If you sell through a channel, there are four primary activities that you should include in your channel marketing program that will help your partners grow their businesses, share clear consistent messaging with their clients, and stay informed on your business, the industry, and the partner program. Each of these relies on your ability to communicate effectively with your partners, fostering a relationship that will support partners as they grow their businesses and, in turn, grow yours.
Every channel marketing program should employ the following four tactics:
1. Lead Generation Program
If you ask VARs to name the No. 1 thing they want from a channel program, most often, the answer is “leads.” Sales leads are the key to helping your partners grow their businesses. As a part of your channel marketing efforts, develop a strong end-user lead generation program. Lead generation can be based on gathering information through calls to action (CTAs) — links, buttons, or other triggers that collect website visitors’ names and contact information in exchange for a white paper, ebook, or other content. You can also use other types of marketing campaigns or “request more information” forms to gather leads.
Your channel partners’ time is a premium. They are booked with their day-to-day tasks and efforts to win new business, and anything you can do to save them time will help them advance their businesses. As a part of the lead generation program, you should collaborate with your sales team to score leads to determine which are ready for sales and which must be nurtured. You can consider marketing automation software to deploy targeted, drip marketing campaigns based on lead demographics to keep leads engaged and informed. This will ensure VARs get “qualified” leads and will help them determine how to prioritize follow up.
Your lead generation program should also include guidelines on how you will distribute leads among your partners, based on criteria such as territory, specialty, or previous relationship. Support your partners with sales and technical resources as well as industry resources on verticals and niches to help them win new business. Invest in internal resources that can help your channel partners close deals. Considering their growth is also your growth, how are you helping your partners win business?
2. Co-branded Sales and Marketing Materials
When you sell through a channel, brand consistency can be a challenge. If you don’t provide sales and marketing materials to your channel partners, you could see your product promoted in ways that conflict with your brand, or worse, that include misinformation.
It is a wise channel marketing tactic to provide print and downloadable materials that include a space where your reseller partners can brand them with their business’ logo and contact information before sharing it with their clients and prospects or using it on their websites.
Your partners will appreciate having this professionally produced information provided to them, which eliminates the time and expense it would take for them to produce materials on their own. Moreover, this co-branded collateral accurately represents both your product and your partner’s business with a consistent, accurate message.
3. Monthly Email Communications
Another channel marketing tactic you need to employ is sending regular monthly email newsletters to your partners. With your channel partners’ busy schedules, it’s not likely they have time to research your new offerings and partner program updates on their own. It is essential to have regular communications in place to keep you partners informed. An effective communication method is sending a monthly, channel-centric newsletter reporting news about your company, product development, educational opportunities, and networking events for partners. Consider sending the newsletter at the same time each month and using partner program logos or other easily identifiable images so your partners can find it easily among their many emails.
To complement your newsletter, keep your partner portal up to date with similar information and send regular emails that direct partners back to the portal for more information.
4. Dealer Conferences
If you have an established channel, you should include dealer conferences as a part of your channel marketing program. Conferences are an excellent venue to update partners on product development and new releases and even give them the opportunity to participate in beta testing so they can experience new products first hand.
You can also give partners attending your dealer conference the opportunity to participate in training and education or to acquire credits needed for certification.
You will find that conferences provide an unparalleled opportunity to network with your partners and gather feedback during roundtable discussions on the partners’ view of what’s happening in the market. You can also assess common pain points and gauge how effective potential solutions may be to address them.
Each of these channel marketing tactics is directly tied to activities your channel partners need to succeed. And the ROI from these activities for you will be a strong channel supporting your business.