5 Fresh ideas for Distribution Marketing in lockdown

Events have been the mainstay of distributor marketing for decades.  

Your distributor marketing calendar had a familiar rhythm of events – events you could rely on for solid lead generation and your own training events for partner sales teams. Being face-to-face built connections and you could get a good handle where customers were in the buyer journey and what they and the salespeople needed.  

But, as we’re all reminded daily, our usual rhythms have vanished and adaptivity reigns. So, you switched to virtual events and webinars, even spicing things up with mixology classes. Yet, despite barely being a year into this evolution, the endless webinars and virtual events already feel old and people are jaded. It just doesn’t feel very human anymore. We miss connection. 

That’s why The Marketing Bee put expert heads together to bring you a list of creative ways to evolve your marketing to work with your partners – who are now all remote, just to add to the challenge. 

1. Refocus on your objective 

Distribution marketing is your chance to stand out from the crowd. It’s an opportunity to excite and motivate your partners and sales, to get your brand front and centre.  

But before you plan any marketing campaign, ask: Am I trying to reach my partners with training? Or Do I want to drive lead generation? 

The answer – your objective - can radically change your campaign. Too often, you can end up applying all the same tactics to all the campaigns. But now is the time to pause and be deliberate.  

Start putting yourself in the shoes of your audience who’s hearing from multiple distributors each day. If you were a salesperson, what would make you sit up and take notice? 

2. Transform your tired webinars 

There’s a reason everyone has switched to webinars – they work! But it’s certainly true that fewer and fewer people are turning up. Zoom fatigue is real. And, after all, we can watch it on demand later. (Who are we kidding?) 

So, let’s shake up the webinar. 

It’s all in the timing 

Who said webinars have to be over 30 minutes long? Go super-short. Do a 15-miute lightning talk on a hyper-specific topic. Or run 4 lightning talks back-to-back with different experts and position it as a subject power hour. Length doesn’t equate to depth or authority. Show you understand your audience’s need for instant, actionable information in bitesize chunks.  

If you get a lot of interest in a particular topic, you can then run a longer, more in-depth webinar as a follow-up for those who want a deep dive. 

Niching down on topics allows you to better target audiences and increase engagement. You can start to really help people in their roles and build authority through specialist knowledge sharing. 

New identity 

Maybe you don’t call it a webinar at all. If the mention of a webinar makes people’s eyes glaze over, you could simply call it something else to get at least the email opened. But something as simple as new packaging can bring fresh appeal. (Think of the red Starbucks cups with artists designs at Christmas. It doesn’t change the product, but it changes the appeal.)  

Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Lightning talk 

  • Discussion 

  • Keynote 

  • Meetup 

  • [Your subject] power hour 

  • Broadcast 

Format refresh 

Even better, freshen up the format of your online events.  

A ‘celebrity’ in your industry, or a well-known one from outside, can be a big draw for people. Especially if there is a chance for live Q&A and a unique take on your topic. 

You can also try delivering less polished and more informal webinars. We’re used to the authenticity of homes with kids and pets interrupting, so the highly polished webinars can feel cold and impersonal. We want to really connect with people again. Let people into your homes. (Though you will want to move the laundry out of the background and get sensible lighting on the presenter’s face.) 

You could even add live interaction elements with people on video and audio asking questions. It’s so much more human and personal than a Q&A box. Get people actively involved. 

Mix up your marketing tactics 

Typically, you’ll offer a webinar with a few promo emails in the lead up offering different levels of information, followed by some reminders just before the webinar goes live. Then the replay is made available for a month or more to those who didn’t attend live. But that means registrants know they don’t have to turn up. And the chances of them watching the replay? Slim. 

So let’s do things differently. 

Don’t just send bullet points of the agenda in the promo emails. Send a promo video. It doesn’t have to be fancy; just a quick talking head enthusing about the great things they’re going to reveal in the webinar. 

FOMO (fear of missing out) is real, and it drives intentional action. Use scarcity as a tactic to drive live participants: don’t offer the replay.  

But you don’t want people to miss out on the message or content, right? Then offer the on-demand replay for a very restricted amount of time – just 24 hours, for example. You could even suggest that because not everyone who wanted to attend could make it, you’ll do a replay at a set time that they can sign up to. Essentially, you run the webinar twice. But it makes people decide. 

Or, rather than a replay, try offering ‘CliffsNotes’ – a document with just the key takeaway points and actions – in a follow-up email. It’s high value and quickly digestible. Your partners will remember you for delivering good but short quality. 

3. Become a true VAD 

Typically, you’re trying to make a sale through your webinars and trainings, or you’re training others on how to make a sale. But what if you supported your partners and salespeople in their wider business? 

You have a wealth of knowledge on various topics that can help their businesses survive lockdown. So why not offer that knowledge and advice to help them more holistically? 

You could become a true Value-Added Distributor (VAD) by offering specialist marketing services and free webinars on topics like: 

  1. Go-to-market messaging 

  1. A breakdown of best-performing industries to highlight who they can target 

  1. Credit control 

  1. Leasing 

  1. And more… 

This could help you stand out to partners as going above and beyond in your offerings and truly caring about their success. 

4. Create a conversation space 

Webinars have their limitations and we’re all aching to meet new people, share ideas, and simply socialise. So why not make that happen online? 

You could host an interactive call with a limited number of ‘seats’ so participants can get involved, with their videos switched on, and ask questions live such as in a drop-in session. 

Or create a meetup-style call where people can put their videos on and chat about a predetermined topic. It could even be a very informal wind-down with wine at the end of the week. Or a catch up over coffee. This would be ideal to create a space for partners and sales to swap knowledge or provide feedback in an informal meetup setting. 

There are also new platforms emerging that let you drop in and out of small conversations among participants in a similar way to how you would when mingling at an event. Why not explore the new technologies that this last year has delivered?  

5. Purchase pre-packaged digital campaigns 

Alternatively, to remove all the pressure from delivering yet more webinars, you could invest instead in pre-packaged digital campaigns.  

Use distributor funds to purchase ready-made digital campaigns, complete with all the assets partners need to sell your offering, to drive lead generation.  

This is a fast and actionable way to fill in the pipeline gaps that have been left by the absence of traditional events in your calendar.  

Now is your time to try new 

Now, when everyone else is running out of steam and losing creativity, is the time to make your mark as a distributor. This is your chance to get ahead of the competition on pipeline building and cement relationships with your partners by going above and beyond. And to do that, you need to get creative and take some risks. Try what you haven’t before. 

Here are a few of the ideas we covered to help spark ideas for your organisation: 

  • Be clear on your objectives for each campaign and event 

  • Transform your webinars by: 

  • Trying out lightning talks 

  • Avoid calling it a webinar 

  • Refreshing the format with a celebrity guest, a more informal presentation, or live video interaction 

  • Mixing up your marketing tactics with a video promotion, FOMO, and CliffsNotes 

  • Become a true VAD by offering marketing services and training on topics that holistically help their business 

  • Create a conversation space through virtual meetups, live discussions, and mingling platforms 

  • Invest in pre-packaged digital marketing campaigns instead of more events 

Enjoy creating fresh events and expanding your marketing repertoire to generate new opportunities. Embrace the challenge. 

Let us know in the comments which idea sparked your creativity.