Partner University: The Ultimate Partner Marketing Tech Stack

Marketing technology has seen incredible growth over the last year and that is only going to continue. The increase in digital channels, technological expansion, and consumer interaction with brands requires modern solutions that keep partnerships growing. With the right marketing technology, your partnership can grow exponentially. In this post, we’ll show you which tools you need to keep your business growing by building the ultimate marketing tech stack.

Finding the right partner marketing tech stack requires an understanding of what it actually is. Marketing technology stacks are a group of tools that marketers leverage to simplify marketing processes and improve partnership activities. These tools not only assist with marketing automation, they also provide measurements of activities and help partners increase spending efficiency. Together, these tools facilitate growth and help partners streamline collaboration for improved marketing campaigns that communicate with customers in efficient and personalized ways. 

The Ultimate Partner Marketing Tech Stack

With over 8,000 marketing technology solutions in 2020, we decided to pare this down to categories that are most important and relevant for channel partner marketing and sales. Forrester also did a great article around technologies for Channel Marketing, but we wanted to share what we found in our experience not just the tools. Each partnership and business varies, and there isn’t a one size fits all option. The right tools for your business depend on your current and future marketing goals. 

Tech Stack Segments

There are seven marketing tech segments that companies and partners must build their stack based on the areas that are most important for them. 

  • Promotion and Advertising – Software that promotes your brand and increases traffic to your website
  • Sales and Commerce – Improves online and offline shopping experiences
  • Social Engagement and Relationships – Focuses on customer success, social media and the overall management of customer relationships
  • Content and Consumer Experience – Content management, email marketing, marketing automation, apps and other software that integrates with both sales and customer success departments
  • Analytics – Tools for measuring campaign effectiveness
  • Data – Databases to get enriched information and insights on your prospects and leads 
  • Management – Software that facilitates collaboration across teams for a more complete alignment strategy

Once you understand where your partnership needs to focus, building your ultimate tech stack becomes easier. 

Necessities and Nice-to-Have Tools

It’s also important to consider the necessities for your team. There are must-have tools that boost efficiency, increase collaboration, and improve communication between partners. Additionally, there are nice-to-have tools that facilitate organization and creativity. Creating the ultimate partner marketing tech stack requires a focus on the must-haves, and a consideration of the nice-to-haves if the budget allows for them. Keeping your stack lean helps protect against having too many services that confuse partners and lessens the financial impact of unused tools and software.

Why is this Stack Important?

Now that you have a better understanding of the right tools for your ultimate partner marketing tech stack, you need to know why the stack you choose is important. While there isn’t a defined stack for each business, there are essential tools that help your partnership grow based on your terms. Your marketing tech (martech) stack should meet the needs of your organization, facilitate your overall strategy, and solve any current problems you have. Creating a flexible stack that scales and automates as you grow enhances your processes and doesn’t limit your growth due to cost or overall capabilities. 

What Are the Components of the Ultimate Partner Marketing Tech Stack?

A fully developed martech stack includes different tools that work together seamlessly. Regardless of your overall goals, the ultimate stack for your partnership should include:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – Software that stores customer information and helps build relationships for increased engagement
  • Project Management – Tools that increase collaboration by streamlining workflows and simplifying communication between teams.These tools increase organization across partnerships and let members easily track the progress of each project.
  • Marketing Automation – Software that automates email marketing, social media and lead generation workflows. This component lets you create personalized messages across campaigns that run constantly, without manual effort.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Software that improves search rankings with keyword research, content audits and backlink building for online growth.
  • Content Management System (CMS) – Manages, stores, and publishes online content without requiring new code each time.
  • Social Media Management – Tools that help you keep track of brand mentions, schedule social media posts, and access user analytics.

Depending on your business model and requirements, your partner marketing tech stack may include all of these components, a few of them, or others that aren’t mentioned. A solid martech stack provides the tools necessary for growth in areas that are important, without the bloat of software that you won’t use or don’t need. Careful strategizing helps you choose the options that best fit your company, goals and growth requirements.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, consider how each component in your marketing tech stack works together. Most of the software available integrates with a variety of tools, making onboarding and integration simpler and faster for the entire company.

xAmplify Helps You Create the Ultimate Partner Marketing Tech Stack

xAmplify partner relationship management (PRM) solutions combine the tools and software your business needs into an automated system. With tools that align processes, improve workflows, facilitate communication and help increase sales and results, xAmplify helps you create the ultimate partner marketing stack so you and your partners can focus on growth.

If you’re ready to grow your business with a martech stack that meets your partnership’s needs, schedule an xAmplify demo for more information.

Why are only 20% of partners driving 80% of your channel revenue?

