Where’d we leave off? Oh yeah, we just talked about how important it is to break the 80/20, and that the place to start is by targeting your partner recruitment and channel marketing efforts. Now let’s deal with the partners you have. Here are a few strategies to get more partners active, and the active partners selling more, that will get some new revenue flowing.
Stay in Front of Your Partners
Channel marketing campaigns are a way for you to keep your brand and your message in front of your addressable market, which in this case is your partner base, so you’re top of mind when they are making decisions about where to place their energy and resources, and more tactically, as opportunities come across their desk that are a fit for you.
Some common types of campaigns that you may be familiar with, and even running, are newsletters, email campaigns, and social media. However I rarely see those campaigns all being run by the same channel organization at the same time, nor do I see it done cohesively. You want commonality in message and coordination on your touchpoints, but content should be slightly adjusted for the medium.
Some less frequently seen campaigns, but equally as viable, include social display ads, content marketing, inbound, retargeting, and automated drip campaigns. Even more rare is to see fully integrated marketing campaigns that span the entire marketing mix and digital footprint, bringing together multiple marketing channels to deliver a specific message. Whatever you do, do it deliberately with a focused message and a thoughtful marketing mix. Be consistent, and be sure your channel managers and management are reinforcing the message and actively working to support the message and get their partners engaged with the campaigns.
Offer Thought Leadership
Your partners all face similar challenges in the marketplace today when it comes to adjusting to a cloud powered world where IT and telecom have converged, dealing with consolidation, or adding new technologies or services to their portfolio. They are looking for guidance and expertise, but with the popularization of content marketing along with the explosion of social media and the increased accessibility to marketing automation, the world is full of content and it has become white noise. How can you get your partners to find your signal in the noise? It’s about creating content that has real value that will resonate with the market. In order for it to be valuable, it needs to demonstrate expertise and provide them information not advertisement. In order for it resonate, it needs to be perfectly tailored to your audience. It needs to empower and address their insecurities and current business challenges.
Deliver this content across all of your marketing channels, including using it for the campaigns mentioned above, or in the form of regular webinars, videos, training, etc. Preferably, all of the above.
Partner enablement and sales enablement are hot topics of conversation in the channel, and for good reason. I mentioned above the various challenges that partners are facing due to cloud and convergence. The answer to these problems generally have a cost associated with them. One that may not be manageable for partners. For example, an MSP looking to move from a break fix model to recurring revenue has the challenge of needing to a) learn the new product line b) staff up or train existing staff c) market the services d) develop a funnel e) close sales f) onboard / implement customers g) wait for billing and commissioning to begin.
This lead time, plus the fact that what was once a large upfront payment is now a series of smaller payments, it takes sometimes more than 18 months to get to a point where they can sustain. Anything you can do to help them shorten any of those cycles, reduce their investment, or minimize the ramp up time will help. If you can help them across that entire spectrum with an enablement ecosystem that they can plug into, then you’ll have a partner that will be engaged and loyal. Of course, from your perspective, the more they are leaning on your resources, the less likely you are to lose them.
The channel seems to be adopting enablement as a message point, but I think we’re at the beginning stages of the maturity and adoption curves. When it comes to marketing enablement, we’re still in the JV league, focused on things like co branded marketing materials and MDF (which rarely gets used productively, if at all). There are a few vendors out there that are creating email campaigns and landing pages. There are a few master agents that have partnered with agencies and services to offer websites and newsletters. This should be the baseline for anyone serious about a channel.
These marketing enablement efforts need to evolve and become more sophisticated. We should be striving to leverage the power of marketing automation to build complex automated campaigns that use condition branches, lead scoring, progressive profiling, and other advanced functionality. We need to create integrated campaigns that reach a wider audience than the customer base your partners export from their CRM, but rather works to generate a robust funnel of prospects that will be perfectly suited for your services and solutions.
The interesting question this raises is, at what point are we just doing the partner’s’ job for them? Well, someone still has to work the leads and a channel sales force is still cheaper than a direct salesforce. Even still, many partners would gladly give up some points to pay for the additional level of support and enablement, because their issue is a more immediate one of cashflow and access to capital.
Breaking the 80/20 rule in a positive and organic way takes commitment and resources, but it’s attainable and the benefits far outweigh the risk. Whatever your baseline of activity is right now, just incorporate one of these ideas slowly and watch the impact it has. If you have 500 partners and 100 are active, and the average new revenue per month is $2k each, just a 10% increase in active partners yields you nearly a quarter of a million in annual revenue. Get after it!
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