The Rhythm of Priorities
Marketing departments within reseller organisations (if they have one), are focused on creating marketing campaigns that promote their portfolio of solutions, targeted at their customer audiences. And, like most B2B marketing departments, they recognise that the buying process has become more complex, with more stages, longer sales cycles, and more people on the buying committee. To be successful, partners need great content, that is personalised by buying stage and by persona.
Meanwhile, partner sales teams want sales playbooks that help them hit targets and maintain their discounts. Whereas the partner technical teams want product updates, fixes, patches, and learning.
Vendors, on the other hand, have product release cycles with annual certifications and training requirements, alongside a calendar of quarterly sales targets and marketing funding. Large, multinational vendors will have layers of communication by product, geo, and department that will often be sent out to partners in disparate and disjointed ways as marketing departments don’t have time to funnel the communications.
All too often, sales teams send sales messages, marketing send marketing, technical teams send their own information.
The result is that the partner is bombarded.
So, how can you align vendor priorities with different partner team priorities, and what does this mean for vendor to partner communications?
This is a real challenge for many vendors:
Vendors need a centralised strategy to curate and funnel the content through a single point, with options to be tailored in terms of delivery by the partner user.
Don’t be put off by the naysayers:
“Newsletters don’t work” – yes, they do, when correctly targeted with relevant, current content.
“Emails aren’t read” – yes, they are, when relevant and of interest.
“Just add the news to the portal, they’ll find it” – no, they won’t; the partner communications (newsletters and emails), needs to drive partners TO the relevant content or asset on the portal.
“I can’t measure opens and click” – yes you can with the right tools.
Here are a few tips:
Communications must be relevant and consistent, with partners given the option to select what they want to receive, the method in which they receive it and how often.
Sophy Gray, founder of The Marketing Bee, points out; “A technical architect will simply not be interested in content created for the marketing department and vice versa. Generic content is ineffective.”
People depend on a mix of content types and formats to absorb what they need, so in an ideal world; vendors should mix it up a bit. Newsletters, research briefs, reports, blogs, webinars, videos, whitepapers, surveys, eBooks, and podcasts.
This may be obvious, but the type of content should be persona-based as research briefs and reports (long format content) are more likely to be required and valued by technical personas. A salesperson is likely to prefer a battlecard table or message matrix to be able to select the right response to objections.
The vendor’s challenge is making sure the right people know what content is available, and ensuring it is easy to find and access.
Users should be able to choose how often they receive notifications or news; be that daily, weekly, or monthly.
From experience Jaqueline Franklish stated “frequency depends on the vendor but in my experience, many are moving to daily news with a monthly round up. Also, vendors are using their partner portal home page to serve news on login, and this should be profile or persona based.”
Is the time you dispatch the message important?
Perhaps that used to be the case, but Hilary Lancaster points out: “We all have a continual flow of information and emails landing and so sending a message at the “best time” may now be when everyone else is doing likewise, so it becomes buried in the noise.”
Hilary recommended – “it is a relatively simple task to find out how often someone wants to receive their news. Now test different times sending and see when works best for you.”
It appears that the timing is less important than the content. What is key is that communications are relevant, and the frequency reflects what has been requested.
More sophisticated vendors provide new channels for their partners, covering different aspects of the business or channel program, and updated in real-time, so constantly up to date.
Social communities have a role to play with these “watering holes” becoming increasingly popular. We are no longer restricted to a few LinkedIn groups, but there are Slack channels and Teams and other platforms such as Partnership Leaders, where active communities interact, and these can be a popular place for content and news. Or even WhatsApp, where at least the content has to be relatively concise.
There are a plethora of tools and systems from HubSpot to Hootsuite that can help with communications into all these channels.
The clear leader, for news distribution, in the eyes of Olivier Choron is Impartner Newondemand as he put it: “The only truly personalized comms platform in the market, used by companies like Xerox, Zebra Poly and Autodesk. Newsondemand allows partner users to select daily, weekly, or monthly and for the vendor to segment content by persona.”
This does, however, require significant investment in both the tools and the resources to segment the users and the content. Amending messaging and content for each type of user can be onerous. Which is why, all too often, vendors resort to churning out the same content that speaks to their brand and their product, rather than what the partner needs and wants.
At the very least, lists should be created in CRM or PRM that reflect persona segmentation, even if that is only grouped by Marketing, Sales and Technical, so that partner users are served what is relevant to them. These tools need not cost the earth; there are free versions that might even be “good enough” for smaller start-up vendors. Larger vendors with multiple partner types in different Geos or selling different product lines, will need more sophisticated tools to manage the partner communications. They will want to know who used what, and track which assets helped close a deal - all to help justify and provide an ROI on the efforts.
Real Life Communications
Don’t forget the more traditional methods of communication are an important part of the mix, be that a phone call or face-2-face meeting. These all play a vital role in building partner relationships.
At our Channel Meet Up, we asked delegates if they had returned to F2F partner kick-off conferences and results were disappointing with most still saving on the budgets and running these virtually. Even Microsoft Inspire for their partners is still online not in person.
On this point Jacqui Rand, Channel Director of The Marketing Bee has a strong opinion: “Those that take the budget plunge and run real live events will see the benefits. At our Channel Meet Up the buzz and vibe are fantastic as people were so happy to be back together, swapping ideas and insights – you can’t replicate this on Teams!!”
To endorse this point, we can draw reference to a piece of research by INFUSEmedia that confirms that conferences, events, and peer recommendations are the main sources of information for B2B buyers. Although online communication and communities are important for tech companies, live events are enjoying renewed prestige.
How do you rate your partner communications?
Are you amongst the 80% of vendors who know they need to improve their channel communications, or do you shine?
Find out by taking the test CHANNEL AUDIT
The Marketing Bee
This was a collaborative blog from The Marketing Bee with thanks to the contributors: @Sophy @Sally @Olivier @Emma @Hilary
What is The Marketing Bee – we deliver marketing and channel expertise into Tech businesses. Although marketing-as-a-services is not new, our way of delivering it is unique, as we use our community of professional and experienced freelancers to fulfil requirements.
We work with large enterprises, or start-ups and scale-ups who don’t need a full marketing team, so we put a marketing team together that are real experts in their fields, to fill the gaps, flexibly and immediately. Clients appreciate the speed at which we can deliver, and our freelancers love the independence, and The Marketing Bee does the admin heavy lifting.