiriusDecisions Consulting to develop an interactive tool designed to enhance digital skills and develop optimal organizational, process, measurement and technology skills in its partner base.

Launched less than two months ago, the SAP Blueprint for Digital Marketing Success allows partners to go online, self-assess and improve their digital readiness and capabilities. SiriusDecisions and SAP used the recently launched SiriusDecisions Digital Capabilities Model as part of the SiriusDecisions Digital Transformation Framework to develop an interactive tool for SAP’s partners. And it’s already generating results.

Through the self-assessment survey, partners can determine their capabilities in the areas of buyer knowledge, digital mindset and process improvement. Following the assessment, the partner receives a score, along with suggested training and education that is pertinent to its particular digital capability. It’s a simple way to find out how to start becoming digitally engaged.

Jennifer Schulze, Vice President of Channel Marketing at SAP, is driving this initiative. According to Schulze, “By partnering with SiriusDecisions, we have created a blueprint that enables our partners to easily focus and prioritize digital efforts. This will not only improve digital capabilities, but also ensure digital marketing is key to business growth. The data will suggest areas of improvement customized for each partner organization. Then, working closely together, we’ll execute on marketing activities to accelerate the partner’s sales.”

Early survey results show that SAP is on the right track in helping its partners become digitally aware. SAP is learning what its ecosystem does well, and what it needs for maximum success.

Early Findings: Many Partners Don’t Feel Ready for Digital

When it comes to buyer awareness, 37 percent of respondents indicated that they know their market and audience. However, their digital mindset shows that they don’t fully understand how to effectively interact with prospects and customers in order to plan and execute digital marketing. And when it comes to process, the numbers are even lower. Only 10 percent of the companies surveyed had complete buy-in into the strategic goals and priorities for digital, and only 14 percent said that they have a process to decide what messages would appeal to customers.

Overall, many partners don’t feel ready for digital. Compared with SiriusDecisions benchmarking data, they rank themselves in the bottom third (20 to 27 percent) for digital compared to the Sirius benchmark respondents, which rank themselves in the top half (55 to 62 percent).

The low scores in process point to a lack of knowledge as to the importance of digital for partners in growing their companies. SAP will continue to use the study data to help by offering everything from value proposition workshops, marketing training and even providing marketing resource relief. By offering training and education tailored to its partners’ capabilities, SAP is helping those partners jump the hurdle in the challenging arena of digital marketing. In addition, SAP is providing a value-add to its partners, which differentiates it from other suppliers.

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