How to Combat Channel Marketing Challenges

Channel or partner marketing is a strategic part of many B2B organizations, but often times the Demand Generation Strategy is overlooked for this segment of the business. Three of the biggest challenges with channel marketing are defining the buyer’s journey, scale and relevancy. Why are these tough? You can’t just assume you have the same buyers or customers, even if you are partners. You can’t simply change the title of a corporate demand generation program or segment your list to hit channel partners and call it channel marketing to solve the scale and relevancy issue. There needs to a well-documented Demand Generation Strategy for channel marketing efforts to drive the revenue needed.

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Channel marketing is complex in general – nothing is straight forward in the channel, right? Who owns the customer? Who owns the account?  How do you manage working off joint prospect lists? Who manages the prospect list? Are there data privacy issues associated with sharing lists? How can you assess ROI if your partner’s reporting isn’t great or if different CRM or MA platforms are in place? What about nurturing leads? These are just a few questions that need to be answered before embarking on any program, let alone a comprehensive strategy to support the revenue objectives for the channel.

Take these questions as seriously as you would when you define your own Demand Generation Strategy. It matters. A well-documented and agreed upon strategy helps mitigate any channel /sales conflict down the line.

An often murky area in partner marketing is identifying the customer or buyer. Is it your customers, joint customers or internal customers (partner sales team) you need to connect with? Remember to think just as you would when developing your own Demand Generation Strategy, you need to consider the buyer’s journey and think about who you are messaging to and how you are helping to solve their problems. This is where the relevancy challenge comes in to play as well.

Initial programs for partner marketing might be developed to generate awareness of your solution for the partner sales team (help them understand your value for identifying sales opportunities). Any messaging or call to action has to be specific to this audience so you can connect with them, and show how your solution will help them (sell more, sell higher in the organization, have a sticker solution or other value proposition). Relevancy. But this won’t be the same messaging for every customer or partner. Nor will it be the same at various points in the buyer’s journey and that brings us to the issue of scale.

Scale is a huge challenge in partner marketing because how do you help 10 partners drive more sales and leads, let alone 40 or 100 partners? Every partner wants to be special and unique…and they are. However, it is not possible to create unique programs for each partner effectively. Partner marketers tend to fail when they do not recognize this. To combat this challange- there should be core components developed for channel marketing programs that are used and available for all partners (key messaging docs, graphics or webinar capabilities).

Additionally, unique programs need to be jointly developed as well to keep content relevant for the partner and their customers. No partner wants to use the same piece of content their competition just sent out. Would you? Creating core content helps build a foundation for any partner marketing efforts. Just like our own B2B buyers – partners are unique and want and expect to be treated that way.

To combat the challenges of partner or channel marketing, develop your channel Demand Generation Strategy as you would for your own B2B Buyer. In a recent post by Carlos Hidalgo, Demand Generation It’s Not That Easy, Hidalgo writes that we tend to forget how complex effective demand generation can be. Try building a revenue stream with partners, and it becomes even more complex.

Build your partner marketing strategy to incorporate various buyers, content marketing offers, and define your Lead Management Process, as well as solid reporting mechanisms to track effectiveness.  If something isn’t working – you will need to be agile and make changes quickly. Build core components and then work with your individual partners to make partner programs unique. Any partner marketing efforts will be ineffective if you don’t think of the strategy first – and that means answering some hard questions before you get started. When done correctly, partner marketing can add significant revenue to an organization, when attempted without a strategy, it becomes a resource drain and a missed opportunity.

Author: Erika Goldwater, CIPP/US @erikawg Director, Marketing, ANNUITAS

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