We often talk about to-partner marketing, where suppliers create materials and messages to persuade partners to join their program, and through-partner marketing, in which suppliers create marketing materials partners can use in their own selling efforts. You’re probably not as familiar with the term with-partner marketing, which is sometimes confused with through-partner tactics.

With-partner marketing is all about mutual amplification, where the strengths of one uplift the other. For instance, a supplier might co-host a webinar with a partner who has a niche market reach, blending their product expertise with the partner’s audience knowledge. Or consider a global brand launching a product in a new territory, and instead of going solo, they intertwine their campaign with a local partner, ensuring cultural nuances are respected.

In this digital-dominated world, the content we flash before consumers is often the final bit of weight tilting their buying scales. Effective co-branding, for instance, is a stalwart of with-partner marketing. Just consider this: According to Partner Path’s Partner Program Benchmark Data, a whopping 68% of buyers, when dazzled by a co-branded blitz, decide to make a purchase without any nudge from a sales rep. It’s a testament to the raw power of co-branded content in directing consumer currents – making the sales pitch without even having to pitch.

But that’s easier said than done. Let’s take a look at why it’s hard, how to make it easier, and what you should be looking to achieve with your partner marketing in 2024 and beyond.

Unveiling the With-Partner Marketing Conundrum

With-partner marketing is something that has left suppliers scratching their heads over the years, and it’s only getting more complicated as the channel ecosystem evolves. Recent findings have shown that only a fraction, fewer than 20% of those surveyed in the 2022 Channel Partner Marketing Benchmark Survey, deemed their program’s capacity to sell and market with channel partners as ‘very effective.’ It’s an echo of a broader sentiment, suggesting we’ve yet to tap into the full might of partner collaboration. Only approximately two-thirds gave even a modest nod to their efforts, terming their channel sales and marketing backup as ‘somewhat effective.’ But there’s a silver lining. Nearly 70% of these respondents are preparing to bolster their channel marketing initiatives with increased financial investments. It’s a nod to the untapped gold mine that is partner marketing, with suppliers signaling their intent to dig deeper, harnessing the might of enhanced support and resources.

So, what’s making it so hard?

The Rise of Non-Traditional Partnerships

You can’t tackle the evolving with-partner marketing playbook without acknowledging the growth in non-traditional partner types. Forrester’s data serves as a testament to this transformation. Consider this: Strategic alliances are set to surge by 50%, technology developers by 45%, and both managed service providers and cloud partners aren’t far behind, with a boost of 42%. Marketers must pivot, crafting versatile strategies tailored to each partner type and audience. Why? Because in this ever-shifting market, adaptability isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity.

The Three Stages of Partner Ecosystem Maturity

According to the Forrester report, The Future Of Partner Ecosystem Marketing Fuels The Multiplier Effect, a refined understanding of the partner ecosystem’s maturity is essential for suppliers to align their objectives with those of their partners and customers effectively. More than ever, this understanding becomes the cornerstone for adapting to the ever-changing demands of buyers and the current market scenario. Think of this progression as an evolution:

  • Supplier-Centric Stage: Here’s where suppliers start, primarily focused on their personal aims. Often, this comes at the cost of overshadowing the unique offerings of their partners. The spotlight remains firmly on their own intentions, leaving the potential of partners in the shadows.
  • Partner Ecosystem-Friendly Stage: As they mature, suppliers get the cue. They understand the need to broaden their support to embrace the diverse business structures of their partners. Suddenly, indirect customer preferences and the partners’ specific needs are in vogue. This shift urges suppliers to infuse these insights into their main marketing agendas.
  • Partner and Customer-Obsessed Stage: Reaching this pinnacle means breaking barriers. The lines between partner and customer experiences blur. Suppliers and partners rally together, focusing on a singular mission: delivering holistic customer solutions. This unity solidifies trust and fuels a mutual pledge for shared triumphs.

It’s more than just a strategic pivot. It’s about a hands-on approach, keenly acknowledging and acting upon the distinct value every partner introduces. Why? Because understanding each partner’s essence is the roadmap to success in this evolving landscape.

Leaning into Collaboration

With-partner marketing recognizes that solo ventures are often dwarfed by collective genius. Considering the challenges, how do you solidify your with-partner marketing game?

Personalized Engagement

Think about it. Isn’t it more captivating when you’re treated as an individual rather than just another partner? Each partner comes with unique aspirations, capacities, and audiences. Tailoring your strategies to resonate with their unique attributes not only bolsters engagement but also yields enhanced results. It’s the subtle difference between using a broad brush and a fine-tuned pencil – the latter always catches the intricacies.

Embrace the Power of Mutual Learning

Just as anecdotes bring warmth to stories, the shared experiences of partners can illuminate potential roadblocks and success strategies. Regular feedback loops and joint brainstorming sessions pave the way for a dynamic strategy that evolves in real-time.

Versatility is the New Black

Recall the contrasts and juxtapositions we discussed? The channel ecosystem is brimming with them. As non-traditional partnerships rise, suppliers with a one-size-fits-all strategy risk being archaic. The future calls for fluid strategies that adapt, morph, and resonate with diverse partner types.

Invest in Co-Branding Mastery

Remember the magic of co-branded content in swaying consumer currents? It’s time to double down. Whether it’s through webinars, eBooks, or digital campaigns, the combined allure of two brands can be exponentially powerful. 

Leverage Digital Platforms for Scalability

With the world moving digital, isn’t it logical to harness digital platforms for scalability? Digital platforms can amplify reach, facilitate real-time collaborations, and provide actionable insights, acting as the backbone of robust with-partner marketing strategies.

Cultivate a Culture of Trust

Just as direct address in writing fosters a bond with readers, transparency and open communication with partners solidify trust. When partners believe that suppliers are genuinely invested in mutual growth, they’re more likely to engage, innovate, and invest in joint initiatives.

The Future is Collaborative

Leading suppliers will distinguish themselves not merely by resource allocation, but by their steadfast commitment to partners’ success. By aligning strategies to partners’ strengths, suppliers can harness a potent synergy. The cornerstone of future success? Adaptability, innovation, and collaboration, fortified by data-driven decisions and judicious investments. Embrace this, and both you and your partners will thrive.