As an international Business-to-Business (B2B) company with an annual
turnover of $2.36 billion (Annual report 2016, p. 21), Belden does not sell its
products directly to customers. Rather it uses distributors also known as
channel partners. This way, the company can easily respond to the customer’s
requests more effectively on a local level. It is worth knowing that channel
partners do not sell a single manufacturer’s products only. Therefore, to
ensure that they will focus on Belden’s products, the company needs to market
(promote) itself to its channel partners. For this purpose, it is usually
required a channel marketing strategy to be developed. Currently, Belden does
not place much importance on channel marketing. To be concrete, within its
Industrial Business Platform, there is one team that consists of two people who
deal with channel marketing. The team is located in the United States and it is
dedicated to Global Channel Marketing. However, due to its location it focuses
mainly on the American market. Besides this, the size of the team is
insufficient to serve the needs of the whole company on a global level. This is
proven by a survey conducted among partners in 2016 which shows that loyalty in
Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) region is decreasing. Based on another
research following the former, the company further identified that among
others, channel marketing and channel partner programs are in need of
investigation. The reason is that for several years, these two areas have not
been considered a priority for Belden. Hence,
the responsible team is unable to provide a clear channel marketing plan that
fits the company’s needs in the different sales regions. Considering this as a
cause, Belden faces the following problem. There is a lack of coherent
structure in the channel marketing activities. As a result, the company misses
out on various opportunities and potential revenues. To express the problem in
monetary terms, the amount of lost revenues throughout one calendar year in the
EMEA region is considered. In order to simplify the sales process for its
channel partners, Belden generates leads also referred to as potential
customers. After contacting the leads who have shown definite interest in the
company’s solutions, it is determined whether a sale can be made. Then, Belden
turns these leads into opportunities with values attached to them and sends
them to channel partners who have to finalise the sale. Out of the
opportunities that have been sent to distributors in 2016, about $3.3mln potential
revenues have been lost (Appendix: Quantification).

After establishing and
quantifying the problem, the following question arises: How can Belden Inc. improve its channel marketing strategy to increase
partner loyalty in EMEA?

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3.2 Student assignment

Throughout the graduation
placement, the student will be part of the Marketing team responsible for the
Industrial Business platform at Belden. Being more specific, the student will
execute tasks provided by the marketing manager to support the team’s workflow.
More importantly, a significant amount of time will be spent on conducting the
research for the purpose of this thesis.

During the work placement, the student will attend events for partners
organised by Belden. To avoid missing out on important information, regular
contact with employees from the Sales and Marketing departments will be
maintained. In turn, the student will share findings from the research to
support their work. In addition, channel partners will also be involved in the
research. This way, more precise results can be obtained and thus better ideas
for improvement will be gathered. Nonetheless, to be able to present adequate
and trustworthy results, the research will look into relevant theories in the
field of partner relationship and loyalty.

 

3.3 Project aim

The aim of this project is to deliver a marketing plan that can help Belden
improve its approach in regards to their channel partners (distributors). The
main idea would be to increase partners’ loyalty which would ultimately reduce
the fail rate of forwarded opportunities and thus increase sales. This is aimed
to be achieved by improving the overall channel partners’ experience with the
organisation which has already been discovered to be lacking. To do this,
concrete suggestions on marketing activities which can be implemented into the
channel marketing strategy will be provided. Additionally, ideas on how to make
the partners feel involved, committed and meaningful to the organisation will
be presented. These will be included in the marketing plan which is to be
delivered in the end of the report. The following is aimed to be used or considered
by the Industrial Marketing manager and the Marketing team of Belden Inc.
Moreover, the geographical scope of this research encompasses the EMEA region
solely with a focus on the Industrial Business Platform.

 

3.4 Research approach

After defining the problem, the aim and the scope of the project, the
research approach will be outlined. In order to make it clearer for both the
writer and the reader, the following approach will be used. First, an
understanding of the current situation in regards to Belden’s channel marketing
activities will be obtained. Secondly, best channel marketing practices will be
identified. Thirdly, the channel marketing efforts of the company’s biggest
competitors will be looked at. Thus, one would be able to see what Belden needs
to work on which will serve as a basis for further suggestions. Referring to
the aforementioned approach, the following questions need to be answered.

 

a/  How
does the company’s overall marketing strategy look like?

This will
help to understand what the company considers to be important for them. Also,
it will show how they plan to reach their customers and what the company goals
are. Overall understanding of how they get things done including the current
channel marketing activities. To get that information, an interview with the
marketing manager will be conducted. Furthermore, the company’s database will
be explored using desk research. This question will make use of the 4P’s
Marketing Mix model. The model will help simplify the research and only focus
on what is relevant to fully understand the company’s marketing strategy. The results from this research activity will
be considered in order to create a consistent final deliverable at the end.

 

b/ How do channel partners perceive the current
marketing activities?

This question will help determine to what extent
the activities at the moment correspond to the partners needs and whether these
activities are successful. Here primary research by means of personal
interviews will be executed among partners from different countries within the
EMEA region. Moreover, the research will focus on those partners that have
generated the most of the revenue for Belden up until August 2017. The
qualitative analysis of their responses will give some ideas on improvements
that can be made.

c/ What are the best practices
in channel marketing introduced by World Class B2B companies?

This
question observes the best practices in the field of channel marketing. More
concretely, its purpose is to inform about what practices are out there that
have been proven to be successful. Furthermore, it looks into multinational
companies from the B2B sector. The aim is to find out what do other companies
who sell their products through intermediaries do for their channel partners.
The results will show on a general scale what Belden could be doing in respect
to its distributors. The principle used here is “In order to be the best, you
must learn from the best”.

d/ How do industry competitors of Belden design
their channel marketing activities?

For the last question, the research will
concentrate on how industry competitors deal with channel marketing. To avoid
misunderstandings, industry competitors are the company’s direct competitors.
More concretely, these are companies that produce and sell similar to Belden’s
products in the same markets. The point is to understand the competitors’
partner programs and the relationship the competitors have with their partners.
The results will show what direct competitors do to reach their customers and
what Belden does not do currently. Thus, ideas on other possible measures that
the company has not implemented yet will be obtained.

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