When it comes to Partner Marketing, the main focus, if there’s any focus at all, is often on making sure that your partners have the playbooks, tools, understanding, and marketing funds to sell your company’s products. But how much are you taking into consideration the stage of that partner’s journey with you to inform your partner marketing strategy? Depending on where partners are in their partner journey, your partner marketing strategy should adapt to the varying needs of partners in their lifecycle.
Download the Partner Journey Map Template to identify where your partner marketing strategy may be letting down your partners – and your marketing strategy.
Supporting Partners Through Each Stage of the Journey
As marketers, we are well aware of the customer journey map – how a prospect moves through the stages of awareness, consideration, and purchase to become our customers and how marketing should respond to the unique needs of customers at each stage. But we seldom consider the journeys that our partners take as they become aware of us, consider working with us, and are supported as they become part of our ecosystem. How can marketers support each stage of the process to ensure that you are attracting, retaining, and growing key partnerships?
Before you consider the stages of the journey, consider who your ideal partners are. This will help focus on the partners with whom you want to form partnerships and yield the most return on your partner marketing investment. It will also help you define where to double-down those partner marketing dollars to drive more return on your partner marketing investment as the partnership progresses.
Stage 1: Awareness – Build Potential Partner Curiosity
As you define (or have defined) your ideal partners, you may identify some gaps in your strategy. Perhaps you outlined growth in a specific geography or industry for which you don’t have the sales capabilities or reach. Who are the potential partners who could fill the gaps in your partner strategy? During this stage of the partner journey, marketing should be focused on identifying and growing awareness with these potential ideal partners. Marketing needs to make sure that they have the content in the right channels to answer questions such as:
- Who is this company?
- How are their solutions performing in the market?
- How does their partner program work, and would it work for my business?
Building awareness and curiosity about your brand and your partner brand are critical to attracting the right-fit partners.
Stage 2: Consideration – Turn Curiosity into Excitement (and a Close)
As potential partners move into the consideration stage, your marketing efforts should be directed towards turning their curiosity into clarity and excitement. You will need to make sure that your content and marketing activities are centered around helping potential partners understand the pros and cons of partnering with your company and what the cost of inaction could mean to them.
Potential partners are likely wondering:
- Can I grow my business with them?
- Will their solutions be a complement to my portfolio?
- How easy will it be to learn and sell their solutions?
Stage 3: Onboarding – Create a Smooth Transition into Selling
Once you’ve identified new partners, your next focus is to smoothly transition them to selling your solutions. Your partner program teams will be focused on making sure partners can access the tools and platforms to integrate into your ecosystem. On the marketing front, make sure that partners are able to understand and clearly articulate the value proposition of your solutions.
Make sure you can help them answer questions such as:
- What is the underlying value proposition of the solutions?
- How should my team differentiate these solutions in the market?
- What is my role in the selling ecosystem?
- Who can my sellers rely on for training and sales assistance?
Stages 4 and 5: Partnering and Expanding – Extend Your Partners’ Capabilities and Reach
Marketing’s support of partners is likely most prominent in these next two stages. Contributing to partner enablement through playbooks, job aids, and new solution materials are all within your likely purview. You may even be working with them to develop campaigns, assets, and co-hosted events to drive mutual success.
But you also have an opportunity to continue marketing to partners and not just for or with them. Your partners may be wondering:
- How do I compare to other partners?
- Is this partnership as effective as I had expected?
- Are there other markets I could be selling into?
These phases are where you can confirm for them that they have made a sound decision to partner with you. Use regular communications to establish clarity on how they’re performing and how you plan to continue to drive mutual growth.
Stage 6: Sunsetting – Create an Advocate in the Partner Community
As Chaucer once penned, everything must come to an end. And at some point, your partnerships will, too. The most critical component of this stage is creating an advocate rather than an adversary. When it comes to your partner relationship brand, what will former partners say about your company? Make sure that the partnership ends on a high note by providing them with offboarding clarity and reminding them of the successes you generated together. It may be hard to lose a top partner, but when you do, make sure that they aren’t left wondering if they would recommend you after the partnership has ended.
Support at Each Step of the Journey
Partner Marketing should be supporting the partner ecosystem from sunrise to sunset. Understanding who your ideal partners are and how to support them throughout their partner journey are critical first steps to increasing your partner marketing effectiveness. And once you’ve mapped your journey, consider how to adapt it to suit your ideal partners and potential partners. In his recent article “Is Your Partner Marketing Strategy One-Size-Fits-All,” Chad Wittenborn discusses how to adjust your marketing tactics to fit specific partnership needs.
Start transforming your Partner Marketing strategy today by downloading the Partner Journey Map Template. It will help identify where you may have gaps in supporting partners throughout the partnership lifecycle and how you can support them through each step of the journey.