What are the 3 biggest trends for channel marketers in 2023?

Channel marketers will face some unique circumstances in 2023. That’s according to the founders of Coterie Community, who weighed in on what will matter to marketers over the next 12 months.

A dedicated forum for partner and channel marketers, Coterie Community provides a space to share exclusive research, training, tools, templates and encourage friendly discussion. The not for profit organisation secured funding from Innovate UK in 2021 to support its collaboration with the University of Huddersfield after a joint research report highlighted a lack of support for specialist partner marketers and B2B marketers, and limited marketing innovation.

“One of the main reasons for starting the community was to provide independent support for our members. We get together and discuss the challenges— and solutions — we’re going through as channel and partner marketers. There isn’t another place for us to do this,” says Helen Curtis, founder of the Coterie Community.

The 3 top channel marketing trends this year

1.     Sustainability

One trend that marketers will need to navigate in 2023 is sustainability. Rob Reynolds, Head of Channel Marketing at Verizon Business Group, noted that the topic is on everyone’s minds — from partners to colleagues:

We’re now at an action stage – it’s got to be about more than just good intentions or strategy with no substance. Businesses must align their strategy to sustainability and be actively pursuing ESG targets if they want to generate value.”

However, James Houselander, Senior EMEA Channel Marketing Manager at HPE Aruba, commented that sustainability will look different across organisations. “There isn’t a single ‘right’ solution to addressing sustainability and ESG issues, so as well as being a key trend, this is also going to be a challenge in 2023. For channel marketers, getting to grips with compliance, and then using that to help drive competitive advantage could make a real difference,” he said.

Jon Collins, VP of Research at independent analyst firm GiGaOm, agreed: “Sustainability and broader ESG don’t have to be seen as a cost, there’s value to be had in how a business addresses the needs of its stakeholders, and how that translates into benefits across the board, from brand equity to bottom-line impact. Key is measurability, so it’s important that channel organisations see a role for impactful sustainability, rather than in marketing alone.”

2.   Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) and the Ecosystem

The second major trend highlighted by the Coterie Community is the acceleration of Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS). Consequently, the pressure is on for channel marketers, as Lily Lazarevski, Senior Global Channel Marketing Manager at Infoblox, explained:

“With the ongoing industry shift to XaaS and revenue spread over a longer period, more subscription deals are needed to equal the pre-Xaas revenue and mitigate churn. For channel marketers, this means more marketing is needed to fill the funnel faster as we look to greater collaboration with our partners to help increase awareness, reach, and drive pipeline velocity in a noisy marketplace.

“This year there will need to be greater ecosystem collaboration to create coverage and scale for complex solutions. As XaaS grows, partners are increasingly challenged to master the variety of technologies required by their customers. Success will require the entire partner ecosystem to work in a matrixed model to create, sell and market comprehensive solutions that deliver customer value.”

Lazarevski added that vendors must provide compelling value drivers focused on partner success, building competencies, and strive to drive greater ease of doing business together to attract and retain top-performing partners.

“This will increasingly drive channel marketers to get hands-on and do a bit of everything,” added Barnaby Wood, EMEA Product Management at Veritas Technologies. “The internal ecosystems around channel GTM are not robust. We need to focus next year on increasing our alignment with sales, educating the entire business on ‘why channel marketing?’, and making the whole process more collaborative and effective.” 

Colleen Fogerty, Global Head of Partner and Ecosystem Marketing at Atos Tech Foundations, also highlighted the importance of the ecosystem in 2023. “What Atos does well are huge, complex, secure, and often highly confidential IT projects. So, taking a small piece of this solution and a small part of that and running lots of little partner campaigns is just a bit boring and less compelling. It also doesn’t differentiate us. This is why we need to shift from partner-by-partner in 2023 to ecosystem marketing. We need to communicate collectively about what differentiates us from our competitors –this is what ecosystem partner marketing is all about,” she said.

3.   Resilience is key

Ultimately, the Coterie Community said resilience is key for channel marketers next year. As the economy tightens, there will be more requirements than ever to continually justify channel marketing roles, demonstrate ROI and invest in the right things.

“This will in turn make us think more creatively and be innovative about where and how we spend our budgets. Technology that alleviates multiple challenges will play a part in this, as well as having a multi-talented team around us,” stated Wood.

Reynolds from Verizon agreed that greater restrictions will encourage channel marketers to prioritise and be agile. “As channel and partner marketers, we have to make sure we have everything prioritised — that means our team focused on the right partners, our budget focused on the right strategy to drive value and our own time doing the things that will help us grow personally and as a business,” he commented.

Heather Meltvedt, Director of Partner and Ecosystem Marketing EMEA LATAM at Palo Alto, added:

“For me, it’s about being focused on less, to do more. It’s easy to get caught up in little things and feel like we have to ‘do’ all the time. But it means you have less time to focus on the things that will have the greatest impact. Doing a lot doesn’t mean anything if you can’t show the ‘so what?’.”

“It looks like channel marketers are in for yet another roller-coaster ride next year,” Curtis concluded. “It will also present a huge opportunity for partner marketers to shake things up, think differently and get channel marketing the recognition, funding and resourcing it needs. Having the community means we can share ideas, connect with peers and learn how to thrive in 2023 and beyond.”

Glenn Robertson

Glenn Robertson

CEO of The Channel Agency: Purechannels
Founder of Nuzoo and Viewpoint | Channel Chief | Agency Leader | CRN A-Lister