Most businesses that work with channel partners enter the relationship to grow revenue. The desire is that each partner will generate leads and deals from their current clients and connections. The hope is that partners will actively market to grow the number of deals beyond their current connections. In reality, not every partner is able to achieve these expectations. In fact, only 20% of partners generate 80% of channel revenue. 

There’s a reason for this — The Pareto Principle. It says 80% of results come from 20% of the effort. This rule applies to partnerships, too. 

Most companies will sit back and accept this as their reality. In our experience, we see underlying problems that keep partnerships from breaking through this barrier.

  • Most partners lack a clear sales process to be able to sell your product or service. 
  • Your product or service needs to fit into the partner’s marketing capabilities.
  • You have limited bandwidth to support partners equally.

What makes a successful partnership

Partnerships are successful when they align with both companies’ goals. In most businesses, success is measured by revenue. When you’re looking to create successful partnerships, consider these factors:

  • Trust levels: First, you must trust the business with which you’re partnering to do the right thing for you and themselves. 
  • Willingness to communicate: Partnerships require easy, consistent communication to keep teams apprised of the latest company developments and direction. Treating partners as an extension of your team is a great way to think about the level of communication needed.
  • Follow-through: Any company can say they’ll do what you need. Look for those who can demonstrate their effectiveness at coming through for their partners. Partners will focus on the companies that are giving them mind share. 

That seems easy. Why can’t more than 20% of partners contribute more revenue again?

If you follow the success factors from the previous section, then every partnership can be successful. If your company is small with a handful of partners, then you can easily manage. If you have hundreds or thousands of partners, on the other hand, execution is really hard. 

  • As mentioned earlier, companies with partner or channel marketing and sales teams have more requests from partners than they can ideally manage. You end up focusing on the top-performing partners and making sure they have a clear understanding of sales and market development processes.  
  • Partners do not sell your product or service exclusively. They tend to focus on what is easiest to sell. If they don’t get the right information or collateral at the right time, they will move on to the next company.
  • Partners need to know how to sell to their current customers, and they also need help to fill their pipeline. The companies that can fill their pipeline become invaluable because it helps them grow. This can be challenging. 

How do we overcome this and engage all our partners?

To overcome the Pareto Principle and engage more than 20% of your partners the right way, you need to make sales enablement and marketing programs scalable across all partners. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you develop or revamp your partner program:

  • Make life simple for partners. Use a PRM to communicate and share information. Ideally, choose one that uses automation to co-brand marketing collateral and make things easy for them to share.
  • Fill your partner’s pipeline. Provide complete lead generation marketing programs they can implement easily. Provide funding to support their marketing programs. 
  • Help them close. Share leads so they feel you have a vested interest in their success and enable their sales team to close deals and sales efforts. Measure everything: Data will give you insights on which partners need more help. It also shows you which marketing collateral and campaigns are working and which need addressing. Get attribution to make sure you reward partners correctly for generating leads and deals.
  • Make it easy for yourself. Use a platform to scale these items for each partner. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with the 80/20 rule. 

xAmplify replaces friction with automation to help partnerships scale marketing automation and sales enablement across all your partners — not just 20% of the most active. To see how xAmplify can improve and amplify all your partner relationships, request a demo.

Partnership University: PRMs and Why You Should Have One

In the world of partnerships, challenges show up frequently for those looking to expand their programs and keep up with the changing ecosystem. Partner relationship management (PRM) systems help you do that in a way that boosts sales while streamlining the processes that make your channels work. The key is understanding which platform meets both the current and future needs of your organization and helps maintain sales growth throughout the process.

What is a PRM?

At its core, partner relationship management is software that facilitates the management of partnerships. It also helps with streamlining marketing and selling products across partnerships. These systems give channel sales managers and marketers the tools they need to connect and automate their current processes. A PRM combines all the essential strategies, methodologies, and steps for your partnership in one location, and helps all interested parties build, oversee and manage the relationship more effectively. PRM systems range from simple options that assist with the management of partnerships to those that automate essential tasks and provide clear data on the overall business relationship.

It is important to understand that a PRM differs from a customer relationship management (CRM) system. While they both help you grow your partnership, they do so in different ways and are not interchangeable. 

Differences between CRM and PRM

Both CRM and PRM are relationship management tools, but they work in unique ways. A CRM collects and shares data in the direct-selling environment. It manages the sales sequence from lead generation through the purchase and afterward for increased visibility into the sales process.

A PRM manages the internal processes of partner organizations and their channel relationships. These tools combine the layers of a partnership for process alignment, improved workflow across channels, and clear goal-oriented strategies. PRMs incorporate communication, learning management, performance, and real-time progress into a single tool that facilitates reseller and manufacturer relationships.

