When your channel partner marketing strategy includes the right tools and content, you can significantly impact their outcomes while driving growth for them and for you.
If you rely on channel partners to grow your business, it’s worth looking at the latest analysis from CompTIA: of the 137,421 IT channel-oriented providers in the U.S., 88 percent are micro channel firms with nine employees or fewer.
That means that the vast majority of your channel partners are likely to be significantly under-resourced when it comes to marketing your products. They may not have big budgets or high headcounts, but they are highly motivated to succeed. When your channel partner marketing strategy includes the right tools and content, you have an opportunity to significantly impact their outcomes while driving growth for them and for you.
At CoreDial, where I serve as Chief Revenue Officer, we dedicate a significant portion of our marketing focus to Partner Success. Our department serves as a robust resource center that provides digital assets, campaigns-in-a-box and best practices which our partners can leverage as part of our Partner Success Program.
Along the way, we gained insight into the key activities that enable a new level of channel partner marketing success:
Enable channel partners to be better educators
Promotional materials are useful, but your partners also need educational support that helps them fully understand your products and communicate their knowledge to potential customers. For example, education materials need to clearly show how your products stack up to those of your closest competitors–both direct and indirect. In the case of CoreDial, our cloud-based phone system doesn’t just compete with other cloud offerings: it also competes with on-premise phone systems. Arming our channel partners with the knowledge around why CoreDial is a better solution against either type of competitor is critical to helping them close a sale.
Bring hard numbers into your pieces. Collect compelling stats. Channel prospects will ask the hard questions, so make sure your partners have what they need to answer them fully and credibly.
Enable channel partners to be better marketers
As the CompTIA numbers show, many channel partners are likely to have limited marketing resources. Anything you can do to help them polish their skills will make a big difference in their performance. Provide online or real-world training in marketing essentials, such as how to segment the market, develop buyer personas, craft relevant messages for different market segments, build or buy target lists and create a lead pipeline.
At a recent CoreDial event, we polled our audience of channel partners to see if they’d be interested in attending marketing workshops on a range of topics like digital marketing, SEO/SEM, or how to make your website a lead generation tool. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Channel partners are hungry for this type of guidance and training, appreciative of the companies that provide it and eager to put that knowledge to use.
Model great marketing content
Content drives the marketing engine, but only if it’s relevant and engaging. Every company needs to teach its channel partners how to leverage the right content at the right moment in the buyer journey and use it to drive action. But you can also teach by example and model great content in your own channel partner marketing activities.
For example, CoreDial created an interactive Recurring Revenue Estimator for prospective partners to show them what they can earn by offering CoreDial cloud communications under their own brand. Prospects enter figures for the number of customers they have and the number of seats they typically sell, and the calculator uses that data to project the estimated cost and recurring revenue potential as a CoreDial partner.
While the calculator is a popular and effective conversion tool, it also exposes our channel partners to a powerful example of what good content looks like: creative, customized, engaging and helpful.
Tailor the marketing options
Creating great content and gaining access to marketing resources can overwhelm a channel partner with minimal marketing experience.
The importance of any partner marketing program is to help guide partners to the marketing options that work for their experience level and budget, from customizing a single brochure to launching an integrated campaign with email marketing, online advertising and direct mail components. By grouping different marketing resources together in intuitive ways, we want our partners to find options that fit the investment of time and money that they feel comfortable making and the outcomes that they expect.
Instead of giving them the keys to the kingdom and walking away, make sure you tailor a range of options to different budgets and different experience levels.
Make access to channel partner marketing resources frictionless
The easier you make it for channel partners to access and use your marketing resources, the likelier they are to put them to regular use. By making a wide range of content easy to find, available on demand, customizable and actionable, you’ll dramatically increase participation and success rates.
We are currently in the selection phase of a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) tool which will essentially provide an end-to-end solution for our channel partners—from marketing to sales and lead management to being able to manage their CoreDial success points online. For marketing, the portal will be a central repository for pitch decks, email marketing and content templates, SEO recommendations and many other marketing resources in one central location. The platform will even connect to approved printing services, so that partners don’t have to spend time sourcing their own printing companies and can print materials with just a few clicks. We also plan to connect other vendors to the platform, including creative, PR and SEO agencies at price points to fit a range of budgets.
Take it on the road
The strategy to successfully engage and enable channel partners is no different than direct sales. It requires multiple touch points through different communication channels to nurture partner activity to the level you’d consider a “win.” And while there are a whole host of technologies that can help you elevate and scale your channel enablement activities, nothing replaces face-to-face outreach.
While we‘re investing and making great strides in enabling our channel community, our partners are interested in more hands-on marketing workshops as well. Once we’re able to scale our marketing programs, we plan to host marketing workshops that bring small groups of partners together for intensive, hands-on marketing classes. The idea for this approach came from our partners who attended our annual PartnerConnex event.
Here’s the bottom line.
Start small. But start now. Channel enablement has become incredibly sophisticated, with leading edge technologies such as Impartner, Zift and Through-Channel making it possible to create an entire supportive ecosystem that connects partners to everything they need, from content to campaigns to vendors, but that doesn’t have to feel intimidating. Every company starts with a few great, brandable pieces of content and builds from there.
Whatever your channel partner marketing looks like now, you can use these strategies to take it to the next level and start seeing greater returns on your investment in the channel.