One common challenge frequently brought up among our customers is partner engagement — how to build it and how to maintain it. In the channel marketing space, that’s the name of the game.
More and more companies rely on their partners for indirect sales and as a means of reaching additional customers. Because of that, having a partner communication and engagement strategy in place is crucial to ensure the success of all parties. Additionally, partners and resellers usually have multiple suppliers, making it even more important that the supplier stands out and establishes an engagement plan to build partner loyalty.
When creating and executing a partner engagement plan, there are a few key tips to keep in mind.
1. Building Strong Relationships
Building relationships is important in all aspects of life, both personally and professionally. When solid relationships are built, all involved parties achieve some level of satisfaction and value. Of course, this is easier said than done – there are many instances where a relationship is a one-way street and only one involved party is gaining value while the other is getting nothing in return. This concept also applies to suppliers and their channel partners. Treating channel partners as an extension of the supplier, and not just another task on their to-do list, will only help strengthen that relationship.
2. Developing Partner-Friendly Programs and Content
Take some time to understand partners’ challenges and be sure to structure programs to address those challenges and needs. This will only help drive partners to sell the products and services to the end customer and increase ROI. If channel partners are not receiving relevant marketing materials from a supplier, focus will shift to a different supplier that is taking their needs into account.
3. Consistent Communication
As in any relationship, keeping consistent communication is key. If partner outreach only happens when new content which they may or may not be interested in is available or out of the blue to announce a new product, it is likely that the partner will brush it off or ignore it altogether. Keeping partners up to date on upcoming product releases or changes to existing products or solutions enables them to keep their customers up to date as well. Channel partners should be encouraged to stay current, adopt new technology early, and be fully supported to retain their reputation as collaborative trusted advisers.
4. Getting Partner Buy-in
Show that you care and that you’re listening to their needs and challenges. Your partners are only as successful as the tools you make available to them, especially when implementing a partner engagement process. Pushing out a bunch of direct marketing materials might not be relevant to your partners. Partners take notice if you’re providing materials that don’t suit their needs. So if they notice that as a trend, the end goal of increasing sales for both parties won’t be met and partners will begin to lose trust. If partners have the opportunity to provide input, they will be more likely to participate in programs.
5. Getting Channel Managers’ Buy-in
Channel managers play an integral role in providing partners with the tools and education they need to utilize marketing materials from the supplier. Demonstrate the value of programs to channel managers and provide them with the resources they can use with partners and resellers to keep partners engaged. The more program advocates, the better, and this will result in increased leads, more sales, and improved ROI.
Bottom line, partner engagement is essential in creating partner loyalty. Putting channel partners in a position where they can become experts on the suppliers’ products and solutions will enable them to go to market with confidence, build their sales funnel, increase revenue streams, and produce an overall increased ROI.