Typical features in a PRM

PRM tools vary based on the size and needs of the organization, and the specific options they offer. However, most systems include basic functionality, such as

  • Automated partner recruiting and onboarding processes
  • Centralized online management portals
  • Simplified lead and deal registrations
  • Shared sales and educational resources
  • Quick commission payments
  • Forecasted channel sales and partner effectiveness
  • Assigned leads that prevent channel conflicts

 Additional options and add-ons help partnerships tailor each tool to their specific needs.

When choosing a partner relationship management tool, companies bombard you with all the features that make them better than other options. However, there are important automation options that drastically alter the usability of a PRM – and how long each step takes for setup.

What PRM companies won’t tell you

There are several aspects of PRM implementation and streamlining that take considerable time and effort. When handling these tasks on your own, the processes often require days of emails, meetings, and approvals that take time away from more important aspects of running your business. The following are just some ways that xAmplify makes the entire partnership management process easier.

Automatic Co-branding

Co-branding across partnerships requires all parties to agree on specific details. With built-in logo merging, all it takes is the click of a button to use side-by-side branding that reflects both organizations. You can even create locked templates that prevent changes so your identity remains intact across content.

Seamless Integration

Integration between Salesforce and other tech stacks takes time, and they aren’t simple processes. xAmplify provides an automated Salesforce integration process that lets you focus more on strengthening and developing your channel relationships.

Partner Focused

Onboarding requires an understanding of the individual partners and how they align with the overall goals of the company. With proper alignment and incentivization, onboarding partners becomes quicker and easier. Streamlining this process helps new partners redistribute your message, drive sales, and increase your reach faster. xAmplify’s platform is built for the onboarding process and makes it simple for partners to redistribute marketing campaigns.

xAmplify Goes Beyond the Typical PRM

xAmplify provides PRM solutions that help you grow your partnerships. With a truly automated system that prioritizes channel partners, we help your distribution channels achieve better results and higher sales. We simplify omnichannel, multi-touch campaigns and provide sales enablement for multiple partners, all with a single tool that automates processes for faster results. We help you save your time and resources so you and your partners focus on closing deals and seeing more revenue growth. 

If you’re ready to choose a PRM that includes the power of through-channel marketing automation, schedule an xAmplify demo today to learn more.

The difference between PRM and Partner Revenue Enablement (Through-Channel Partner Marketing)

If your company uses a partner program, chances are you’ve also instituted some sort of partner relationship management (PRM) system to keep track of partnerships. You probably are also looking for ways to leverage those partnerships for increased revenue, which is where partner revenue enablement comes into play. 

Partner Relationship Management v. Enabling Partners

Partner relationship management is exactly what it sounds like — it’s the management of the mutual arrangement you have with partner companies. It’s a method for tracking the goals and standards you’ve set with your partners. Training and workflow are often pieces of the relationship management framework as well.

Partnership revenue enablement, on the other hand, is all about empowering your partners with the information, tools, and training they need to sell your product and increase your revenue. It’s an engagement approach that extends past just giving resources to your partners and expecting them to follow through. It invites their sales teams to join in your brand’s vision and gives them a playbook that shows them where they fit into your strategic plan so they can generate and close the right deals on your behalf.

Both concepts are integral to the success of your company’s through-channel marketing strategy. Technology makes them easier to execute, so long as you choose the right software for each.

PRM Software is not the Same as Partner Revenue Enablement Software

Most of the popular PRM software options out there provide tracking of the partner relationship. They let you share processes, training, sessions and other resources with your partners. The top PRM solutions are suitably robust and allow you to manage partnerships across the board.

Unfortunately, that robustness can work against your bottom line without the proper engagement and enablement to represent your brand as completely as your own teams do. When partners don’t have a playbook that’s easy to follow or a process to sell your product for you, they’re more likely to ignore your offering and find one that’s easier for them to sell. Those partners end up leaning toward other partnerships or miss key opportunities to impact your revenue because they don’t know the right information to make the connection on your behalf.

In contrast, partner revenue enablement software specifically addresses this issue and simplifies the sales process for partners. The best of breed for this type of software solution is full of time-saving features that make conversions easier for your partners. This includes giving your partners access to co-branded, multichannel campaigns and landing pages to full-tilt, scalable marketing across emerging and social media platforms. The top options also plan around compliance requirements and offer tracking and performance metrics so you can see how partnerships lead to revenue for your company.

The right partner revenue enablement software should be a scalable solution so you have increased capacity for more partnerships. Features like automated campaign tracking and  partner engagement metrics, free up your staff to develop more relationships and further your company’s revenue potential.

