In Laz’s latest Channel Chatter post, he highlights key points from his new episode, “Channel Partner Training & Certifications.”

What impact does training have on channel partner engagement? Or, like the proverbial chicken-and-the-egg, do you need partners to engage before they get trained? What about sales and marketing enablement — terms that many in the channel use interchangeably?

Let’s start by agreeing that there is a division between a supplier’s top performing channel partners and what we call “the non-performing herd.” Since it’s impossible to move the entire herd at one time, start by focusing on the next 10 percent of “up-and-comers” and figure out how to move them successfully into that top performance tier.

Certification is a Big Deal

Suppliers effectively move these up-and-comers partly through channel partner segmentation, which ensures that channel programs are built to recognize and leverage the uniqueness of each partner. Marketing enablement is also becoming an important ingredient in helping differentiate partners and driving readiness, especially when it comes to reaching new buyers over the internet.

A big piece of marketing enablement is marketing certification. Suppliers benefit because, naturally, a marketing certified partner is a more capable, more marketing savvy, and potentially more valuable partner for the supplier. However, there are benefits to the partner too, and suppliers must help partners clearly understand what they are. At the individual level, marketing certification promotes the partner in training, helping them gain valuable new skills through the process. Additionally, channel partners who get certified are more likely to be invited to participate in marketing and lead generation programs, which benefit them in their own marketing effectiveness.

Combine Marketing Enablement with Demand Creation, Stir

Another important aspect of channel marketing enablement is its impact on engaging partners in demand creation programs. When these programs precede demand creation with an element of marketing enablement, they drive three times the rate of adoption by partners compared to those that don’t.

Two big benefits to call out:

  1. When you enable partners through a marketing certification process, you ensure that they have the skills and knowledge in place to effectively execute and maximize the results of demand-creation programs. This is especially important as B2B companies gradually move those demand creation responsibilities to their channel partners.
  2. While a supplier’s one-to-many self-service tools save time for the supplier, they also need to ensure that their partners know how, when and where to use the tools for their own specific needs and customers. Market certification can help with that.

Develop a Holistic Certification Program for Partners

What should a marketing certification program look like? I suggest that you develop a holistic certification program that allows a partner to become certified on a specific campaign (e.g., a competitive “take-back” campaign) while earning towards a broader supplier program certification.

Make sure your programs include the basics, like a recap on what questions buyers might have as they follow their purchasing journey. Be sure to provide partners with talk-tracks, call-scripts and the like, which let them know where to start the conversation based on the solution’s “demand type,” whether it’s established market, new paradigm or new concept.  There’s no need to over-engineer your training session either. Keep to the basics and let partners know where they should start the conversation, which can be different for all three demand types.

Next, let partners know what assets they will need (e.g., white papers, competitive analysis, etc.) during the course of the campaign and where to find them on your portal. It’s better for both the partner and supplier if partners are certified under one general program, but can earn their “stripes” each time they attend a webcast that covers these items for each campaign. This way they can advance in your channel program and be exposed to a series of competitive, net-new or account-based marketing strategies.

Last, but not least, make these marketing enablement sessions short and sweet. They should be less than 30 minutes long, or partners are likely to check out.

Right after a partner attends your “marketing enablement” webcast, reach out to them through a concierge (either an internal tele-sales team or an agency) that can walk them through the next steps. By taking this approach, you can expect to see your engagement increase threefold, which moves the needle for any channel program.

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