One of the biggest challenges facing marketers is engaging their channel partners to help create more demand for products and ultimately, increase revenue.
Getting your channel partners’ mindshare isn’t easy. They’re likely handling multiple brands and it’s tough to stay updated with every vendor. It is important to remember that channel partners are subject to the same drivers and emotions as employees and customers. In fact, they have added distractions because their time is split between multiple brands—all of which have their own marketing strategies competing with your best laid plans. It is natural they will favor some brands over others. But let’s face it: Being low on their priority list isn’t a winning strategy.
You can’t expect a disengaged channel partner to build engagement around your brand. If they are emotionally detached, they will be far less effective at driving demand and revenue. The goal is to assist in the development of an emotionally engaged channel partner. This means understanding what motivates them and what is needed to make them successful. Typically, that means generating revenue, so easy-to-implement demand generation programs are always welcome.
Here’s three key ways to encourage better engagement with your channel partners.
- Simplify marketing with a distributed marketing platform.
With a distributed marketing platform, it is easy to connect your entire channel marketing ecosystem. Today, marketers use a variety of provider websites to order print and digital marketing materials. A distributed marketing platform aggregates marketing content and vendors in one portal, and streamlines the process of executing campaigns using this content across all communication channels—email, social media, print, direct mail, newsletters and mobile. It’s very easy for corporate marketers to create one-click campaigns and provide their partners one place to access to branded marketing assets, documents, sales materials, manuals and other collateral.
For example, consider an “Event-in-a-Box” Kit. Marketing events can be a powerful way to engage with local prospects and customers. But creating or even participating in an event can be fairly complex and strain limited resources. Planning for an event, determining and locating the items needed, and then obtaining them through a patchwork of vendors is both costly and time-consuming. Providing channel partners with pre-approved event marketing toolkits that offer everything they need to participate in or create an event makes it easy for channel partners to promote your products and services.
- Good communication builds trust.
Building a relationship between corporate marketers and channel partners is no different than that of any other type of relationship – it all comes down to communication and trust. Key to building this relationship is good communication. When partner communication is limited to email there are lags in response rates and partners can feel adrift and disconnected from the larger organization. Consider also using:
- Online Chat: Online chat opens up a rapid line of communication for partners’ questions and feedback. It’s more immediate and builds trust between corporate marketers and local partners.
- Forums: Channel partners with more complex questions can be directed to “Ask a Question” forums within the distributed marketing platform. Forums are a good place to receive a range of opinions, experiences and insight, and provoke discussion among both your organization and other channel partners. Forums provide a platform for channel partners to help one another and give marketers insight into what issues are important to the group.
- Asset User Reviews: Offering “user reviews” for marketing assets provides corporate marketers the opportunity review valuable feedback from the field. Marketers can then evaluate the asset and revise it to be more effective if necessary.
- Partner Surveys: How well do corporate marketers understand the issues of greatest interest to their local marketing partners? Deploying regular surveys to channel partners allows marketers to take the pulse of their markets, understand which issues are more important than others and see what works (and what doesn’t).
- The Digital Partner Wallet
Similar to Apple Pay or Digital Gift Cards, distributed marketing platforms are able to provide digital “Partner Wallets.” Partner wallets can be loaded up by corporate and channel partners can easily use those dollars on pre-approved marketing campaigns located in their portal. Since most of the assets and programs are already pre-approved, partner wallets quickly streamline the marketing co-op dollars approval processes, helping partners generate demand faster.
Craig Stockmal is CEO of Focused Impressions Inc.