Most times when I am investigating a topic of interest I start with the Wikipedia definition, but in the case of partner marketing and partner channel marketing, the site comes back stating, “The page does not exist.” Does this signal that marketing to and through your partners isn’t important? In the words of my Grandmother, “Heaven forbid!”
SELECTING A CHANNEL PARTNER
As most companies have found out, selling through a partner channel is the best force multiplier you can find to quickly expand your sales presence. Not only do you get more feet on the street, but also if you pick the right partner you can get immediate credibility in a new market.
Many years ago, I spent time as manager of the Japan Program Office for Intel’s Automotive Group.
I was introduced to one of the local distributors who presented their corporate overview, showing a history going back hundreds of years. I understood the significance of this as I learned more about the people of Japan and their culture.
Longevity is an important measure of trust and credibility in Japan. By partnering with a company doing business in Japan for hundreds of years, we were able to leverage their pedigree and quickly expand into the Japanese market.
CREATING AN EFFECTIVE PARTNER CHANNEL MARKETING STRATEGY
Having the right channel partner is an important first step, but your responsibility doesn’t end there. Developing effective partner channel marketing plans will determine the difference between wasted investment and top-line growth. I may be going out on a limb, but I would argue it should be an equal priority to equip your partner sales teams, as it is your direct sales team.
It is typically easier to motivate your sales people who have the benefit of being part of the corporate environment where they can internalize key messages and absorb product knowledge. In addition, their sole occupational purpose is to sell your products and services. This isn’t usually the case with the partner channel.
They are typically responsible for selling a variety of products, which spreads their knowledge and available time to devote to your products thin. The key to success in partner marketing is to make it as easy as possible for your channel sales organization to sell your product. You need to provide clear company and product messaging, necessary tools and training to give them the right level of knowledge, and incentive programs to motivate them to promote your products.
ENHANCING CHANNEL PARTNER KNOWLEDGE
A partner portal should be obvious, but is often times missed by companies. A partner portal is the opportunity to put everything the partner sales teams need to be successful in one place. Sales tools, training, incentives, latest news and product information are just a few of the invaluable elements that need to be included in your partner portal.
I learned this secret early in my role as channel manager at Intel. Many of our channel sales people highlighted an inability to find the information they needed as one of their greatest challenges. I encourage you to listen carefully to your partner sales organizations and hear what they are saying is needed to be successful. It isn’t only about what you think they need.
Your channel partners have a limited amount of selling time every week, as a result they will focus on those products and companies who listen and provide them the tools to make it easy to sell. If your channel isn’t producing the results you desire, the first place to look is in your own shop. Do an honest evaluation to determine if your partner channel marketing is consistently delivering the right content and messaging to your channel partners.
TREATING CHANNEL PARTNERS LIKE DIRECT SALES
I have always thought it a terrible waste to squander valuable resources that can contribute significantly to achieving goals. Ignoring or not focusing enough attention on your partner channel is a significant waste and leaves the door wide open for your competitors to rob your pockets.
One of the definitions for partner is “someone on the same team.” Don’t do what many have done and treat your channel as them versus us. They may have a different colored badge or signature on their paycheck, but with effective enablement they can contribute a great deal to your company’s strategic and financial goals.
Treat your partner channel as a team and equip them the same way you equip your internal team members. If you aren’t sure what it takes to use your channel to it’s fullest potential, ask for help from those who have experience and proven success.
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