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Your Partner Program Is Served

January 18, 2011 | By Laz Gonzalez

Partners have limited know-how for developing and executing marketing programs. At best, they’ll take what you offer them and shotgun the content to the first prospect they come across, regardless of whether the content resonates at whatever stage in the cycle the buyer has entered.

Imagine you are dining in a fine restaurant and, after taking your order, the waiter returns with a box of ingredients and says, “OK, here’s everything you need to prepare your meal. Our kitchen is right over there.” Would you take him up on the offer and make your best attempt at playing “Iron Chef” or would you never visit that restaurant again?

That’s what it feels like when suppliers offer demand creation portals loaded with tools (e.g. email templates, customizable white papers, case studies) that they expect channel partners to download and use to generate interest. These suppliers forget one key thing: Partners have limited know-how for developing and executing marketing programs. At best, they’ll take what you offer them and shotgun the content to the first prospect they come across, regardless of whether the content resonates at whatever stage in the cycle the buyer has entered. Most don’t even have a marketing automation platform they can use to send the emails; our research indicates they use their email programs, CRM package or whatever infrastructure they have (often provided through the cloud) to push content to their customers. Let’s face it: they are not good at cooking!

Why do suppliers continue to offer partners so many tools they’re unlikely to use? One answer is the abundance of vendors working to convince suppliers to build marketing portals to generate demand and revenue. Yet most of these efforts ignore the reality that, once the launch is over and the new portal is past its novelty phase, suppliers will experience the same lack of adoption by partners as before. Could it be they’re asking them to do the cooking, and they really don’t want to? 

Three components must be addressed when delivering marketing campaigns to partners: 

  • The offer. In terms of offers, suppliers should show partners what the expected results or ROI will be if they sign up for a program. This will require that they engage in more performance-based activities (e.g. appointment setting or lead generation with their demand generation vendors).
  • The delivery. When discussing program delivery, it’s important to address questions paramount to ensuring partner engagement: Will program tools be accessed from the portal? How do partners get started? Who will guide them through the process? Rather than ask partners to “do the cooking,” present them with the “finished meal” instead. In other words, create campaigns that include all the ingredients (e.g. teleprospecting, list acquisition, appointment setting, event confirmation, followup reporting) that partners can choose from a “service menu” – preferably from their portal. 
  • Partner communications. Finally, partner communications must be continued through the launch, past the enablement phase and through the entire program’s lifecycle. With companies spending up to one-third of their channel marketing budgets communicating to partners, we suggest they focus on talking about getting them engaged rather than bombarding them with new product release information (as is the norm). 

These three components are often overlooked by suppliers that continue to throw money at the problem to acquire technological fixes. Instead, suppliers should focus on serving up a marketing program that requires the least possible effort and expertise for partners to set into motion, instead of expecting them to somehow cook up their own.

Laz Gonzalez

Laz Gonzalez is Service Director, Channel Management Strategies, at SiriusDecisions. During a career spanning close to two decades, Laz has gained extensive executive, front-line and international experience implementing solution-driven sales programs with OEMs, strategic alliances, distributors and value-added resellers. Follow Laz on Twitter @LazGonzalez

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