You Chose to Work With Channel Partners for a Reason
At some point in your company’s evolution, you made the strategic decision to work with channel partners. Maybe these partners had better brand recognition. Perhaps you needed to scale without the added cost of in-house sales teams. Possibly, these partners had more customer reach, could help you enter new markets, or sold complimentary products. Whatever it was, you saw something in them that you needed to grow your business.
And the feeling was mutual. These partners saw something in you, too. They believed in your company, your product, your people, or your brand. Whatever they saw, they took a chance on you to grow their businesses, too.
What you created was a mutually beneficial relationship with shared goals. Sometimes your intentions may have been at odds with each other, but ultimately, the more your partners grew, the more you could grow with them. But as anyone with a strong partnership can tell you, you have to work hard to maintain it. And if you don’t, your competitors have likely been courting your top partners and are ready to take your place should you take them for granted.
How do you know if you’re investing enough of your marketing budget into the partner relationship? Download the Partner Marketing Budget Calculator to find out. Once you understand the opportunities in your budget, you can fine-tune its allocation to drive increased partner ROI.
Step 1: Know Where to Invest Your Time
Your business has a finite number of resources to give, and your marketing budget is likely underfunded as it is. How can we be advocating that you spend more of your marketing resources outside of your organization?
Simply put, we’re not. Some of your partners likely do need more attention, but others don’t. Some you will want to fuel growth through more marketing contribution, and others likely aren’t doing your business any favors.
This is where partner segmentation comes into play. Much like customer segmentation, with partner segmentation, you define who your ideal partners are. What are those characteristics that make an investment more likely to be fruitful?
Partner segmentation doesn’t just help you define your ideal partner profile. It also helps you determine who has been proving their worth or who could be a stronger partnership with more incentives and investment on your end. Ultimately, defining your ideal partners and segmenting them by potential helps you devote more of your resources, attention, and energies where they will drive the most return on your marketing investment.
Step 2: Determine How Marketing Can Support Your Partners
Once you’ve identified your top partners, it’s important to understand that they will need varying levels of support from your marketing team. Depending on your partners’ levels of marketing expertise and marketing staff, they may have marketing down to an artful science and just need more budget from you. Or they may have a complete lack of any marketing savvy and require guidance, tools, and budget.
And don’t underestimate your partners’ desire for more marketing help. A recent client’s partner expressed that they would rather have marketing support than sales support. They had the sales staff and expertise, but what they really lacked was a marketing team – someone to design, run, and monitor campaigns while keeping their sales staff fresh on product positioning and win strategies.
Your partners will likely fall under one of these categories:
- Self-sufficient: give them the branded assets, syndicated content, or funding, and they’ll run everything on their own.
- Do it themselves: provide them with the content with the ability to co-brand and customize and the tools to execute the programs.
- Do it for them: give them customizable content and options for co-branded programs that they can opt-in to “set and forget.”
- On their behalf: conduct localized co-branded marketing programs without their involvement and pass over the leads.
Partners may also need a different approach depending on where they are in your partner lifecycle and the potential growth you see when you segment them:
- Partners with high growth potential – could they be selling more if they had more enablement and understanding about your business’s solutions and their associated value propositions?
- New partners – are they able to ramp to productivity quickly enough?
- High performing partners – what do they need to stay on top? Are you doing enough to market to them and not just for or with them?
Step 3: Create a Positive Feedback Loop
The more closely your marketing team works with your top partners, the more you will get to know the end customer.
As you open your marketing strategy and insights up to ideal partners, you can encourage more customer data sharing by showing your partners what you can do with it. This encourages them to share more customer data to get the marketing funds, and in turn, you can aggregate this data and share it with your top partners to let them know what’s working (and what isn’t). This feedback loop can lead to a faster understanding of market & competitor trends and shifts in buyer behavior, making you and your partners more responsive and more likely to win the deals.
No matter what type of partner marketing strategy you take with your partners, you need to make sure you set yourself up to collect the customer data and provide that positive feedback loop with your top partners. Simply taking data in is a great research project, but it’s not actionable without sharing back. This feedback loop will bring you:
- Loyalty – it shows partners you’re serious and committed, making them more likely to commit (and share critical data) too.
- Visibility – you’ll see what deals are in the pipeline sooner, having greater visibility & control over forecasting and the ability to support your partners in critical deals.
- Revenue – with greater visibility, you will be able to support your partners in critical deals and increase win rates. And you can also make corrections sooner because your loyal partners will be open to feedback and adjustments.
Evaluating and adjusting your partner marketing strategy doesn’t have to be guess and check. By defining your ideal partner and identifying how they need marketing support, you can create a positive feedback loop with your top partners to drive loyalty, visibility, and revenue.
Get started by downloading the Partner Marketing Budget Calculator. It will help you determine if you are allocating the right amount of your marketing dollars between your sales teams and partner channels.