7 key takeaways from the Relevance19 Conference

Oct 8, 2019

Blue and white logo of the Relevance Toronto 2019 - 7 Takeaways from the Relevance19 Channel ConferenceIn late September, a few of us from the GET LIFT team had the opportunity to attending Relevance ‘19, 360insights first-ever channel-focused conference in Toronto. It was a full-day event with over 100 attendees and I’m pleased to say it was definitely worth our time. Here’s one takeaway from each of the speakers. 

1. “For years, a motto often repeated in the Canadian Armed Forces was ‘Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.’ This was a fancy way of saying we should make do with whatever tools we were given.”
– Jody Mitic, author of Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper 


Jody Mitic served in the Canadian Army as a sniper. He lost both of his legs to an IED (improvised explosive device) while fighting in Afghanistan in 2007.

I really enjoyed Jody’s talk that focused on the theme of accountability. It’s a theme that I wish was more prevalent in Channel Marketing as there seems to be a huge opportunity to make partners (and vendors themselves) more accountable for proper use of MDF spend. Over 60% of MDF funds go unused on a quarterly basis and those that do still apply the majority of MDF funds towards items that are very difficult to measure such as events.

Address both issues by allowing partners to use MDF towards building an effective marketing plan that would get approved by you, the vendor. This would increase accountability for partners to reduce random acts of marketing and would help them do more with the tools that they’re given by your organization.

2. “Brand Loyalty is Dead. Customer Loyalty is the New Brand Loyalty” – Sal Patalano, The Patalano Group (formerly CRO – Lenovo Software) 

One recurring theme at this conference was the changing face of the channel towards millennials. I found this fascinating because most channel marketing conferences that I’ve attended tend to skew heavy towards the 45+ crowd. So it was refreshing to see the impassioned pleas by many of the speakers on the importance of recognizing the growing stature of millennials and the importance of appealing to them.

Sal discussed how previous generations would have been loyal to a brand to which their parents would have been loyal. The commitment was almost inherited. However, the new generation of buyers look at a different set of influencers and experiences before they decide to publicly profess their unabashed affection for a brand. Many of these experiences are now conveyed digitally through community platforms or social media and they are not confined to just to the prospect journey. Brands realize that customers often experience “moments of truth” that they will gladly vocalize, either positively or negatively.

According to a 2018 Forbes article, today 89% of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience – up from just 36% in 2010. But while 80% of companies believe they deliver “super experiences,” only 8% of customers agree. In other words, companies have a long way to go. 

So what does this have to do with channel marketing? There are a couple of important considerations:

1) You need to be aligned with your channel partners on what the buyers journey looks like and help them adapt to it. Extend the effort to increase their digital competence so that they can build the pipeline you desire.

2) Many channel partners now have millennials as influential decision makers. Thus, they have an expectation of what it’s like to do business with you. If it’s not a satisfactory experience, they have no qualms about moving to your competition.

Mapping Your Channel Story across The Buyers Journey
Source: Sal Patalano

3. “The vendors that are easier to do business with get 3x share of wallet” – Larry Walsh, CEO and Chief Analyst at the 2112 Group. 

During a panel discussion moderated by Steven Kellam, Larry shared the following stats about channel partners:

  • 57% don’t have a business plan
  • 72% of partners don’t have a marketing plan
  • 65% expect to be treated better by vendors
  • Most notably, the vendors that are easier to do business with get 3x share of their partner’s wallet vs. vendors who are difficult to work with

During the session, the speakers shared stories on how they’ve invested in improving the experience for their respective partners. A common tactic was training partners on best practices in digital marketing. While partners are experts in their individual craft, they’re often not experts in marketing. Teaching their chanenel how to be better marketers makes them better partners, earns them more mindshare and moves them up the line card which results in a higher share of wallet.

4. “Advertising is a tax, paid by the unremarkable” and “competency doesn’t create conversations” – Jay Baer, 6-time author, keynote speaker and marketing strategist   

I like both these quotes so much that I decided it wasn’t worth choosing between the two. Jay is a seasoned, savvy marketer and shared a lot of amusing anecdotes to make the points that B2B audiences will discuss and respond to things that are different…and they’ll ignore average.

As audiences wants to be heard and understood, marketers need to ensure they convey empathy first and information second. Information without empathy is simply factual noise. A way to achieve this differentiation is to come up with what Jay called a talk trigger. These are bold, unique differentiators that create conversations with customers and turn them into your advocates.

5 Types of Talk Triggers - Turn Your Customers into Volunteer Marketers; Empathy, Usefulness, Generosity, Speed and Attitude

Source: Jay Baer – Talk Triggers

5. “75% of the channel is going to be millennials in 2024” – Jay McBain, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research and a well-known Channel Expert 

Jay focused his presentation on the changing face of partners, stating that 40% of channel owners plan to retire by 2024 and the millennials will be much more influential.

He also spent a lot of time talking about the importance of building an understanding of the channel community. To steal a SiriusDecisions (now Forrester) term, understand the watering holes of the partners. Find out what they read and where they hang out and at least pay attention to the influencers and their content. Better yet, create a credible presence there. He explains this strategy in much greater detail in this LinkedIn post.

Be Visible Everyday - Thought Leadership. Vendor Communities, Industry Events, Media Communities, Distribution

Source : Jay McBain

6. “Don’t say digital transformation, It makes you sound old” – Janet Schijns , CEO of JS Group 

Digital is the new normal and we need to adapt—or else. Janet made several recommendations on how to adapt, but I really liked her emphasis that digital data will soon be a better indicator of partner success. Examples include:

  • Google keyword ranking
  • Website value
  • Social media influence
  • Prospecting capabilities
  • Demand generation ROI

    She made the case on how to change your channel program requirements to help partners up-level their digital capabilities. Need to find funding for this? Re-allocate the 40% of program benefits that are either unused or undervalued by the channel.

Change your channel program requirements
Source: Janet Schijns

7. “Writing a cheque and saying good luck doesn’t really solve the problem. Invest in people, not in stuff” – Regine Chassagne from Arcade Fire and Co-founder of Kanpe

Regine and her husband, Win Butler, headline the Grammy-winning indy band Arcade Fire. Arcade Fire has donated $1 per ticket, both to Partners In Health and KANPE for every concert since 2005. To date, Arcade Fire has raised over $3 million for Haiti, trained thousands of volunteers and signed up over 40,000 fans.

Regine and Win have certainly done more than simply donate money. As they shared with the CEO of 360Insights, Jason Atkins, they’ve spent a tremendous amount of time investing in programs that help Haitians stand up. These are programs that address really community needs and have high local community engagement in the development and program management. The conference closed with this talk and reminded all of us that we’re fortunate to do what we do and there’s always tremendous value in investing in people.

Kudos to 360Insights on putting together a fantastic event! We’re looking forward to attending again next year.