As a Marketing leader, are you consistently disappointed in the return you receive on your investment in partner marketing? The solution might lie in a closer examination of the types of partners you’re working with. Partner “types” are quite different and should be supported differently from the marketing perspective.

Companies often sign up channel partners without considering how they fit into a holistic go-to-market strategy.  As a result, Marketing leaders often find themselves trying to deliver one-size-fits-all marketing support to a complex web of channel partners that bear no resemblance to one another.  World-class companies offer marketing support to their channel partners that is customized to fit the unique attributes of each of those partners.


In her recent article, 3 Steps to Drive More Return on Your Partner Marketing Investment’, Sara Winkle writes about how your partner marketing budget should be driven by the segmentation of your channel partners.  She addresses questions about how much of your marketing budget should be allocated to the indirect channel vs. direct and discusses how different partners require different levels of support based on their own internal capabilities.


But what other questions should you be asking to guide the optimal marketing support for each of your channel partners?


  • What are you looking to get from your partners? Expanded geographical reach?  New logo sales?  Service & support?  Some combination of all of these things?
  • How does each partner fit into your overall growth strategy going forward? As your company evolves, will some grow in importance while others become less critical?
  • What “type” of partners are you working with?


This last question might seem intuitive but is one that sometimes deserves a higher level of scrutiny.


Download 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.


Download the Partner Marketing Budget Tool Here


What “Type” of Channel Partners Do You Use?


There are numerous different types of channel partners, but the majority can fit into one of the categories below:


  • Reseller Partner
  • Distributor
  • Professional Services Partner
  • Support Partner
  • OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)


Many companies, especially those with a complex web of products sold across numerous geographical regions, use some combination of different partner types.  Although too often, these different partner types are provided with the same forms of Marketing support.  In reality, some partners might need help drumming up new demand, while others might require more enablement support or commercial tools & infrastructure.


The most sophisticated Marketing departments budget their partner marketing spend by partner type and are prescriptive in what kind of support they deliver to each partner.  One of these partner types above is very likely the most important to you making your number and is most important to meeting your strategic objectives. This partner type should receive a larger share of your budget.


Marketing Support Should Vary Not Only By Type But Also By Level


Another common mistake made by Marketing leaders who work with channel partners is that they don’t account for different levels of partners.  A ‘peanut butter spread’ of your partner Marketing budget is a recipe for wasted dollars and ineffective channel performance.  Different levels of partners should receive different levels of Marketing support.


As a Marketing leader, you should always have an accurate picture of who your most important partners are – a literal stack-ranking of partners in order of importance.  A key to understanding partner importance is a detailed segmentation within each partner type.  This segmentation should reflect how closely each partner fits your “Ideal Partner Profile,” and should go much deeper than strictly the current revenue that they’re generating.  How important are they to your forward-looking strategy?  How effective will they be in helping you launch a new product, or to break into a new vertical?


Bringing It All Together


As detailed above, follow the steps below to improve the performance of your channel partners:


  1. Download the Partner Marketing Budget Calculator to determine the right level of investment in partner marketing.
  2. Identify the different types of channel partners you’re working with, how important each is to your business, and what category of support is most important to each type.
  3. Break up your partner marketing budget by partner type.
  4. Within each type, segment your partners into different levels based on their fit to your ideal partner profile.
  5. Within each type, assign budget by partner level.


Download the Partner Marketing Budget Tool Here


To go more in-depth on how you can better invest your partner marketing dollars, contact an SBI Marketing expert here and ask about the possibility of a virtual workshop to help you set the foundation for your annual planning cycle this fall.


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Chad Wittenborn

Bringing growth leaders into alignment around emerging best practices, enabling them to outpace their competitors and make their number.

Chad deploys a highly analytical approach, leveraging a background heavy on growth strategy, sales effectiveness, and operations, to drive top-line revenue growth.  Prior to joining SBI, Chad held a variety of growth leadership roles in industries ranging from Manufacturing to Healthcare.  He has worked closely with sales, marketing, and operations leaders to identify obstacles to growth and to execute initiatives to overcome those barriers. Chad has delivered results by leading projects involving structural transformations of sales organizations, new service line launches, incentive plan overhauls, performance management programs, and CRM implementation and adoption.

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