• Partner communications should build trust between the provider and sales partner organizations and facilitate revenue generation for both parties.
  • Through-partner communications, while centered on the revenue-generation aspect of the partnership, also help with goals of building partner trust. 
  • In this new era of revenue marketing, feedback and collaboration between channel partners and their suppliers is as vital as internal collaboration between sales and marketing teams.
  • Understanding your partner’s business can inform your through-partner messaging as much as it does your to-partner efforts.
  • Simplification – structurally and through automation – is essential to through-partner communications messaging success.
  • Both broad market data and analysis of individual campaigns can help partners close business.
  • Integrating to- and through-partner communications is essential to program success and requires content planning and engineering.

6 Best Practices for Through-Partner Communications

As with all business partnerships, communications form the backbone of your relationships with sales partners. Those communications should be clear, accretive to the partnership, and, ideally, bring your organizations closer together. Ultimately, if you strip away all the nuance and complexities of individual communications tactics, products and deliverables, they should meet two overarching objectives:

  • Your partner communications should build trust between your organization and your partners. From core messaging on products and revenue opportunities to problem-solving, education and advice, your communications should strive to build confidence with your sales partners and build trust between your teams. 
  • Your partner communications should also facilitate revenue generation for both parties. After all, that’s what brought your organizations together. Your communications should help your partners spot and seize opportunities with your products and services and should help them prospect and close business.

To-Partner Communications vs. Through-Partner Communications

Of course, the objectives we’re discussing – building trust and generating revenue – are interrelated. Partners won’t sell your services if they don’t trust your organization to take care of them and their customers. Conversely, your organization won’t invest in partners it can’t rely on to generate revenue from those investments.

In terms of communications tactics and strategies, however, a dividing line exists at the point of sales enablement. Some communications are designed for consumption by your sales partners, and others for those partners’ prospects and customers. Short-hand terms for this divide are “to-partner” communications and “through-partner” communications. 

For a sample list of each, check out our article on best practices in to-partner communications, which we developed with the help of an all-star team of partner communications experts.

Meet Your Partner Communications Experts

Those same experts provided invaluable advice on through-partner communications as well. Their collective experience includes building channel communications programs from the ground up, running large-scale global channel communications operations and advising leading channel organizations on their communications strategies. Our brain trust includes:

Benefits of Through-Partner Communications

Through-partner communications are vital components of any channel partner engagement plan. Like to-partner communications, they help you meet core relationship objectives of:

  • Closing gaps — Like your channel team, the sales teams at your partner organizations are perpetually pressed for time. Additionally, many partners excel at sales but struggle with marketing and communications. They’ll turn to your solutions and your team more frequently when you arm them with marketing materials that:
    • Save them time
    • Make them look better to their prospects and customers 
  • Building trust — At the end of the day, your indirect sales arms are businesses, too. Nothing builds sales partner loyalty more than helping them grow their companies. 
  • Driving revenue —You need to grow your business, too, and you’re competing with other firms for your partners’ attention and sales. The easier you make it for your partners to grow their businesses with your services and solutions, the easier you grow your firm by extension. 

As we learned from our March Customer Event, through-partner communications is largely the most popular delivery option for channel partner programs to invest in. With the benefits of closing gaps, building trust, and driving revenue, it’s easy to see why this is the case.

6 Best Practices for Through-Partner Communications

Our discussions with partner communications experts revealed six best practices you can adopt in your organization to develop or refine your through-communications game.

1. Learn Your Partners’ Businesses to Customize Through-Partner Marketing

Knowing your partners’ businesses is essential in to-partner marketing. That much is apparent. Less obvious but equally important is leveraging this knowledge in your through-partner marketing efforts.

“Similar to to-partner comms, successful through-partner communications also require a deep knowledge of your partner base,” says Lauren Coltrane from hardware, graphics, computing and AI company NVIDIA. “Without this knowledge, your marketing teams are likely creating content that, ultimately, is not helpful to your partners.”

She also warns against the pitfalls of directly repurposing internal marketing materials without customizing them for customer needs. “I’ve seen several examples of companies simply taking content from their existing corporate marketing campaigns and pushing them directly to partners to use. This rarely, if ever, is effective. By taking the extra time to establish a baseline of what your partners’ needs are and how they typically market to their customer base, you’ll be rewarded with much higher engagement.”