When revenue from partner relationships matters, partner revenue enablement is crucial. Offer your trusted partners the right software to manage campaigns and produce leads for you.

Forrester Channel Software Tech Stack 2021 Highlights the Rapid Shift in Channel Marketing: Here’s How xAmplify Fits the Landscape

Channel software tech solutions are used by companies to engage and grow partnerships as well as enable them to generate revenue. This tech stack helps companies attract, onboard, develop, enable, incent, co-sell with, manage, and measure partners. Forrester has released its Channel Software Tech Stack for 2021, and the message is clear: channel solutions are evolving rapidly.

As Forrester noted, the worldwide health crisis of 2020 inspired innovation in nearly every part of doing business, including how channel marketing works in a distributed, high-touch environment. Forrester’s research can be found here. Gone are the days when spreadsheets and person-to-person knowledge transfer were sound practices. Many tech companies capitalized on this digital transformation. 

xAmplify’s suite of products already fits this model using “through-channel marketing automation” (TCMA). However, TCMA is just one way xAmplify works for you. 

Channel marketers can enjoy the benefits of xAmplify for any aspect of their partner channel:

  • Partner Relationship Management
  • Partner Growth
  • Partner Sales Enablement and Demand Generation
  • Tech Alliance and Ecosystem Marketing

xAmplify Purposely Designed

xAmplify’s solution is purposely designed to take the friction out of how companies and partners work together. With decades of experience as channel partners and value-added resellers, we bring unique insights into the problems experienced with many PRMs and partner portals. xAmplify was built from the ground up to eliminate common co-marketing challenges and facilitate the main goal for both companies and partners, revenue growth. 

xAmplify Cloud & API Based Integration

xAmplify’s cloud and API-based integrated solution is what drives customer success. We focus on adding value for both businesses and partners. Faster setup with native integrations for channel programs means easier, scalable solutions. From the native Salesforce deal registration to 3-click campaign launch for partners, here are just a few ways xAmplify continues to stand out among the growing marketplace:

  • Fast setup: xAmplify gets your account and integrations set up in a matter of hours instead of weeks.
  • Native integrations: Deal registration connects to Salesforce without any custom development.
  • 3-click campaign launch with automatic co-branding: Partners easily launch co-branded campaigns without much effort.
  • Integrated SPAM, GDPR, and CCPA Compliance: xAmplify maintains the latest privacy and data handling compliance as well as SPAM check to ensure your brand reputation is maintained.

Partner Experience

Even with a growing ecosystem, a fundamental aspect of successful partnerships is providing an excellent experience with companies. xAmplify was designed with this in mind. xAmplify lets you provide your partners with access to a host of digital campaign marketing tools all in one place. From emails to videos, landing pages to online events – partners can co-brand and redistribute campaigns with a mere 3 clicks.   

Build Your Ecosystem Today

Ready to take your partner channel to the next level? Consider a consultation with our growth experts so we can understand the current state of your channel program. Let us show you how you can customize the xAmplify platform to fit your unique channel needs and deliver the best partner experience to grow revenue.

Why Your Company Needs Channel Marketing Now

I’ll tell you the answer straight away: channel marketing creates a revenue opportunity three times larger than whatever you’re doing now. When you think of sales, channel marketing probably doesn’t enter the logic tree in your mind. You probably think any given Company has a Product or Service that they market directly to their Customers. Their Customers buy from said Company and use their Product or Service. 

And it looks something like this:

direct-sales-flow

What’s shocking is that this type of sales (direct sales) accounts for only 25% of global commerce, as estimated by the World Trade Organization. The whopping majority — 75% — of sales happen an entirely different way. 

What is Channel Sales?

This 75% share of the global marketplace is selling to customers indirectly, in what’s called channel sales. This means they sell through channel partners, such as resellers, value-added resellers, distributors, referral partners, independent software vendors, and a few other types. Generally, these partners have a large, established customer base and a trust relationship with end-users that a manufacturer can leverage to their advantage. And it’s a two-way street for resellers—the retailer needs the product because otherwise they’d have nothing to sell!

For instance, a manufacturer like Honda doesn’t sell cars directly to consumers. Instead, independent dealerships open up shop and ship in Hondas from Tokyo to sell to the end customer. In another example, a company like TOMS shoes uses both direct and indirect sales to get their product into consumers’ hands (and onto their feet). You can find TOMS at several retailers and department stores along with a variety of other indirect offerings. But you can also go to the TOMS flagship store in Venice Beach California, and other TOMS stores, to buy directly from the maker.

