5 ingredients for a channel marketing strategy that works
If you've decided you need a channel partner marketing strategy then you'll have no doubt ring-fenced a sum of money to invest. While it may have been hard to persuade people to fund marketing, now comes the really hard part - making the investment work.
We've worked with numerous channel companies big and small, national and international all at different stages of their growth, and these are the five things we always recommend.
1. Be accessible
Lots of partner programmes are complicated and buried in websites. If you want to recruit partners then you need to:
Make it easy to find out about working with you and what you look for in a partner.
Clear how the programme operates, especially if it has different tiers.
Communicate the benefits clearly.
Make it easy to sign up.
If you fail to get this part right then no amount of marketing will help you attract and retain great partners. We always encourage an evaluation of the programme and the way it is presented before you do anything else.
2. Make it easy to promote your brand
If your plan is to win market share then you need to make it as easy as possible for partners to sell your brand. After all, you are not going to be an exclusive partner and will be competing for the sales team's time and energy.
There are two parts to solving this. The first is to give partners all the information and the tools they need to sell your brand. This includes training on the issues your products and services solve, through to marketing brochures they insert their logo and contact details into, to support services that help get a sale over the line, such as access to a sales consultant to help draw up quotes.
The second is to make it easy for their customers to understand why you and why the partner. Work with your partners to build a story that shows not just why your product but why your partner is the best one to buy it from. There are things you can do to help.
For instance, do you need to work with the partner to create a unique after sales model that makes them stand out? Will they need technical support such as help with system integration? Or will an incentive for orders over a certain value encourage consideration of your brand over others?
Ultimately you are asking: "What will give different partners the edge?" Get this right and you'll create more goodwill to sell the product over and above commission rates.
3. Do the thinking for your partners
Partners don't always have much or any marketing resource so the more you can hand them on a plate the better. Think about creating promotional campaigns for products or services that they can pick up and run with without much effort. If you can provide the outbound email template and copy, the landing page and the online banner adverts then you're well on your way to success.
It doesn't have to be complex either - it could be a monthly email newsletter with offers and information about new products that you write and they brand.
4. Invest in people as well as assets
You need to constantly stay front of mind to be in the running for sales and to stay competitive. So consider things like sales incentives and training events that will keep the sales teams energised and engaged. Assets will help them do their job, but helping them do their job brilliantly is where you can differentiate.
5. Measure success and keep at it
Some marketing activity will work brilliantly for everyone all of the time. Some initiatives will work for others some of the time, some won't work at all, and some ideas will have impact at launch but need lots of continued investment to keep them alive and deliver an ROI.
All have their pros and cons so continually assess what works for you, and what works for others, and use your insight to identify what you need to adjust so you have a channel marketing programme that builds results and sustains them.