Channel partner marketing is one of the most potent tools available to enterprise marketers. By empowering your channel partners to create their own, brand-compliant marketing materials, you’re enlisting the passion and knowledge of people who know your product inside and out and who also know how to connect on a personal level with their local customers.
But as we all know, being a product expert doesn’t automatically translate to knowing how to market that product successfully. This is why channel partner marketing can be so powerful—you combine the marketing expertise of your corporate team with your external teams’ insights into their local markets. In order to make this symbiotic relationship work to its fullest potential, you need a comprehensive channel partner marketing plan.
While every channel partner marketing plan is different, depending on the needs of the organization and the type of audience it’s trying to connect with, there are some universal best practices. Without further ado, here are the four essential components of a highly effective channel partner marketing plan.
1. Strategic Information About Your Products and Services
Your channel partners might know everything required to sell your products effectively, but they likely don’t have full insight into why your products are sold the way they are, or what your plans for the future are. In order for your channel partners to market these products most effectively, they need to be brought up to speed.
If you’re like most enterprise marketers, you know which aspects of your business are doing well and which could be improved. You’re also making decisions every day that impact the day-to-day operations of your local offices/branches/outlets. Communicating this information to your channel partners will give them the insight they need to make the right decisions.
This part of your strategy should also include how you envision your products being pitched and sold to customers. Help your partners understand your target buyer personas and the way your products and brand should be positioned to meet their needs. You’ll find that there are significantly fewer issues with brand compliance when people fully understand the reasons for the guidelines, and if you haven’t already done this exercise elsewhere, it will be very useful for your corporate marketing efforts as well.
2. Inspiration for How to Work Within the Brand Guidelines
While the most effective channel partner marketing campaigns are often those that give your local experts free rein to customize your brand’s message to connect with their own customers, they still need to work within the limits set by your brand guidelines.
Many enterprise companies just distribute a handbook with basic design rules (e.g. the logo needs to be between this size and this size and should be located in one of three positions, only these colors should be used, etc.). While these details are extremely important, a good channel partner marketing plan will go beyond this.
Don’t just tell your channel partners what they can’t do—give them ideas and tactics for using these brand guidelines effectively. Give them examples of great work that has been done for the brand, and challenge them to find ways to produce similar results within their own local markets.
3. An Explanation of How Corporate Marketing Will Support Channel Partners
Your channel partners won’t be producing work in a vacuum. They are part of your brand ecosystem, and the work they do will have an impact on your entire enterprise. As such, you are going to need to maintain oversight of what your channel partners are doing. At the same time, you need to give them access to new assets and communicate goals as soon as they’re developed.
Your strategy should lay out exactly how this process will work. Generally, the more streamlined and transparent the approval and oversight process is, the better. When your channel partners know what is expected of them, know what they’ll need to do to get approval, and know how long it will take to get feedback, they will be able to produce work more reliably and efficiently.
4. Training on the Tools and Technology
While there are still companies running archaic systems that force local outlets to actually mail in proofs of marketing materials and then wait for approval, there are much better ways to do things these days. A Distributed Marketing Platform is a simple way to distribute marketing assets, manage oversight and approvals, and collect analytics about marketing performance.
Regardless of the tools you’re using, your strategy should include everything that your channel marketers will need to produce, get approval for, and distribute their marketing work. This will vary from enterprise to enterprise, but it could include training on using software like Photoshop, guidelines on how to use paid search or paid social ads, or the step-by-step process of formatting an ad to get it printed in the local paper.
The Power of a Good Channel Partner Marketing Plan
If you’ve created a comprehensive channel partner marketing plan, it will provide a framework that empowers your local teams to produce great marketing that helps your brand connect with their local customers. Too many enterprises are wasting the talent and potential of their most knowledgeable employees.
These local teams’ insights into the markets they work in are often invaluable. If your channel partner marketing plan has one goal, it should be to give your local branches the tools they need to represent your brand as well as possible in their communities.