Not all companies are oriented to channel sales and thus are not in need of channel marketing. For instance, a nail salon, a restaurant, or a tattoo shop wouldn’t sell through channel partners. These types of companies will always sell directly to the consumer.

However, many companies that can sell indirectly just aren’t doing it. They may not understand that channel sales opens up an entirely new revenue stream with far more potential customers than can be reached through direct sales. 

And that looks something like this:

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Channel marketing is to indirect sales as marketing is to direct sales

I repeat, channel marketing is to indirect sales as marketing is to direct sales. Think about that. In today’s inundated marketplace, no company can reach its customer base without a solid marketing effort. 

And when it comes to direct sales (again, only 25% of the worldwide sales pie), there are billions of marketing dollars allocated, and thousands of software solutions adopted, agencies hired, and advertisements placed. There are CMOs and SVPs and DOMs running huge teams of marketers, from your content managers to your email experts, plus your social media leads, an array of copywriters for long-form and short-form content, not to mention the team of designers responsible for your visual brand identity. And this doesn’t even include the people working at those software companies and agencies who help run this well-oiled direct marketing machine.

When it comes to indirect sales (again, the far larger 75% majority), most companies don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps this is why so many companies that can sell indirectly aren’t doing it. They don’t have the bandwidth or the knowledge base. 

There’s not nearly the breadth of agencies and software solutions available for indirect sales as for direct, and advertising through channel partners is a mystery. Thus, companies allocate far fewer resources and money to channel; it’s like a can of worms most brands are afraid to open. Instead, they try a half-baked, low-risk, manual approach bound for failure or just stick to what they know: direct sales. Rather than really trying to understand channel marketing, rather than devoting some R&D budget to figuring it out, they mostly avoid it…and they continue missing out on that 75% of the marketplace. 

Channel marketing software versus direct marketing software 

Reflecting the comparable ease of direct sales is the high number of resources the industry has produced to generate direct sales leads, automate direct communications, and track that customer data. There are hundreds of thriving CRMS and marketing automation tools to serve this purpose. Why is this so? Because data is the key to selling and automation is the key to delivery at scale. We can follow this same logic for channel marketing, and just add ease of use as the key to getting partners to participate in a co-marketing effort with your brand.

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Fortunately, there are through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) solutions on the rise to fulfill these keys to success, but not all are created equal. If you’re ready to dive into channel sales, it’s important to know what you should be looking for when choosing a TCMA platform. Take the time to watch a number of demos and make sure you ask the right questions during those meetings.

If adopting a software solution still sounds overwhelming, try checking out a full service offering like xAmplify Sail. With this offering, we at xAmplify leverage our cutting edge software to act as your full service channel marketing team. So if you don’t find a product that’s right for your company, perhaps try a service to do it all for you. In any case, with the right resources in place, channel sales is likely to be a massive revenue driver for your brand. 

cta-grow-my-channel-sales

Choosing a TCMA Platform: How to Know Who, When, Why, and Which

A surprising number of indirect sales companies still function manually when it comes to co-marketing with their resellers, and have yet to adopt a TCMA platform (through-channel marketing automation platform). This seems to be most common among SMB and mid-levels unable to allocate budget to a solution and not quite foreseeing how a solution will actually enable them to rapidly scale. Lack of knowledge about evolving tech creates a huge missed opportunity.

These companies are blind as to:

  • The “who” (who needs TCMA?)
  • The “when” (is it time for my company to adopt a solution?)
  • The “why” (why do I really need this?)
  • And the “which” (which platform do I choose?)

Sound familiar? Then let’s fill in those blanks with an overview of the who, when, why, and which of channel marketing tools.

Who needs a channel marketing automation solution?

If you sell through indirect channels via resellers, distributors, ISVs, or VARs, you fit the “who” profile of a company in need of channel marketing automation. Doesn’t matter if you’re an SMB, mid-level, or enterprise. You fit the profile because these solutions are designed to help companies like yours scale your channel sales program, increase partner participation, extend your reach, and bring in more revenue via indirect pipelines.

When not executed through a TCMA platform, channel sales is an excruciating, overwhelming endeavor. If this overwhelm also sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, many SMB and mid-level companies don’t have a structured partner program in place because they’re limited by time and headcount. Things operate on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, day-to-day basis dealing with partners, and long term growth hasn’t made it into the business plan yet.

For companies that live on both direct and indirect sales, many of them just say “forget it” to channel strategy altogether. It’s too labor-intensive and tedious to build. So they focus on direct sales instead.

When should I adopt a TCMA platform?

