For some companies, engaging their channel partners to generate sales is critical for the long-term growth of their business. Take Cisco for example, which has approximately 60,000 channel partners selling their products, representing around 85% of their revenue.
With so much on the line when it comes to selling through channel partners, you can bet that Cisco has a top-notch channel partner marketing strategy. So why should you be any different? The opportunity is there to drive excellent results from your channel partners, even if they don’t account for a large part of your business, but especially if they do.
There are a few simple ways to improve your channel partner marketing that can make a huge impact. On the other hand, keep in mind that a truly robust channel partner marketing strategy (such as those you might see with large-scale organizations like HP and Xerox) go beyond quick wins and look for long-term solutions.
That said, long-term solutions need to start somewhere, so here are four things that you can begin now to drive more results from your channel partner marketing.
1. Better Brand Compliance Leads To Stronger Marketing
Brand compliance is a huge issue for corporate marketing teams all over the world—not just for channel partners, but in the franchising and licensing spaces, as well. Having distributors, franchisees, or channel partners going rogue with your brand can undo much of the hard work you and your team have put into building a consistent brand. If the problem is widespread, it can make your brand look as though it is several different companies altogether. Fundamentally, your channel partners only have the best intentions. After all, they’re trying to sell YOUR products.
Your first order of business to improve your channel partner brand compliance should be to refine your brand guidelines. If you see material which is way off base from your current branding, then that is a good sign that your channel partners are uneducated about your brand standards, and thus aren't following them.
Many organizations might think that merely creating a “brand standards guide” would fix the problem; however, brand standards guides are just a tool in a larger brand compliance strategy. The key to making sure your brand standards are being followed and digested is to communicate clearly and often. Precisely how this will is executed will vary depending on the size and scope of your channel partner network.
In your communications to channel partners, help them understand the value of cohesive and quality branding and its impact on them. Let them know that there are good reasons for the marketing decisions you have made and that these decisions are in their best interest. When a piece of marketing material is created outside of the guidelines that you set out, it won’t be as effective as it could be. This will impact their sales (not to mention yours). Off-brand material can also negatively impact channel partners in other areas, creating a ripple effect for your brand and network as a whole.
To take the objective of increased brand compliance one step further, having corporate-approved materials readily available in an online hub, that are easily customized and used at a local level, goes a long way in taking the guesswork out of brand compliance. There, channel partners and local teams would be able to access all of the material they need in a variety of formats (print, web, social), making the brand standards that you set out even more foolproof and practical. Then, local teams can focus on what they do best instead of worrying about design and marketing.
2. Get The Tools You Need to Derive Actionable Insights from Your Data
To produce content that drives the best results, you’re going to need to have access to the best data you can get. When you have more accurate and integrated data, you’re in a better position to make smarter decisions about the marketing material you’re arming your channel partners with.
Gaining access to more in-depth data regarding your channel partner marketing often requires a software investment, but can be well worth it as long as you choose marketing software that best fits your business.
Before getting too deep into the procurement process, it's important to figure out exactly what you need from a software and what you want to measure, then find a solution that fits your needs. You don’t want to put a ton of effort into sourcing a software and going through the procurement process only to find out in the last mile that it’s not a great fit for your organization.
Start with figuring out what you want to measure. In the case of channel partner marketing, gaining insight into which materials and campaigns are resonating best with your channel partners and their local audiences are highly sought after insights which are not easy to measure without the right tools. This type of data will allow you to quickly pivot your channel marketing strategy in the right direction based on that works and what doesn't.
Then, it's essential to find out what you’ll need from an organizational standpoint. What barriers are there to a marketing platform adoption within your organization and amongst your channel partners?
How will it fit in with your current tech stack? A software's fit within your tech stack can be an overlooked point in some organizations. Orphaned and isolated software can impact the accuracy of its data and the adoption of that software in an organization. Your IT team will appreciate software that plays well with what you’re already using.
3. Add a Personal Touch
As we touched on earlier, maintaining brand compliance is a huge issue for corporate teams with channel partners. At the same time, cutting through the noise and connecting with customers on a 1-1 level is an issue for teams on the ground (including channel partners). In fact, a report entitled “The Realities of Online Personalization” showed that marketers who consistently implemented personalized experiences saw an average of 19% uplift in sales. These results illustrate the need to equip your channel partners with marketing content that they can easily personalize for their prospects.
So how do you walk that fine line between compliant material, and allowing your teams to add a personal touch to your marketing materials?
Well, you can start with both your email and direct mail tactics, and move to more elaborate types of personalized communication from there. Just adding the “first name” merge tag in your emails (both body and subject line) can increase your click-through rate by 14%. The same tactic works for direct mail, where 84% of customers said they were more likely to open personalized mail. Another simple email tactic would be to further segment your email marketing lists to be more tailored to your customer's specific product needs or website activity, as emails to targeted to particular segments account for 58% of the revenue compared to other types of emails.
Helping your channel partners implement those simple tactics can lead to some quick gains from both online and traditional types of communication. The strategies that often work best are those that go above and beyond simple tactics and focus on implementing robust personalization methods, as well as empowering channel partners to include their local expertise at scale. You can learn even more about implementing personalization at scale here.
4. Knowledge is Power!
How knowledgeable are your channel partners when it comes to how to promote your products? A little sales enablement and education can go a long way to ensuring that your products are sold and marketed effectively to prospects.
Communicate with your channel partners and offer them the information they need to sell effectively. Don’t just assume they know everything that you do about your products and organization. Are they aware of how you’d like the products pitched to prospects, and to which type of prospect? Are they aware of the best features and functions of a particular product?
Communicating openly about the answers to these questions could lead to huge gains in sales for your channel partners. Be sure to gather your team and put together a communications plan around how you want your products sold by channel partners and what information is critical for them to execute on those sales. For example, recorded webinars that can be accessed live or on-demand can be a cost-effective way of disseminating information, especially when you have a vast channel partner network. These will hold long term value in educating new channel partners as they join your network.
Take Your Channel Partner Marketing to The Next Level
Of course, there are ways to improve your channel partner marketing that require more than a quick solution. These include arming your channel partner teams with the latest versions of your marketing content. From digital to print assets, all of your marketing content should be easy to access and customize as necessary, and provide you with the insight you need to make smarter decisions.
A Distributed Marketing Platform is your best bet for implementing robust strategies involving brand compliance, channel partner marketing performance, digital asset management, and multi-channel campaign customization. Why use a ragtag team of tools to accomplish all of these functions? Consider doing more with less by using an all-in-one platform to empower your channel partners.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Distributed Marketing and learn how a robust distributed marketing strategy (and platform to support it) can help you get the most out of your channel partners and grow your brand on a local level.