Creating a Marketing Drip Campaign for Channel Managers

Here’s a little but effective tip I picked up a long time ago from a guy who was the top performing channel manager during pretty much my entire 8 year tenure with PAETEC: Channel managers should reach out to each partner individually at least once a week with some kind of valuable piece of information that will help enable the partner. Some kind of nugget of insight or information that will help enable the partner to reach their specific sales, marketing, or business goals.  It can be a sales tip, a head’s up about a better way to position a product, something about industry trends, anything, as long as it creates value.

Sounds obvious, right?  Channel managers talk to their partners all day long, but usually it’s a transactional conversation about a proposal or a FOC date, or something mundane like that.  He felt that his partners appreciated hearing from their channel managers about something other than fires that need to be put out, and didn’t involve being asked for more business, and instead focused on adding value to the partner’s own business.  

This is a bedrock principle in content marketing, pull your message don’t push it, but it’s rarely seen on the channel sales side.  I’ve seen many channel marketing departments that make this kind of content available to their channel managers for distribution to partners, and I’ve even seen it rolled out as an expectation for CMs.  But channel managers are notoriously bad at compliance when it comes to trying to standardize on processes like this. If this problem sounds familiar, but you think your channel would benefit from the approach, here’s a way that you can implement this strategy for them without losing that personal touch.

We’ll call it your “Channel Manager Touch Base” campaign, because I’m not feeling very creative today, and here are the steps to implement:

Step 1 – Gather Your List

Your channel managers should have a list of their respective partners.  Hopefully it’s maintained in a CRM or PRM and can be easily exported. Even if it is, ask them to send you their lists anyway.  Many channel managers will often maintain their own lists of partners, including a number of different stakeholders within the partners organization that you may not have in the CRM, like sales reps, techs, and executives.  

Format your lists so you have a separate column for this information:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Company
  • Email
  • Channel Manager

Step 2 – Create a content calendar 

Set up a monthly meeting with your channel stakeholders where you ask they’re feedback on the type of content they think would be valuable.  Choose topics that align with what they are asking partners to sell or promote. Check out this article I wrote about using a content calendar in your channel marketingfor planning your content.  Also use any data you might have available to help you decide on topics.  For example, if you have a partner blog or newsletter, look at what content has the best performance on KPI like page views, open rate, click-through rate, social engagement, etc.  Because of the sometimes extended approval process, you’ll want to try to start off the campaign by having two months worth of content, and always stay a month ahead.

Step 3 – Start writing

This step should be broken down into two smaller substeps.  First, list all of the subject lines and a short abstract on the topics in your content calendar.  In this case the subject line is like the title, it positions the editorial angle of the content, and the abstract give the context.  The value of the abstract is to give the stakeholders the gist of the positioning of the content for approval purposes before you spend time writing and researching the content.  It also helps the writer understand how to position the content, in the case that the person writing the content is different from the person planning the content. Write and submit your abstracts to the channel stakeholders for approval.

The second part, once you have the approval on the subject lines and abstracts, sit down and crank out the actual content.  It should be native content, meaning the entirety of the content will be in the email. You’re not following the typical best practice of making your website the hub of your marketing by teasing your content in the email and linking to a blog page. Make it a short little thought leadership piece, no more than a few hundred words or so.  Your call to action will always be something to the effect of “if you’d like to talk further about how this could benefit you, let’s schedule a call”. This is about mindshare, not lead generation, so we’re not making a hard sale on that next step.  Make the tone of the writing approachable, not too corporate and rigid. It should sound like the channel manager is shooting out a quick, personal note. Write it all out, get it all approved.

Step 5 – Build and Schedule the Campaign

Once you’ve written all the content for the month (or two if possible) and it’s approved, you’ll want to build each email out in your marketing automation or emailing platform… Assuming that you use a marketing automation or email marketing platform, that is.  You’ll want to build these emails ahead of time as separate campaign so you can track results independent of other marketing campaigns like your newsletter or SPIF promotions.  

​Use a letter-style email template with a banner at the top content section in the center, and a simple footer.  Choose an email template that’s light on graphics, maybe just a small branded banner at the top and a small footer at the bottom.  Build each email and then pre schedule them to go out according to your content calendar.  

Step 6 – Use Personalization

Your marketing automation platform should support personalization.  Here’s an article that gives some stats on why you want to use personalization, or you can just trust me when I say it will improve results in all metrics. 

Personalization is where you use a macro to insert variable, or personalized, content.  A macro is like a code snippet that’s unique to your marketing automation platform, and usually corresponds to the name of the data field in your database. 

So for example, we use Kentico as a marketing automation platform.  If I were sending an email to our marketing list and wanted to address the recipients personally in the emails salutation, I would write:

Dear {%FirstName|(resolver)subscriber%},

The {%FirstName|(resolver)subscriber%} is the macro.  The macro tells the email system to look at the source list we are sending to, and pull in the values in the First Name column associated with each respective record. 

Whether you’re a vendor, a master agent, or distributor, if you have a partner channel then you’re in a war with your competitors for mindshare and walletshare of a finite amount of business that’s coming through the channel.  Campaigns like this ensure that your brand is top of mind when an opportunity comes across a partner’s desk. It also allows you to position your strategics products and services, and key message points, so your partners understand where you are strong, and when they should think of you.  Lastly, every time you offer your partners thought leadership instead of a sales pitch, you’re sending a message that you really do think of them as a partner and have their success in mind, and not that they’re just another means to making quota. 

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