MassTLC held the Sales & Marketing Seminar: Channel Marketing ROI at the Iron Mountain headquarters in downtown Boston to discuss channel marketing best practices on Wednesday July 30. I had the opportunity to moderate the panel discussion, and the panel of speakers included sales and marketing executives with deep channel experience from firms with strong partner programs:
Scott Barlow, VP of Global Sales & Marketing, Reflexion Networks
Deanna Estes, Director of Marketing, Gordon Flesch Company
Jeanne Hopkins, SVP and CMO, Continuum Managed IT Services
Cynthia Stephens, VP of Marketing, ByAllAccounts, a Morningstar Company
Throughout the discussion, there were 4 significant themes that kept coming back up, I have tried to summarize the discussion around those themes.
1. Partner Recruitment: Segment the Partner Community & Know Your Target
It’s just as important to segment the market of potential partners, as it is to segment the market of your potential customers. Not all partners are created equal, partner segmentation is essential since their needs will be different. When recruiting channel partners, set strict requirements upfront, so you bring aboard the right ones for you from the start. Jeanne Hopkins shared how the Continuum marketing team is able to apply segmentation to partner segments, that they are ultimately able to link back to partner yield. You’ll need to:
- Identify the specific DNA of the channel partner you want
- Differentiate your business from the thousands of other vendors
- Recruit partners who are the right fit, with the right resources, and believe in the system you’ve implemented
Once you recruit the partners, it’s all about building scale but maintaining intimacy with your partners. You can also use social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to help develop those relationships with your partners. Through this, you’ll be able to gain customer trust on a personal and professional level.
2. Content Marketing: Establishing Thought Leadership
Another crucial aspect of channel marketing is the educational content you distribute to your partners. Quality content provokes thought leadership. Develop relevant content and activate them across digital, traditional and social media environments. Provide your partners with whitepapers, solution briefs, and blogs that feature high value content. Using partner events like conferences, seminars, or webinars where you participate and present. These can be considered as value-add marketing offerings for your partners as well.
Creating volumes and volumes of standardized marketing collateral or email blasts for your partners to just slap a logo on is not viewed as a high value marketing offer. As Deanna Estes stressed, “Marketing in a Box” content offerings from vendors do not help solution providers, like Gordon Flesch, develop their brand and differentiate their offerings.
3. Marketing Planning & Execution: Build Individualized Plans with Your Partners
There was absolute consensus among the panel members that the best approach is to work with your partners on a 1:1 basis to build individualized marketing plans. It starts with understanding your partner’s business plans, and then providing the proper resources to help develop that plan. You need to understand who your committed and successful partners are, and then work with them in a collaborative and flexible way.
Cynthia Stephens shared a process where ByAllAccounts leverages their own marketing automation tools to build drip email campaigns for their partners, and actually provide unique, “request a quote” capabilities from individual partners on their website. This way, they’re directly helping individual partners with demand generation.
There was a lot of discussion about co-marketing funding and the use of market development funds. Again the feedback was consistent, broad-based programs are not as effective and can be very expensive. If you’re building individualized plans with your partners, and as part of that process you provide some shared investment that can be very effective, then you know exactly how the money is being spent.
4. Management System: It’s Possible to Build a Repeatable Process with Consistent Outcomes
Scott Barlow shared the management system they established at Reflexion Networks to manage their channel program, which includes thousands of solution providers. They sell exclusively through channel partners and have a well-defined management system with the key performance indicators outlined below:
Partner Recruitment: Total partner registrations
Partner Enablement: % of partners that sell services every month
Partner Scale: Average # of subscribers/partners
Partner Productivity: Average revenue per subscriber
Partner Retention: Partner renewal rate
Scott emphasized that they are able to drive specific activities through there channel plans to address gaps in different areas. There was good discussion about the critical elements in growing and managing a channel program, and how that can build a loyal partner channel with predictable outcomes.
In closing, I thought the session raised a lot of very good questions from the audience. There was definitely a lot of interest in the topic and discussion about how they could apply these channel marketing best practices to their own businesses. Hopefully, we’re able to hold more sessions on partner channel sales and marketing in the future. It was a pleasure to moderate the panel with such a great group of speakers.
Thanks again to Iron Mountain for hosting and to the MassTLC team for pulling this together.
Blog as seen on http://blog.masstlc.org/2014/08/guest-blog-masstlc-hosted-sales.html with approval of author Steve Perry