The channel is always changing. But it’s changing faster than ever (along with the rest of the world) amid COVID-19. Gordon Rapkin and I discussed the reasons channel leaders need to double down on Through-Partner Marketing on a recent Channel Chatter LIVE podcast. But I want to share some specific tactics you can and should be using to amp up partner marketing and drive partner awareness during these unprecedented times.


Many of today’s partners are representing multiple brands, sometimes selling as many as 10 to 15 vendor products and solutions. You’re fighting to keep mindshare. To grab and keep their attention, particularly amid the current COVID crisis, you must make it extremely easy to work with and within your channel program.  Already pressed for time, partners will turn to the easiest, most lucrative, and least time-consuming programs. So, keep your portal straightforward and easy to access.


Partners won’t log into your portal out of the goodness of their hearts. You have to give partners a clear reason to log in. Tell them the benefits of doing so and provide updates to pique their curiosity. This will be more likely to get them to take action and keep taking action on a regular basis. A periodic nudge, like an email newsletter, with details on new content in the partner portal, is a great example of one way to spread the word.


Stale and irrelevant portal content is your enemy. Fighting that enemy takes planning,  resources and flawless execution. Once you’ve launched a partner portal, you must commit to continually maintaining and adding fresh content to it regularly.  Suppliers who build and load a steady stream of valuable portal content, which they regularly promote with a steady cadence, are those who keep partners active and engaged


Partners can’t power success on their own, neither can their Partner Account Managers. Ongoing engagement with the supplier-side extended team is imperative for success. They must be able to tap into regional marketing, field marketing, channel sales, corporate marketing, and product marketing departments to support and promote your partner portal. They can often contribute info, assets and valuable product information useful in partner communications and campaigns.  and even work directly with partners and subject matter experts. It remains up to the program owner to evangelize your portal with others and emphasize how important the extended teams’ role is to the program, since “rallying the troops” can have a beneficial effect on program success and partner engagement.


To support the 3 Cs of To-Partner Communications Amid COVID (Clear, Concise & Cadence), you’re going to need a plan. I would typically advise creating and sharing a content calendar that schedules to-partner communications along with marketing content and campaigns you intend to deliver to partners as far out into the future as possible. In today’s transformed climate, aim for a quarter or two. Then call upon extended teams to formalize your content creation process. For example, work with Corporate Marketing to share your brand’s overall strategic initiatives to keep the pipeline flowing to partners. Check in with Product Marketing on training and enablement tools and/or messaging you can share with partners.  


Times have changed dramatically. With events and handshakes off the table, partners will likely need more digital assets and marketing campaigns to connect with customers. Instead of guessing what they want: Ask them. Consider conducting a survey of your partners to understand what they really want and need to maintain or even grow their business now. You can also use the survey to gauge your partners’ resources and capabilities to determine how complex campaigns can or should be.  Utilize the results to inform your calendar and prioritize content. Once they know the content they want and need is always available through you, your partners will not only use but seek out your portal and program.


Looking for more expert insight on how to engage and motivate your partners? Check out Zift’s new Essential Channel Visions Vol. II. It’s packed with advice from close friends of mine (they just happen to be channel leaders and analysts) who can show you to amp up and turn up the volume on your partner marketing and engagement: Check it out now!