Khali Henderson from channel marketing consultancy and agency BuzzTheory agrees. She notes that customization often doesn’t require reinventing the wheel so much as which type of wheel you’re producing. “Where corporate marketing teams go wrong in their content repurposing is they don’t make adjustments for the context of the partner’s involvement. Some aspects of the value proposition to end-users are the same, but not all. A good content team can repackage your solutions in ways that resonate better with end users who work with partners while making your partners look good through targeted messaging and custom branding options.”

2. Seek Feedback and Collaboration to Improve Through-Partner Communications

BuzzTheory’s Henderson adds that bridging gaps between sales and marketing, which is essential to successful revenue generation, applies to indirect and direct sales teams alike. This need was emerging before the pandemic but has become paramount now that so much of the sales cycle is driven by online activity. It’s so vital to success, in fact, that it’s line-itemed in our 2022 channel partner program predictions.

“We’re in a revenue marketing world, now,” she says. “Most of a buyer’s journey – even in B2B – happens online before a salesperson is contacted. That means that your partners need to synchronize with their vendors in the same way companies sync their internal sales and marketing teams. Collaborate with your partners by discussing the challenges they’re facing generating prospects and closing deals, and then address them in the campaigns you provide.” 

She says an easy way of collaborating is to build it into your channel partner program QBRs. “The best way to make something important happen is to build it into your established schedule. QBRs occur at an ideal cadence for planning, testing and refinement, and you don’t have to scramble to find additional time on already busy schedules.”

3. Simplify Through-Partner Communications with Automation and Customization

Our own Heather Tenuto here at Zift Solutions points out that if arming partners with good content is one half of the battle in through-partner marketing, automation is the other. It’s vital enough that it’s essential to have a solid grasp of the fundamentals of through-channel marketing automation.

“In terms of execution, there are two prongs here,” Tenuto says. “It’s a given that the content you provide to partners has to resonate with their prospects. But it’s also important to make it easy for your partners to use that content. Many partners don’t have the scale for big tech stacks. Providing them with turnkey programs they can easily deploy simplifies management for you and your partners and makes both firms more successful.” 

Danielle Flannery from edge cloud network provider Fastly agrees. “For partners, this needs to be easy to execute. For customers, this needs to be valuable. Partner marketers have a difficult task because they need to ensure that partners are equipped with actionable resources to help them sell, and at the same time, ensure that the content they are providing is ultimately relevant for customers.” 

Flannery also recommends brandable assets, which fit within the broader scope of automation and making it “easy” for partners to leverage the materials you provide. Effective practices that drive revenue include “high-value assets packaged up into a ‘campaign-in-a-box’ format that’s brandable by a partner are usually the most requested asset type from partners,” she notes. “Before that, however, sales enablement assets should be the cornerstone for ensuring partners understand the joint value and how to make those campaigns most successful.”

NVIDIA’s Coltrane also promotes complete campaigns but also resource timing. “It’s less about the individual materials and tactics and more about providing the right content, to the right people, at the right time,” she says. “Ideally, your channel teams are able to provide insights that can be used to create a full end-to-end campaign that is aligned to their customer journey.” 

Bill Steen from cybersecurity and cyber resilience provider OpenText Security Solutions advocates simplicity as part of the turnkey process. “Make it short, sweet, relevant and interesting to the end-customer,” he says, adding that it’s also important to promote the partner’s business. “Make sure any call-to-action is routed back to the partner to capture leads and new opportunities. Design it for use in social channels such as LinkedIn.”

4. Leverage Data to Help Partners Close Business with Through-Partner Marketing

OpenText Security Solutions’ Steen also advocates using market data mixed with social proof to help partners provide their prospects with essential context for decision-making. When asked for what materials are most effective at driving revenue, he pointed to a full spectrum of assets to help customers make data-driven purchasing decisions. “Trends, analyst insights, case studies,” he said, “and customer success stories that help the partner generate new opportunities.”

Our experts also referenced data derived from marketing suites and partner relationship platforms (PRMs) to further partner and program success. Steen pointed to the value of standard metrics like “number of partners sharing social content, open rates, and click-through rates.”

