A more selective approach to recruiting and engaging channel partners was a key message shared by presenters during ChannelWeek, an online event hosted before the Labor Day holiday by Channel Marketer Report and its sister publication, Demand Gen Report.
To more effectively address increasingly demanding B2B buyers, especially those in business units, vendors should be seeking out partners whose business models, capabilities and expertise are aligned with targeted customers. They should keep these partners engaged by:
To lighten the load for their own content creation teams while still providing partners with customer-focused content, channel leaders should support strategies that drive the scalable reuse of engaging content formats.
Forrester’s Steven Casey, Principal Analyst, and Jay McBain, Principal Analyst – Channels, Partnerships & Alliances, kicked off the three-day event emphasizing the need to develop partner-based marketing programs to better address business unit buyers.
The consequences of misaligning partners to customers can be significant, they stressed. Channel leaders risk increased costs, limited revenue growth and ceding opportunities in new markets to their competitors.
Rather than amassing a partner army hoping that no opportunity will be missed, channel managers should selectively recruit those partners that are more likely to win the business of targeted markets.
Successful partner-based marketing programs require the development of an ideal partner profile, explained Casey. Criteria includes line of business (LoB) credibility, subindustry depth, segment focus, business model type and technology expertise.
Identifying partners that match those personas does take some effort, said McBain. But the same tactics used to identity customers, such as monitoring intent signals such as content consumption and websites visits, can help to discover desirable partners.
Partner personas can help channel managers retain and motivate partners by providing reliable insights into which incentives will effectively motivate them, said Claudio Ayub, chief strategy officer, Perks WW. During his presentation, he stressed that channel leaders need to have a better understanding of not only the partner organizations in their channel ecosystems, but the individual roles in them too. Specifically, Ayub explained how channel incentive strategies can be aligned to partner segments and personas in the areas of partner score-carding, buyer and partner journey models, channel data management, personalization, gamification and program design.
The benefits of understanding who their partners really are and what motivates them can be significantly greater when channel leaders create memorable partner experiences, instructed Mike Moore, VP, channel sales at E2open. Most channel programs are “boring,” said Moore, challenging attendees to make an extra effort to make their programs anything but. Moore, who is the co-author of Marketing Multiplied, a real-world guide to channel marketing, offered specific examples of attention-getting program themes and incentives.
Deciding on the best path forward to initiating or expanding a partner program can be daunting to even experienced channel leaders, said Laz Gonzalez, chief strategy officer, Zift Solutions, in part due to the fast-expanding stack of channel solutions. During a joint presentation with Kerstin Demko, Sage’s regional director, North American channel and partner marketing, attendees discovered how they can drive digital transformation by implementing an enterprise channel management program that streamlines their channel business to more effectively connect partners to buyers.
Knowing which partners on which to focus attention and effort requires a disciplined approach to channel data management, stressed Dave Hafermann, principal, go-to-market/CRM solutions at Vistex. To determine eligibility for support, measure performance and understand partner capabilities, channel leaders need a 360-degree view of their channel partners and their relationships and interactions with them.
During his comprehensive session, Hafermann reviewed channel data models, data quality, data management processes, data governance; and the systems and tools that enable channel leaders to optimize them.
Empowering partners with engaging content that reflect the increasingly specific needs of their more highly targeted prospects can be daunting, admitted Content4Demand’s Alicia Esposito and Brenda Caine.
During their presentation, they reviewed how content can be repurposed and reversioned for specific industries and target accounts. Echoing Hafermann’s comments in the importance of channel data management, they explained how content engagement metrics can fuel future marketing campaigns and sales follow-up.