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Not long ago, partner marketing relied on selling a product to a customer with a limited set of marketing channels. Suppliers provided the air cover with big-budget advertising campaigns (airport signs, radio spots, etc) and most partners took whatever suppliers gave them in terms of content and delivered their message in a one-size-fits-all approach. But channel sales and marketing strategies have evolved, and many are still trying to figure out how to approach new methods. 

Today, largely due to the onset of digital marketing and an increasingly informed buyer, partners cannot rely solely on finding prospects and selling to them so much as they can no longer take anything less than a personal approach. In fact, if you ask partner sellers what has changed most in their interactions with buyers, they’re likely to say:

  • Buyers are less inclined to engage with partners early in the sales cycle
  • When they do, they are more informed and more skeptical
  • Buyers are needing more and earlier returns on their investment

 

So What Works?

The only proven way to go is through helping partners tell their stories using a variety of marketing tactics that align with the buyer. Using a combination of inbound and outbound tactics not only increases program efficiency, but it also attains better results for partners. 

For example, if a partner wishes to upsell a current customer who is buying a different supplier’s product or service, it would be easy for that partner to leverage their existing relationship with the prospect through targeted emails. However, it would be even more effective if that partner started earlier in the buyer’s journey with some social posts on how the new product can save time and money. Any of the prospects who respond to the posts, either by sharing or commenting, could be scored higher and sent follow-up emails with offers to learn more. 

This multi-tactic approach avoids the “spray-and-pray” method used by many channel marketers in favor of offering compelling content to the prospect at each stage of their journey, starting with loosening the status quo and committing to change, then proceeding further through the buyer’s journey into the selection and validation stages.

 

Fine-tuning the Message

Instead of rushing to tell their own stories, channel partners need to tell two combined stories: theirs and their vendor’s. To do so, a multitouch approach that takes into account where the buyer is in their journey helps build an integrated, harmonious journey. Think process first when delivering your digital ads, emails or offers. Often a partner will follow up with a prospect after they’ve had a chance to hear their supplier’s overarching message in an ad or campaign. This “air-cover” works best once a prospect shows interest. A partner could be the next one to contact them, either by showing them an offering to learn more or delivering supplier-provided content. This coordinated hand-off marks a characteristic common to best-in-class channel marketing organizations. It requires a cadence between the supplier and partner to deliver the right message at the right time.  

Needless to say, it also requires an end-to-end platform that can capture all information provided by partners and use that to develop targeted marketing campaigns — and that’s just what ZiftONE is capable of. We’re helping many channel marketing and sales organizations drive higher performance with their partners, especially when it comes to employing modern marketing strategies and best practices. I’d like to hear more about your own efforts to increase the effectiveness of your channel marketing efforts.  Feel free to reach out to me, or to leave a comment below.