Sales and marketing, Sales and marketing

Channel Partner Education: Small Steps Lead to Demand Generation

Author: Heather Margolis
Author: Heather K. Margolis

When consulting with Vendors on the topic of Partner Education we often hear about goals for To-Partner communications and demand generation initiatives. Everyone, especially Partners, is hyper-focused on generating demand and in many cases conversations with Vendors involve tactics that Partners can self-execute. Typically, these include portal activities such as customizable email drip campaigns, social media content and syndication and downloadable content such as white papers, eBooks, infographics, videos and webinars.

These components are common across Vendors because they are expected and valuable for cultivating Partner engagement. However, during on-boarding and when a Partner needs to reengage, Partner education is often missing. Of course, it would be fantastic if tools perfectly self-executed marketing strategy for Partners but we’re not there yet.

Instead, Vendors face two challenges:

  1. Portals and other tools are necessary and take time for Partners to master
  2. Partners don’t have time and/or knowledge to develop and execute integrated marketing strategy

Marketing is so much more…

Unfortunately, marketing isn’t just sending an occasional email or social media post and then sitting back waiting for prospects to show up. Partners need to understand their prospects’ pain and how to speak in ways that engage them. They also have to promote their brand and develop a consistent image, build qualified lists, execute successful campaigns, and leverage social media to build an audience, develop authority and drive demand. At the end of the day, it’s many small tasks that have to be performed consistently to get results.

We have a few suggestions to help Vendors better engage Partners in marketing:

Time is of the essence – presentation matters:

Yes, it took a lot of time to pull together that 25-page partner-facing guide but the reality is that in the face of a million tasks on the to-do list, it will fall to the bottom for busy Partners. Once that happens, chances are it will never be read. Likewise, asking Partners to carve out an hour for a webinar on your solutions when they have 5-25 other Vendors they work with asking for their time in the same way, might not be the best option either.

Marketing education – shorter is better:

Think about supplying marketing education in bite-sized bits. Try capturing their attention at events when they’re fully attentive and have 15-minutes to be 100% engaged in learning about demand generation. Or consider Partner education that’s self-serve 3-5 minute Marketing Roadmap videos where each segment covers a single topic and the overall series creates a integrated demand generation strategy.

Partners aren’t the same as corporate when it comes to marketing:

Most Channel Partners don’t have the marketing resources your corporate teams do. Keep that in mind when delivering advice to Partners. Ask yourself, “if I were a Partner, would this be attainable?”  For example, don’t suggest they forge ahead with a pay-per-click advertising campaign if the budget, expertise and staff don’t exist. Above all else, when it comes to marketing education, be certain the trainer(s) understand your Channel Partners, how your programs support their businesses and any financial or staff constraints Partners face.

Education alignment – where the rubber meets the road:

When your goal is teaching Partners about the nuances and importance of drip campaigns, show them examples from within your portal. Point out the best practices; let them know you thought through the strategy and developed campaigns that will succeed. Likewise with social media, introduce them to your Vendor-Partner Twitter handle, LinkedIn group, or Facebook page and don’t just expect them to connect with you, connect and interact with them too.

Partner education on integrated demand generation tactics and encouragement to plan and implement strategies is key to growth, but it also works to position yourself well in the minds of Partners. When they understand you care about them, they will be happy to grow their business alongside yours. If you’re there to support and help, there’s a better chance they’ll lead with your solutions the next time they’re walking into an opportunity.

If you need help with To-Partner Communication strategy or Partner education, you’re in the right place. Let’s connect, assess your programs, and help your Partners drive more demand through your Channel!

Heather K. Margolis is CEO of Channel Maven Consulting. Read more Channel Maven Consulting blogs here.