4 Ways to Be a Better Marketing Resource to Your Channel Partners

Providing a partner program is one of the best ways to give your channel partners easy access to marketing materials. You can make product specs, promotions, and industry thought leadership available through an online portal or content library, for example. These assets help partners advocate and sell your products and services. However, the rest of your partners’ vendors are competing for their time and attention. If your through-channel marketing (TCM) program isn’t easy to use and your content isn’t relevant to them, partners will stop turning to you as a resource. How can you prevent this from happening? Doing these four things will help you increase your value to channel partners as a marketing resource:

1. Update your TCM program every three years.

Market research firm Forrester recommends modernizing partner programs if they haven’t been updated in three years or less. Forrester VP Analyst, Kathy Contreras, reported that most partner portals or programs are at least four years old, meaning that they’re likely in need of updating. Contreras says that today’s partner programs should modernize to accommodate expanding channel ecosystems, cloud computing, the Internet of things (IoT), mobile technologies, partners’ changing business models, and non-traditional partners such as accountants and agencies.

%
of partner programs are less than three years old
%
of partner programs are four years old or more
%
of partner programs are over a decade old

Important features of a modern TCM program include:

  • Mobile-optimized design and functionality
  • Easy, seamless onboarding
  • Content library with easy-to-use, filterable search or tagging system
  • Performance and closed-loop reporting that can guide your marketing strategies
  • Integrates with existing channel technology or business software
  • Incentives like market development funds (MDFs) based on your partner’s business plan strength and marketing proposal

As industries shift toward digitalization and channel partners face increasing demands on their time, it’s crucial to provide them with a modern partner portal or program that reduces their workload. Simplicity and convenience should be front and center of the user experience (UX).

2. Put partners at the center of your through-channel marketing.

A joint SiriusDecisions and Forrester study estimated that 60-70% of B2B marketing content produced goes unused. They report that a lack of content (vs. product-based content) is one of the biggest reasons partners don’t use the collateral available to them. In other words: partners are looking for content that makes them the experts their customers look to in order to make important decisions, not content that only tells him how great their vendors’ products/services are.

In order to be partner-centric, your TCM content should focus on:

Accuracy

The Content Marketing Institute found that only 22% of surveyed B2B marketers use fact-checking procedures/tools. Setting yourself apart from this 22% by regularly updating obsolete information and fact-checking content will help you become a trustworthy marketing resource.

Co-branding

If your content is insightful and useful, your partners will be glad to endorse it with their name. They also want to drive brand awareness and mindshare with their customers. Think of your content as a collaborative resource, not a tool that serves your needs only.

Topic Diversity

Your content should be a diverse blend of thought leadership, training/certification resources, and product-focused information. This will elevate your partners’ view of you as a valuable marketing and knowledge resource, not just an authority on your own inventory.

Channel sales and marketing departments already strive toward holistic sales and marketing initiatives that break down silos, unite goals, and align messaging. Take that a step further and apply it to your partner marketing plan: deliver diverse, multichannel content that aligns your goals with your partners’ need for marketing that drives their own bottom line.

3. Create an online community.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us the importance and the potential of virtual and online connection. Many companies struggled to maintain meaningful connections with partners, customers, and employees with in-person interactions reduced or removed. Online communities served as one solution to this problem. A 2020 study by The Content Marketing Institute reported that 32% of B2B marketers have established an online community, and 27% of those who answered “no” say they plan to do so within the next 12 months.

There are several benefits of establishing an online community:

  • It’s a good way to create a space that channel partners and industry experts can check and engage with every day.
  • You can easily check conversations in the community to keep a finger on the pulse of your unique market or and partners’ needs and concerns.
  • Particularly on LinkedIn, members interact with the community through their online profiles, so you have potential insight and access to more information about partners, their history, and interests. This is especially useful for networking and lead generation when paired with LinkedIn’s advanced data and communication tool, Sales Navigator.
  • Drive engagement with exclusive learning, incentive, or promotion opportunities.

An online community is a great way to keep in touch with your channel partners, not just professionally, but in an environment that can facilitate more casual, personal connection. This creates emotional as well as business engagement with your brand. That emotional engagement is often the greatest advantage you can have over your competitors.

4. Pair channel partner marketing technology with expertise, consultation, and services.

Providing high-quality content through a partner program is only half the battle of effectively, consistently engaging with channel partners. TCM technology works best when paired with services, consultation, and expertise that keep the platform agile and responsive to your needs. You leverage these advantages when you partner with a TCM provider who offers services as well as technology:

Content Writing

Rather than outsourcing content writing to third parties who may not be familiar with the complexities of channel topics, you can rely on a team specifically trained in partner marketing content.

Partner Concierge and Campaign Services

Partner marketing services can improve your relationship with channel partners and enable their success. You can offer concierge services to your larger partners and programmatic services to SMB partners, who are likely to have limited marketing resources and are often overlooked in favor of top-tier partners.

Expertise and Experience

No channel technology out there can respond to you marketing performance with ideas or real-world experience. That requires living, breathing humans.

A TCM program provider has industry-specific marketing experience and access to extensive data about campaign and content performance. Consultation from your TCM program provider can guide your marketing strategies with performance analysis and prescriptive advice.

As the number and capabilities of channel technology expand, channel marketing departments are likely to find that software doesn’t amplify partner marketing performance as quickly or drastically as they expect. Services add a human touch that brings creativity, nuance, and real-world experience to the speed and convenience of technology. 

Ultimately, staying connected to your channel partners and responding to the needs of your specific channel is the best way to guide partner marketing initiatives. No one knows your partners and their relationship with your brand like you do. Apply that knowledge to tools and strategies that amplify partner marketing. Keep your TCM program up to date, provide high-quality content, create an online community, and utilize services alongside partner marketing technology. Doing all these will help you be a better marketing resource to your partners, who will view you as collaborator and valued extension of your team, not just a purveyor of products. 

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