It’s a no-brainer that a good partner strategy is going to drive up your numbers. Equally, every marketer knows that the better the tools and content provided to partners the better the results. But sweeping generalisations aside, when it comes to running successful partner programs, there’s one word that trumps all others: enablement.
Why is this so? Well to answer that we should first take a look at the types of partner organisation in question. A recent analysis of the US market from CompTIA suggests that of 137,421 IT channel-oriented partners in that region, 88% were rated as ‘micro-channel firms’ — with nine employees or fewer.
What this tells us (or at least reaffirms) is that the vast majority of channel partners ‘out there’ are going to be severely restricted when it comes to resource. At best they’re going to have one or two over-stretched marketers available for bringing any new activity to life (alongside limited budgets).
Not that it’s all negatives, for these same partners also bring with them bags of desire, and a laser focus on creating credible sales opportunities. Building on this energy brings us back to enablement, which comes in a number of different flavours:
Enabling channel partners to be better educators
Great content is of course a useful starting point. But of equal importance is context, and delivering the educational support needed to help them fully understand the what, why, and how behind any product and its promotion. Such assistance is aimed at ensuring the partner can speak with assurance in any customer meeting, complete with hard numbers, compelling stats, and a clear analysis of the competitor landscape — thereby boosting their credibility and win-rates.
Enabling channel partners to be better marketers
With resources at a premium, anything that can be done to help polish your partners’ skill sets will have a big impact on their overall performance. Examples here include training (online/face-to-face) in marketing essentials such as:
- Segmenting their market and target audiences
- Developing richly detailed buyer personas
- Building out targets lists (in a way that’s fully GDPR compliant)
- Creating a lead pipeline and the process for sales follow-up
There is of course the fear that you’ll be teaching them to ‘suck eggs’, but in our experience most partners remain hungry for this type of guidance — and appreciative of any company prepared to invest in providing it.
Enabling the delivery of great marketing content
Interesting, intriguing, and engaging content drives the marketing engine — but only if it’s relevant and timely. The enablement piece here therefore relates to the buyer journey, and working through a variety of different scenarios to determine right asset/right time, as well as ‘next best action’. Helping partners model the flow of a campaign, and ensuring content is aligned to critical touchpoints, can make a huge difference to overall results.
Enabling the right options
Simply put, all the guidance and support mentioned above can serve to overwhelm a partner. Hence why effort should also be directed toward helping them find the options that work best for their budget and level of experience. To do that means creating a range of assets (from email and DM to banner ads and brochures) that partners can combine in their own intuitive way. Armed with a menu of options, each partner can then make selections based on their own comfort level and overall expectations.
Enabling frictionless access to resources
Everyone wants an easy life. For partners, this starts by simplifying the way they can access and use your marketing resources. By providing simple access to content management systems, and making assets easy to find, customisable, and actionable, you’ll dramatically increase the likelihood they’ll be put to regular use.
Enabling the personal touch
Let’s face it, empowering your partners to achieve greatness is not too different from the process of direct customer sales. Both demand multiple touchpoints across different comms channels in order to drive progress toward a measurable ‘win’. But while you can call on a host of technologies to help you scale and optimise the engagement, meaningful progress still comes down to personalities and relationships. That’s why it’s always good practice to devote energy to developing a fully collaborative partner ecosystem — to enable to constant sharing of ideas, tips and advice between you and the partner community.
The bottom line
The main takeaway from all of this is to start small, and start now! Channel enablement has become incredibly sophisticated in recent times, inspired by new tech platforms that make it easier than ever to share and connect with partners. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Instead, you can start delivering immediate results by creating a few awesome, brandable pieces of content and letting the world know they exist. It’s about building momentum, inspiring partner buy-in, and developing an enablement strategy that’s geared toward the best possible ROI for all concerned. If you build it, they will come!