Selling through partners and distributors is an oft-favoured model of growing the business. However, many companies struggle to determine and operationalise campaigns to keep those partners active and productive.
Relationships between channel partners, system integrators, and technology vendors are in chaos due to the rise of cloud, virtualisation, and software-defined everything. Tech vendors are marketing their offers directly to end customers, creating a channel conflict. Although larger system integrators, ISV, and channel partners can draw on vertical-specific business capabilities and their on-the-ground relationships for the enterprise market, their midmarket counterparts are becoming irrelevant as SaaS and IaaS go mainstream. Marketers from both vendors and channels face a monumental challenge to focus on a unique value proposition in this chaotic market. But still, partner marketing remains a neglected branch of B2B marketing initiatives despite being one of its most important. Here are five ways to energise partner marketing and enable partners to sell more effectively.
1. Remember – you are not their priority; their own business is their priority.
Vendors assume that their products and solutions are as important to their partners as they are to them. But partners and distributors are only interested in their profit and their top line. As a result, they often deal with multiple partners and distribute products from many different companies. Grab their mindshare by simplifying their task of selling and supporting your products and avoid relegating your products and solutions to the bottom of their priorities. Having clear and compelling marketing collateral also gives distributors the resources they need, when they need them, to sell your products effectively.
2. Simplify and make it easy for them to communicate your value propositions to the end customers
First, work out the content marketing proposition of your products. Then, assess how easy it will be for your partners to adopt that and present it to your clients. This includes even minute details like slide sets, case studies, and eBooks. Marketing and product collateral like these makes your partners more effective and efficient in selling your product. In tandem, have an easily accessible location for these resources. It could be an Intranet or a partner portal that is constantly updated with the latest information like pricing and technical specifications – information that partners often receive much later after the change has been implemented. Timely information is the best information.
3. Create and constantly update an Onboarding Kit
When a new partner joins you, present them with an onboarding kit containing all the essential information they need like pricing, sales playbooks, cheat sheets, competitive selling info, where they can get training resources, and how they can contact you. This works like magic, and you have the added benefit of having presented a professional image of your company to your partners, boosting their confidence in your ability to support them in selling your products. It would also attract more value-added and premium distributors to join you.
4. Not just MDF – have a co-marketing strategy.
A co-marketing strategy, while beneficial to all parties, is also rather challenging to provide and implement. There are multiple stakeholders on both sides. A multitude of branding-related issues, amongst which logo placement guidelines, level of customisation allowed for different marketing collaterals, what can and can’t be changed, all need to be discussed. Document these well before embarking on a co-marketing strategy to avoid any miscommunication. Often, vendors forget that their channel partners do not have the same level of resources as they do. Therefore, a consultative approach to handhold and develop co-marketing is an effective strategy. As they may be selling and marketing many other products over and above yours, the smoother you make this process, the more mindshare you claim, resulting in better revenue share from your partner.
5. Listen to feedback and adapt.
Bear in mind that your partners directly touch your customers. They have their ears on the ground and direct feedback from your end customers. You can make better decisions by listening to your partners and adapting your marketing strategy based on their inputs. This would range from content marketing to what kind of slide sets and case studies work and what more you can do.
Do you have other strategies you’ve employed in marketing to partners? Please add to the discussion.