For those who are trying to maintain a partner program, but have yet to adopt a technology solution, channel sales is a daily struggle, with looming pressure to close deals fast rather than nurture the pipeline, and a scramble to put out fires as they constantly catch. If this—yet again—is familiar, if channel sales is a cumbersome process you’re thinking about giving up on, then your answer to “when” is NOW.

The pain and struggle you’re suffering is totally avoidable and a solution would be incredibly low cost compared to the return on investment. Let’s put it this way… A day in the life of a channel sales organization that hasn’t yet embraced through-channel marketing automation might go something like this:

You blast an email with a new asset to every partner. You don’t have analytics in place to see who opened it, much less who’s leveraging it for redistribution. You cross your fingers and hope a sale comes in through a partner. When few or none do, you reach out over the phone… One. Partner. At a time… to find out how it’s going. Did you get my email? Did you download the asset? Did your designers add your logo? Our designer left a whitespace for your logo. Are you going to redistribute the asset? The sale ends Friday, so we need you to redistribute no later than tomorrow. How many prospects will you send it to—is there any way you can track opens and report back to me?

Gasp! (Coming up for air).

Talk about exhausting. No wonder most SMBs and mid-levels have given up! Imagine having that conversation twenty times a day. Your partners would start avoiding your calls, stoking a whole new bunch of fires.

Besides being an exhausting and off-putting channel marketing strategy, the manual way is inefficient. Hours of time have been wasted in this instance, and likely with little yield. A TCMA platform would have deployed that initial asset, had the metrics to track it to and through partners to show who’s redistributing and to reveal the desired open rate downstream. And it would have taken a fraction of the time for both the vendor and the partner.

If a day in this life sounds like a day in your life… it’s time to stop struggling.

Why do I need automation for channel sales?

If you’re in channel sales and don’t have a through-channel marketing automation tool in place, why you need one should be implicit by now. But if you’re still not convinced, let’s look at some numbers.

  • 75% of global sales are made through indirect channels. Your marketplace opportunity is massive. But…
  • Only 20% of partners typically deliver 80% of channel sales for their vendor source.
  • That means 80% of channel partners aren’t doing much, because they need more than a phone call from you hounding them about redistribution. They need more than an email with a single asset and a whitespace for their logo. They need their hands held.
budget-for-channel-marketing-automation-is-necessary
Allocating budget to a channel marketing automation tool is critical for channel sales growth.

If you hold their hands, or use the right automation tool to hold their hands for you, you tap into that inactive 80% of partners. Get those guys and gals pushing your message to their customers, and your sales will start to skyrocket.

Ultimately, a new TCMA platform in the marketing tech stack will not only pay for itself, it will save you time, scale your partner program, and drive revenue. That’s why.

…But only if you nail the “which” part….

Which solution does TCMA the best?

There are a dozen or more platforms out there claiming to be TCMA tools. Many of them are portals and/or PRMs (partner relationship managers) that have been around for several years, and have retrofitted their platforms to “automate” co-branded messaging.

If your main need is real automation, through and through, then be extremely judicious when you come across companies like this. Until very recently the standard channel marketing practice was to hire one of these portals or PRMs as a common ground for vendors to store content—from whitepapers, to logos, to price sheets, to design assets. These platforms would deploy an email to partners letting them know when the vendor added something new, so partners were aware they could come collect.

And that was about as far as the automation went. From there, it was up to partners to log in to the portal (a single space shared with the vendor and other partners), download the content, add their own logos, upload and configure the campaign in whatever emailing software they were using, and redistribute.

There was still a ton of work required on the part of the partner. And there were still no metrics for the vendor. Not entirely helpful.

As this problem became more and more evident and technology evolved, new solutions started to emerge. Some are cohesive tools with end-to-end content storage, automatic co-branding, same-platform email functionality, and metrics included. This type of platform provides each partner with their own individual user instance, login, and dashboard so that list uploading and segmentation are secure and unlimited—which renders metrics and redistribution more accessible than they’ve ever been.

However, for PRMs and portals that existed previously and have now retro-fitted outbound automation (the email delivery and metrics aspect of co-marketing) the fact that they still simultaneously function in their old capacities makes them largely faulty; partner list uploading and same-platform email deployment are not compulsory, meaning metrics are non-comprehensive and unreliable.

If simple, end-to-end automation is what you’re looking for, schedule a demo with xAmplify, which was created at the turn of the TCMA revolution and designed specifically for through-channel marketing automation, not to function as a portal.

cta-grow-my-channel-sales

4 Ways to Onboard Channel Partners Faster and Boost Sales Sooner

It’s not easy to onboard channel partners. But when your partners succeed, you succeed. Quick and effective onboarding of partners is a big indicator of long term success for any channel program. Fast, successful onboarding means more revenue, greater ROI in every channel partnership, and higher retention. Thus, prioritizing your partners when you adopt a new TCMA tool is particularly crucial. It’s not enough to sign up for a platform, then dole it out to channel partners and expect them to invest the time and budget in learning how to use it.