Lauren Morreale from email security and cyber resilience firm Mimecast also referenced key performance indicators (KPIs), including “number of downloads, unique/returning viewers to the website, clicks on hyperlinks and partner/customer registrations.”

Fastly’s Flannery notes that metrics can also help demonstrate the value of channel programs internally. “This is where having a tracking mechanism that is separate from your own company’s lead-generation programs is important,” she says. “Being able to see which leads were sourced or influenced by your partners is critical. That allows you to acknowledge and reward your top-performing partners while also communicating the value of partner programs internally.”

Tenuto from Zift notes that market-leading partner sales enablement platforms can simultaneously help channel departments meet all these needs. “Ideally, you can quickly identify which assets, partners and campaigns are best performers. With this data in hand, you can share best practices and improve performance across your partner base, identify which partners to invest in and trust with leads, and provide the data your management team needs to demonstrate channel program ROI.”

5. Integrated To- and Through-Partner Communications is Essential

According to our experts, to- and through-partner communications may diverge at the enablement line, but they should be carefully coordinated.

Mimecast’s Morreale stated that, in her view, to- and -through partner communications integration is “extremely important. These work hand-in-hand, and one cannot really be done without the other.”

Steen from OpenText Security Solutions agrees. “Both partners and customers are looking for solutions to their problems,” he observes. “Effective communication is critical to our partner experience and overall satisfaction.”

Coltrane from NVIDIA is also in agreement and notes that the stakes are high given the volume of transactions in the channel. “With such a large contingent of business being conducted through the channel, it’s crucial to ensure that your teams are effective in these areas,” she says.

Heather Margolis from channel technology provider 360insights stresses integrated teams and learning opportunities. “We feel it’s important that the to-partner and through-partner teams are integrated,” she says. “What you’re saying to your partners should carry through to their communications or demand generation including product releases, promotions that impact them, and news and events. More importantly, though, is that when you are communicating to partners, whether through email, social, or at an event, they are taking notes. They are learning from you and should be able to emulate those best practices in their own communications out to clients and prospects.”

6. Integration is Best Achieved through Content Planning and Engineering

When asked the best practices for achieving to- and through-partner communications integration, Margolis from 360insights, said, “Certainly, leveraging a platform that truly understands the channel is clutch. Also, it’s important that your education teams understand best practices around communication so they can teach partners. You also want to tap into your to-partner communications teams to ensure they’re engaging the partners the way the through-partner comms teams want to train partners to drive engagement.”

Morreale from Mimecast emphasizes developing interest in your products and services first via your to-channel communications, so your partners want to take them to market via your through-channel enablement. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in wanting to reach the customer [and] close business. However, if vendors do not properly enable their partners, partners will not properly sell to their customers. It’s important to create a common link between to-partner and through-partner communication so that the partner believes in the product and then becomes eager to sell it.”

BuzzTheory’s Henderson emphasized careful content engineering. “As marketers, we’re aware that content is what’s moving the needle. That equation has two parts—the first is the messaging itself, which has to be on-point. The second and equally important part is content engineering around events, product releases, and, yes, even your drumbeat messaging. The more you can get your content shop to develop content thematically synced for your internal, partner and end-user audiences, the more success you’ll have.”

Steen from OpenText Security Solutions also emphasizes design—both in content and the platforms you leverage to deliver that content. “Think both ‘to’ and ‘through’ as you design messaging and the tools you use to push comms out or to make it easy to find,” he says.

Zift’s Tenuto agrees. “A good content team can spin gold in the channel,” she notes, “but you need to make sure that gold makes it into the bank for you and your partners. When selecting technology, it’s important to think past what you need at the moment to what you might need in the future. The more flexibility in your platform, the better.”

NVIDIA’s Coltrane notes that successful integration of to- and through-partner efforts can guide you to better results in the future. She advocates “using results of to- and through-partner communications to inform your business strategies.”

Continuing the Conversation on To-, Through- and For-Partner Communications

Can’t get enough of partner comms? We don’t blame you. For a full dive into all three parts of partner communications, please check out this video presentation from the Zift Solutions team: