“I can’t get my partners engaged in our marketing programs!”
We hear it often: how our B2B channel marketing clients struggle with program engagement. While all channel programs benefit from frequent evaluation and innovation, here are three common themes we see in struggling partner marketing programs. By shifting your thinking and your approach, you might just re-energize your channel and draw more interest.
1. You Follow a “Build It and They Will Use It” Approach
While it seems like all of your partners would benefit from DIY marketing tools and resources, it’s rarely the case. There are various levels of marketing sophistication within your channel partners. Some partners have marketing teams while others may only have a single resource or someone stepping in as needed to provide marketing support. We find that marketing savvy partners want to lead with their own branded resources on their channels and platforms of choice. Less marketing-savvy partners need help to use the resources you’re providing such as emails, landing pages and even co-brandable collateral assets.
Your best partners aren’t simply selling your products, they are building practices and services around them. Giving them your assets with a spot to put their logo rarely helps them build their business on their own terms.
Instead: Consider creating a partner marketing program that supports partner needs across a wide spectrum of capabilities, by doing this you become a true marketing partner and an advocate for their success. Identify those partners that are committed to growing their business with you and then determine what marketing support you can offer that will help them achieve your shared goals. Better yet, build the strategy with them so they feel invested in it as much as you do. When those partners have wins, pull more partners in by showcasing those success stories. Through the process, you will most likely find common partner needs, and you can create valuable resources that can be rolled out to all. For partners that need extra support, offer a concierge service with an agency that can help them build results-driven programs that uncover leads and sales opportunities for you and them.
2. You’re Not Building Relationships with Partner Marketers
You launched your new partner marketing program with excitement and celebration at your partner conference. You talk about it at meetings and on calls with partners. You’ve sent emails and shared promotional materials. And still, there’s low engagement. No matter how good of a job you think you’ve done promoting your partner marketing programs, it’s not enough. You have to find a way to cut through the clutter, capture their attention and encourage participation. If your partners have multiple supplier relationships, which may include your competitors, figuring out how to capture their mindshare can be even more difficult. The hard truth here is that none of this will happen if a 1:1 relationship hasn’t been built between your company and your partner marketers.
Instead: While there is no magic formula that guarantees improved participation, building relationships beats impersonal communications in situations like this every single time. In our conversations with partner marketers, the number one reason they focus on one supplier over another is because they have a strong relationship with the supplier rep and feel supported. Start by pursuing a relationship with the person who handles marketing within your partners’ companies. In some cases, a channel account manager will do this with the partner, but it’s important that you do it as well – marketer to marketer. Understand their challenges and get clear on how your marketing program can help them meet their goals. Consider creating a private LinkedIn Group where you can communicate directly and answer questions in a less formal environment. Here, you can announce and remind your partner marketing contacts what’s available to them and how they can benefit. A group like this also enables your marketers to interact with each other to discuss best practices, successes, and ideas that you can incorporate into your support program. If you hold an annual partner meeting, invite your marketing contacts and have an in-person session as well.
3. You Think That You’ve Done Enough to Enable Your Partners
There’s a lot to be said for recruiting right-fit partners, building an incentives-rich partner program, and ensuring that your partners are skilled at selling your products. Putting those foundational elements aside, if your channel isn’t driving the revenue it should, marketing needs to be considered. Both buyers and buying preferences are changing. Over 65% of sales and marketing touch points are digital with 71% of buyers reaching vendor selection after that digital journey. According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers‚ each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently. How can you help partners navigate these marketing and sales challenges?
Instead: Partner enablement in today’s complex marketing and selling environment needs to be prescriptive, encompassing aspects of the new buyer journey such as persona-based messaging and helping partners build a strong online presence. Consider working with partners to understand their marketing and selling motions and get clear on what’s working and what may be lacking. An effective partner program should provide support for how buyers find and evaluate vendors and provide partners tools and resources to be competitive in marketing and converting leads for your products. A strategic agency partner can be an excellent resource to help your partners stay competitive online and create content to support the buyer journey.
Channel is a great opportunity for marketing and sales to work together to improve performance on both sides to create success for you, the partner and the customer. If you’re employing a generic, dated approach to working with partners, now is the time to rethink your strategy.
If you’re struggling to get partners engaged in your partner marketing programs, you are not alone. Yeager offers a FREE 30-minute consultation that can help you identify marketing services and support to keep your partners’ competitive.