It’s a four-letter word many people don’t like to hear used, but it’s critical to success.

Plan. As in Ben Franklin’s classic, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

In this case, the focus is on planning your channel partner marketing. Some channel partners see marketing as something they probably should do once in a while, so they send out an email here and there. All one-shots.

But marketing is not a one-shot event. Very few one-shots get traction. This is just one of the reasons some manufacturers and software providers have low opinions of channel partners’ marketing ability.

Well-planned, thought-out campaigns properly executed will bring new business and new revenue! When you help your partners plan such a campaign, first get them to think through the following:

  • Who are you targeting? New customers or existing?
  • If they’re targeting existing customers, what are you offering them that you haven’t already sold to them?
  • If they’re targeting new customers, what’s the value proposition you’re offering them?
  • How do you plan to reach them? Which media? Email? Direct mail? Social networks? Calling? Webinars? Seminars? (Hint: it’s better when it’s a combination of several or all of these…)
  • How long would you plan your campaign to run?
  • How aggressive do you want to be? Soft and nurturing? Hard-hitting? Somewhere in-between?
  • How do you plan to work in the products and services of the vendor who is funding this campaign in whole or in part?

This is just the beginning. Once these decisions have been made, you get to start crafting your messaging. Here’s where most channel partners who try to do it on their own trip over themselves, so this is what you need to explain to them:

Write Everything in the Context of the Customer

You can actually check to see if your partner already knows this before you begin! Go to their website and count all the paragraphs on every page. This usually won’t take as long as it sounds. As you go, also count how many of those paragraphs begin with the words “I”, “My”, “Me”, “Our”, the name of the partner’s company, or some other reference to themselves.

Don’t be surprised if almost all of them do. That’s just not uncommon. Most people write in the context of themselves, what they think, and what they want the reader to know. How many times have you gone to a webpage and read something like:

“We’re the Acme Tech Company. We’ve been solving customer’s problems around here for 20 years and they all love us for the way in which we do it.”

 It may not be quite that overt, but you get the idea.

 Help them flip these paragraphs upside down. Perhaps more like: 

“You may be challenged by the demands placed on you to provide better tech services to support your team’s effort to serve customers better. We can help with that!”

There’s a lot more to effective messaging than just that, but for now help your partners understand that the first thing their messaging needs to do is to convince the reader that you know their pain and can help them resolve it.

The moment your partner gets their first positive response to the messaging you help them craft, you instantly become their hero, and your own Channel Marketing Manager will join them in their enthusiasm!

The Formula for Great Channel Marketing

Extending that messaging advice, help your channel partners realize that marketing is not the process of bragging about yourself. It’s the process of convincing the customer or potential customer that you understand their business, their challenges, and you can provide solid evidence that you have a successful track record of solving similar problems for other customers just like them.

Many people still think that to be successful, marketing must “rise above the noise.” Well that’s just plain impossible with all the noise that’s out there now. Nothing rises above it. So what is a marketer to do?

Go back to Sales 101. Sales professionals know that the very best marketing comes from the power of referrals. Nothing beats it. Nobody beats it. In fact, they know that the referrals they get from a sale are more valuable to them than the commissions they earn for that particular sale. Those referrals build their future successes.

The Power of Requesting Referrals

Marketers borrow a page from that book and are sure to include encouragement in every message in an effort to encourage their reader to share it with their associates, friends, customers, even their competition if it’s friendly! “If you liked what I have to say, please share it with others.”

By leveraging those who are already reading your messages and getting them to share them with others, you’re cutting right through the noise to get to a broader audience. This is something you just never stop doing. The more you do it, the larger your audience becomes, the more new candidates you reach.

Where YOU, the Supplier, Fit In

Focusing on that last bullet in the previous section about how channel partners should incorporate YOU into their messaging is actually pretty simple.

Your channel partners want to promote themselves and the services they can provide to customers. Anything you do to help them achieve that is channel magic. All they need to add is messaging about what they do using YOUR products and services and they’ve delivered the most powerful message you could ever ask for. Not just how great your product is, but rather how great what your product does for the customer is. Any product is just a brick until it starts delivering value to a customer.

How to Support Your Partners in their Channel Marketing Strategy

Many manufacturers and software providers make sure they focus not only on to-channel marketing for recruiting and encouragement purposes, but also on through-channel marketing which helps their partners market to customers. Here are some suggestions to improve that through-partner content.

Equip your portal with customizable content

Many channel partners balk at using the collateral manufacturers provide because “it’s all about them!” Also, they know their competitors are sending out the very same stuff.

The more partners can customize your materials the better. And customization doesn’t just mean crash-imprinting their logo and address on it. It means incorporating their value propositions prominently in the copy. You want them to make their content sing about the wonderful things they can do for customers using your products and services.

Bake marketing services into your programs

Several larger manufacturers recruit external resources to provide packaged marketing programs channel partners can have customized and use. These can be very extensive, including a true multi-media approach to capturing customer attention. When making them available to partners they may allow them to apply their accrued MDF to pay for them, or they may offer a shared-funding program.

When selecting these resources, take care to select those that are appropriate for your level of partner. Many marketing agencies serving the channel still focus on the reseller making their programs more retail in nature. Seek those who clearly market professional services if your partners are MSPs, CSPs, or similar.

Use a marketing-friendly PRM

Here’s where we address “the tricky part” of marketing; measuring results.

Knowing what works and what doesn’t work is perhaps the most important information a marketer can have. A solid PRM solution helps with these metrics in many ways. It also keeps your channel management staff as fully in touch with the partners’ marketing efforts and their results as possible.

When selecting your PRM, ask about how extensive the support is for channel marketing!

Highlight the benefits of strong channel marketing from day one

When is the best time to solve a problem? Before it becomes one.

Many channel partner companies came into being when the technical team of an existing partner decided to leave their company and stab out on their own. Awkward, but they took many customers with them. That’s where their early revenue comes from. But then, there’s the problem… Those customers get saturated. They’re not going to be buying more for at least another cycle.

That’s why you need to get in there early with them and encourage them to start marketing for new customers immediately. Starting when they run out of revenue sources can be a disaster. By starting immediately they’ll be ready when that time comes.

Provide hands-on support to set partners up for success

The best channel managers love to roll up their sleeves and dig right into the work of effectively marketing their customers. Show and tell beats just tell any day. Show your partners how to be most effective in their marketing, helping them drive plenty of new revenue, and you will find they completely redefine the word “partner’ when it comes to you and your products.