Vendors need to be there every step of the way to ensure the investment in a promising new piece of tech can realize its full potential.

Making channel partners a priority

According to CSO Insights, one-fourth of vendors or manufacturers say partners take a year or longer to become active in their channel marketing strategies. So… a whopping 25% of indirect sales companies and/or teams land new partner contracts—and then allow them to go stale for more than 12 months. Why put in all that effort to land a new strategic channel partnership, only to let it slip through the cracks?

With 75% of global sales being transacted through indirect channels, this hands-off behavior squanders a valuable resource. It not only wastes the partner relationship, it also inevitably misplaces MDF among the channel sales and marketing team, and undermines their value add to the organization (which may also have a direct sales team they’re competing with).

This painful 12-month onboarding turnaround can be easily fixed. The problem we’re facing is the disconnect between vendors and partners, resulting in a deficit of knowledge, access, and capability for partners. From our research and conversations with customers, this all stems from a combined lack of 1) the proper marketing tools, 2) product and application training, 3) communication and 4) quality control.

Let’s tackle these one by one:

1) Proper channel marketing tools

Having the right tools to help onboard your channel partners swiftly and easily makes a world of difference. There are TCMA platforms designed to take this burden off your hands and do the heavy lifting on your behalf. Our own platform, for one, completely automates the through- and to- channel stream of communication, making it friendly and intuitive for partners to participate. Not only that, but our platform has onboarding training built in for vendors and partners.

In other words, the platform itself has a number of step-by-step tutorial videos within its dashboard to show users how to upload contacts, segment lists, upload content, create beautiful email templates, launch campaigns, share data, and review metrics.

Using our platform or another such TCMA tool will pay for itself—and much, much more.

2) Solution and application training

If you’re using a PRM or partner portal, odds are the solution doesn’t come with onboarding materials, so you’ll have to do this part yourself. It sounds like a lot of work, but just think—you’ll be expediting the 25% of partners who’d take a year or more to push your product to market in a world where 75% of global sales are indirect. Taking the time to produce partner success content is worth the investment.

Allocate a budget, a team, and a month of development to creating process documents, videos, and other training materials to send to every new partner. Schedule Lunch and Learns to get them excited about pushing your product and to answer any questions. Effectively training partners on how to leverage the collaboration tools you’ve put in place only makes it easier for them to consistently redistribute, extend your reach, and increase their own revenue as well as yours.

3) Communication with channel partners

Talking to people one on one goes a long way. Not only does it make people feel valued, but it also allows for personal pain points to be expressed and received. Use the metrics features of your marketing automation tool to check in on who’s redistributing your marketing collateral. (You should be using this anyway to determine priority partners and high-impact campaigns.) Reward the active participants with SPIFs, and reach out to the ones who aren’t participating to learn what’s holding them back. This leads us to quality control…

4) Quality control for the channel partnership

When you see certain partners aren’t participating in your co-branding efforts, follow up. Get feedback and find out what pain points are keeping them from participating. Then take that feedback to heart and try to fix the problem.

And if the PRM or portal you’re using doesn’t offer comprehensive partner and downstream metrics, it may be time to upgrade your tech stack to one that does. (Like xAmplify. 🙂 Just sayin’.)

How to Dominate Influencer Marketing Using Your Distribution Channels

When you think of “influencer marketing” you probably imagine some young fashionista on Instagram or Youtube wearing, eating, drinking, using, or repping a B2C brand that paid for this endorsement. The value exchange here is that the brand gets access to the influencer’s sizeable and carefully curated audience—an opportunity to put their product in front of thousands of targeted customers.

What you probably don’t think of is how this advertising model so readily applies to your B2B distribution channels. If you’re in channel sales, today’s trend reports put you in a power position to dominate influencer marketing. The beauty of this trend for channel marketers with a successful co-branding strategy in place is that you’re already doing it!

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…Well, for the most part. You understand partnerships and have already forged those important alliances with other companies. Now, with a few slight adjustments, you can easily turn your channel marketing into full-on influencer marketing using your partners as influencers, or their customers as influencers. The former is similar in time, attention, and principle to account based marketing. The latter takes a bit more work of course, but if you do have steady alliances with resellers or distributors, B2B2C influencer marketing is well within your grasp.

For now we’ll review the first, more accessible scenario and how to implement it in five steps. The following instructions assume you have solid distribution channels in place with the proper automation and metrics tools.

