As the channel adapts to meet the needs and preferences of today’s buyers, there are notable changes taking place. On a recent episode of the Channel Journeys podcast, Jay McBain of Forrester and Rob Spee discussed how new go-to-market and route-to-market strategies such as subscription models and the rise of marketplaces are quickly becoming a driver for both technology vendors and buyers.
In his Forrester blog, McBain describes the shift as a trifurcated channel consisting of three different partner types:
- Transactional Channel: The traditional partner relationship between suppliers and resellers
- Influencer Channel: Consists of affinity partners, referral agents, affiliates, advocates, and ambassadors who help suppliers get in front of customers while on their digital journey.
- Retention Channel: Addresses the need for a focused customer retention effort as technology purchases move to as-a-Service, subscription models with flexible contracts and easy cancellation options.
So what does this channel model shift mean for partner marketing? Read on.
While traditional partner programs are built to support the transactional channel — and in our opinion, these programs need attention to address changing buyer and buyer preferences — there’s a significant opportunity for vendors to provide support directed at partners focused on influencers and customer retention.
Successful Marketing for the Influencer Channel
Younger generations are becoming part of the IT decision-making process, making a new digitally savvy, research-first buyer the norm. With over 65% of sales and marketing touchpoints taking place digitally, and 71% of buyers reaching vendor selection after that digital journey, staying in front of customers is more important than ever. Add to that the sheer volume of questionable, or even untrustworthy, content on the internet, and it becomes clear that the endorsement of a trusted third-party brand is critical to marketing strategy. In fact, 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated into all marketing activities by 2020.* A critical element in effective influencer marketing includes content co-creation, specifically working with your influencers to create content that provides a shared voice and unique perspective of the value your products and services deliver. Effective marketing planning and partnership with your influencers — whether referral agents, affiliates, advocates, ambassadors, or alliance partners — is vital for it to succeed.
And What About the Retention Channel?
As vendors move to subscription, as-a-service delivery models that minimize upfront investments in technology and offer customers the freedom to cancel a contract with minimal financial impact, the need for retention-focused partners becomes increasingly important. As McBain discusses on the Channel Journeys podcast, these partners — consultants, integrators, ISVs — work with customers to ensure technology adoption, provide integration with existing technology and business processes, deliver training, and focus on overall customer satisfaction. They also lead upselling and cross-selling opportunities, specifically recommending additional tools and resources to further secure entanglement. From a marketing perspective, channel marketers must work with these partners to provide content, tools, and resources that assist in customer retention efforts while at the same time reinforcing the brand value proposition and additional solutions that benefit customers. Ideally, this effort focuses on joint messaging and content co-creation where suppliers and partners work together to deliver a unified value proposition that benefits both companies.
It’s imperative for channel marketers to reframe partner marketing with a focus on mutual interests and success. Just as a new generation of customers is looking for more personalized experiences, partners are as well. Gone are the days when a partner was simply selling your product. Today’s partner wants to build their own brand, with your technology as part of their solution.
Where to start? Get clear on where your partner channel stands today with the help of McBain’s trifurcation model, and identify opportunities to uplevel your marketing efforts to optimize the value different partner types deliver to your bottom line. If needed, start small by focusing on a few strategic partners and build best practices from there. A B2B tech-focused agency, like Yeager, is a valuable partner to get this important work done. Contact us to learn more.
* Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing (TopRank, Altimeter, Traackr)