Channel partners, Channel partner programs

Channel Partner Recruitment – Changing Your Approach

Author: Heather Margolis
Author: Heather Margolis

What feels like a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng time ago, Channel Partner recruitment was (so much) easier. Vendors had their pick from a long list of Partners waiting, hoping, and striving to be an extension of their sales team. Not anymore. Today’s Partners are diversifying their services, creating their own solutions, selling outcomes, and working with multiple Vendors all-day - everyday.

No longer can you buy a list of 10,000 Partner names and start calling in the hopes that 2-3 thousand will be interested. But wait…did that even work? You’d recruit 200 and 50 would complete the steps to become a Partner, 10 would sell anything once, and two would sell anything after that.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to look at Channel Partner recruitment through an “inbound” lens, which loosely means, “understanding the Partner point of view and catering to it.”

Here’s an overview to get you started...

What is inbound?

According to Hubspot (the authority on the topic): Inbound focuses on attracting customers through content and interactions that are relevant and helpful – not interruptive. In other words, it’s the art of using SEO best practices, content and social media strategy to ensure your website is found by prospects (in this case Partners) when, where, and how they want it; and it all starts with…

1. The Partner journey

Traditional inbound is centered on the buyer’s journey which typically begins with a simple online search followed by consuming information, comparing options, deciding on a solution, and contacting suppliers who made their “short list.”

The concept also applies to Partners looking for Vendors. Yes, you may have identified the ones you want to do business with and are actively pursuing them. However, there are undoubtedly many well-suited Partners looking at your programs and offerings without your knowledge and it’s important to provide them with the right information if you want them to connect.

2. Partner personification

Personification is the process of looking at your ideal Partners, their challenges, traits, and demographics and then melding them in to one or more fictional characters. Answer questions like these to come up with an ideal Partner profile and then draft a short, one paragraph story about who they are and why you’re a good fit:

  • Which Partners are most successful with your solutions and why?
  • What is the size of the company?
  • What are their business goals?
  • What excites them about their business?
  • Who are they selling to and why?
  • What does their revenue model look like?
  • Where are they located?
  • How much help will they need for onboarding?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Which Vendors are they already working with?
  • Are they focused on a specific industry?
  • What is their value proposition?
  • What region(s) do they serve?
  • What certifications do they already have?

3. Partner-facing content

Most Vendors have recruitment-facing website pages where prospective Partners can gain (high level) information about programs, Partner types and benefits. Some Vendors have Partner-facing public blogs where potential Partners can get a feel for how much time you dedicate and which resources you have available to Partners. However, many times the Vendor’s Partner blog topics aren’t about Partners at all, they’re about the Vendor and what the Vendor wants their Partners to do. Likewise with recruitment pages, they’re often about why the Vendor is so amazing instead of how working with them serves Partners.

4. Map content to the Partner recruitment journey

Typically, Vendors' Partner recruitment pages are somewhat secretive. There’s just enough information to tease a Partner into contacting you. Undoubtedly it works some of the time, but you may never know if a potential rockstar new Partner is tempted by doesn’t connect – or – they’re thinking about it but not quite ready and don't want to reach out for more information.

Here’s where it pays to think about Channel Partner recruitment in terms of an inbound sales funnel and map content to an inbound recruitment process:

  1. Drive awareness online through social media - If you’re not yet socializing Partner-facing pages and blogs, and creating specific content meant to drive interest for your programs, it’s time. If you need help with this, we’re here for you and your Partners.
  2. Impact the consideration phase of the funnel – the prospective Partner is assessing whether or not you’re a good fit – but they haven’t yet connected with anyone in your organization. You need gated content here for them to consume similar to a sales funnel such as e-books, whitepapers and case studies. Putting a form (gate) on the content allows you to capture their information for recruitment nurturing campaigns or for vetting to see if they’re a good fit before proactively approaching them. We can help with this too.
  3. Strategy for after “the close” – once you’ve made the match and begun the onboarding process, there’s still much to do to keep your new Partners engaged and enabled. You need to educate and nurture them and help grow their business alongside your solutions.

Like sales, Partner recruitment is a process. It takes time and when done with the right goals in mind, nets a relationship that facilitates growth for both companies. Having a strategy in place and integrating content, amplification, and outreach into an actionable plan is the place to start.

For more information about how Channel Maven Consulting helps IT Vendors find best-in-class Partners contact Brad Rolfe, VP Client Strategy, for a step-by-step walkthrough of what an engagement would look like.

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