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Using your channel partners for influencer marketing

Step 1) Find a reliable influencer ally among your distribution channels

You’ll need a channel marketing data analysis tool to collect this information. Some PRMs and portals have begun to build partner engagement metrics into their platforms. But not all of these are reliable or comprehensive, because not all partners use the email or social media feature of said platforms to carry out redistribution. This leaves a big unknowable gap in metrics tools retrofitted to a portal.

If you’re using xAmplify, you’ll have access to all the data you need with our Two-Tier metrics, because sending co-marketed email and social media campaigns from within the platform is compulsory for partners. Thus, the first tier of our metrics shows you a comprehensive view of which partners are redistributing your campaigns to begin with. This answers the question of who will be a reliable ally.

Step 2) Discover which of your most reliable partners have influence

The second tier of xAmplify’s Two-Tier Metrics answers the influencer part, because you’ll be able to see how many leads your channel partners are generating by redistributing your campaigns via email. You’ll be able to see if their pipeline customers are clicking, watching videos, and how long they’re watching for.

Due to strict social media regulations on consumer data and privacy, Two-Tier metrics does not cover social media analytics. But there is an easy solution to get data on click volume and region for social media redistribution; simply make sure your campaign includes a different trackable link (such as a bit.ly link) for each of the reliable partners you engage in this discovery. You’ll be able to see from this third party account which partners are pulling in the most clicks, and from what region or city.

Sussing out this engagement is the key to leveraging partners’ influence. Once you’ve got these pieces in place, watch and learn who has real influence as the data rolls in.

If you don’t have xAmplify, you’ll need to get your most reliable partners to share their own social media analytics reports with you. You may need to grant them some nice MDF to make this happen. Once you’ve collected the data, you can compare results to learn who’s generating the most leads with your content—and who is therefore the most influential.

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Step 3) Initiate an influencer partnership

Once you know who of your distribution channels is reliable and who has influence, your next step is to propose the influencer partnership. What should this proposal and ensuing relationship look like? In the world of B2B marketing, the sales cycle takes a lot longer than in B2C, so having an influencer spread your word will take longer than the here-today-gone-the-next promotions you’re used to seeing with those Instagram fashionistas. All that to say—expect this partnership to last a year or more, and to have the MDF budget to incentivize a “yes.”  

Step 4) Create content for your influencers

You’ve now set up a beautiful partnership, which will next result in highly targeted content being fed directly into a high ROI pipeline. You need to create said content specifically for this influencer partner and their unique audience.

This could mean partnering on a guest blog, a webinar or an ebook, asking this influencer to appear in your video content, speak on your podcast, or co-host one of your events. If the influencer partner is not a person but rather a company (likely the case with channel marketing), invite the founder or a highly visible company executive to be the “face” of this content.

Step 5) Target your influencers’ most successful platform for content distribution

Once the content is ready to go, carefully plan which social media platform your influencer will be using to blast it to their audience. If they have the highest following and engagement numbers on Twitter, curate your distribution in the form of Tweets. If they get amazing results on Facebook, then let it be linked posts. If Instagram is their bread and butter, make sure your visual content game is strong.

Keep feeding the influencer marketing machine and continue nurturing the influencer relationship for at least one year. Watch your channel sales soar.

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Discover the Key to Unlocking Your Distribution Channels

In today’s automated, tech-driven world, channel marketing has remained one of the last holdouts due to its continued dependence on manual labor. The concept of a manufacturer leveraging distribution channels for indirect sales is age-old, but the actual process of equipping and supporting those channel partners with simple, actionable strategy has scarcely evolved over the decades.

Well, until now. New software platforms have begun to prioritize the partner journey, and it’s about time. If you’re a vendor or manufacturer, partners are the key you’ve been searching for.

And with this emergence of tech to combat antiquated channel sales methods, automation has finally caught up to the partner problem. Now it’s time for you to adopt these digital solutions and get your idle distribution channels moving. Prioritizing partners is the greatest channel marketing strategy you could dream up, and here’s why:

  • Making partners a priority is tangible, actionable, and straightforward, rather than conceptual.
  • When partners are a priority, more of them will participate in your co-marketing initiatives.
  • When partner participation increases, your reach, visibility, and revenue increase too.

3 pillars of a good channel marketing strategy

If you’re a vendor company that relies on distributors or resellers, you know all too well the pain points of getting a channel program off the ground. Whether you’re a company that sees channel partners as a critical move in scaling your brand, or you started building a partner program into your sales infrastructure at the very start, the story is the same.

You need to provide sales enablement tools and initiate co-branding opportunities in a way that makes it easy for your distribution channels to redistribute.

So, for starters, you must:

1) