Activating channel partners is a huge opportunity to grow an OEM/brand’s business. A lot of resources are put into creating the optimal partner program, go to market, products, prices, rebates, incentives, and MDF structure, to name a few.
From a marketing campaign perspective, brands might consider leveraging a PRM platform and creating dedicated campaigns. However, they also know the challenge of activating the partners because they are likely not able to adequately promote your products, resulting in missed sales opportunities. Channel partners want to grow their businesses, but often lack time, money, and perhaps most importantly, marketing expertise to consistently reach their customers and prospects and stay top of mind with their prospects. And if they do marketing, often you have no visibility to the activities and what they generate of pipeline and attributable sales.
There are multiple challenges that brands are faced with when creating (or even thinking about creating) a Partner Sales and Marketing program. Here are the main challenges:
1. Limited brand control
It’s always scary to put your brand in the hands of others. It’s a fine balance of control and empowerment. How do you ensure that brand guidelines are adhered to, usage of the right product images, descriptions, and specs are being used? Not to mention logo treatment and co-op brand guidelines. How do you control pricing, promotions, etc.?
2. Hard with coordinated efforts with e.g. product launches
When you have a new brand or product launch you want to ensure that the efforts are coordinated. Both from a timing and effort perspective. (e.g. not start before the embargo is lifted). How do you control this without too many resources involved and too much risk?
3. Product content not always relevant in all stages of the customer journey
Your product and solution content is relevant in the middle and end of the funnel and the customer journey. But is it always relevant for the end-buyers? Partners often would like a more balanced set of content that adds to their reputation as an authority, bolstering their position as a thought-leader in the space. The problem is that most of the content you make available for your partners generally centers around your products and solutions. What’s missing is the broader content that’s engaging when people are earlier in the customer journey.
4. Workload and resource constraints
Both you and your partners have limited resources. So both have to prioritize. As a result, a lot of projects do not get done – and often the larger projects with a huge potential. This is something we’re all familiar with – too much to do, and not enough time. For partners with limited resources, this problem is compounded. It’s important to understand and accept this and do your best to support your partners, rather than set unreasonable expectations for their capabilities.
5. Customer trust and data privacy issues
End-buyers are more and more alert to emails and communication that they haven’t actively subscribed to. Vendor branding is great but could be ignored or seen as SPAM if it’s not relevant or not delivered by a trusted adviser (the partner). How do you manage the list and the overall privacy? And how do you control that the partners are meeting the privacy (GDPR, CCPA, CASL, etc.) regulations? These small details will have an impact on your brand if partners are not managing their privacy and earning trust from their customers and prospects.
6. Limited Reach
Your messaging, product launches, promotions, programs, campaigns, etc. is not getting to as many of your customers as you think. What are the partners’ processes to deliver it today for every hardware, software, security, cloud, printer partner they currently engage with today? You don’t have the lists to reach all of the end-buyers and if the partners are not sending communications to their list – how do you reach them?
7. Very resource-heavy to activate mid-market and SMBs
The profitable mid-market and SMBs are harder to reach if you are not able to activate your partner network. A lot of money is left on the table when you are not able to activate partners who are working with these segments. How do you enable these partners with the right tools, ensuring you are in front of the full potential of your audience without spending all your resources on them?
8. Platforms aren’t adequately utilized
The data shows that less than 15% of partners are using their brand-provided self-service portals. Partners don’t have time or expertise to leverage the many systems they have access to (imagine how many vendors they work with and they have a portal from each). The result is a very low activity level. Would an element of service help drive partners to engage with the programs/portals more frequently?
9. Not enough sales activity at the partner level
Are the partners’ salespeople oversubscribed? How do they build demand and pipeline today? Often they are more reactive than proactive and are not generating enough leads to grow the business as optimally as possible. Salespeople often become too busy to get new information out to their prospect and customer base.
10. Lack of marketing automation for partners
Platforms like Salesforce have helped automate the sales process, making it manageable and digitally process-oriented. But partners don’t always have marketing automation or access to data and analytics. They’re also lacking the resources to create the amount of content needed and expected from the end-buyers. Long sales cycles and a 7-person average in the buying process necessitates a new type of approach – and marketing automation enables end-buyers to get access to the info they need when they need.
11. Slow digital transformation at the partner level
- Why waste more money doing the same things you’ve always done when it’s proven the game has changed. Digital transformation is delivering new ways to build partnerships, deliver outcomes at a lower cost, and provide partner programs that are tightly measured and analyzed based on ROI.
- Digital Officers are being hired in top companies reporting to the CIO suggesting TCM, ABM, etc. is the new standard. Who is developing your strategy?
- ABM/TCM is more complex than it looks. It’s not one tool, one process, or a single silver bullet like it’s been marketed to be. It requires a fully managed service to deliver it. Unfortunately, partners are oversubscribed and resources are time-poor, so implementing these complex systems is highly unlikely for them.
12. No visibility to pipeline and attributed sales ROI
Even when partners are doing their marketing activities it’s rare that you have visibility into their pipeline as they are not sharing their leads because they are afraid of channel conflict (read: brand is stealing their leads) or they just don’t have time to update the systems. And you’ll never have access to attributable sales – which makes it impossible for you to report clear ROI on the money you spend on the partners.
What’s the solution?
The solution to these challenges can be solved in different ways.
The top 1-2% of your partners probably are already solving some of the above challenges themselves and will be able to access your MDF funds to create bespoke solutions.
But what about the rest of your partners? The other 98%.
OneAffiniti has created a unique technology platform combined with a service-led approach to solving the general challenges with partner sales and marketing described above. We offer one of the most successful through-channel marketing programs in the industry that gives you access to a pipeline and attributable sales ROI. Our program averages a 22:1 ROI for participating brands, based on closed sales. Think about that for a moment.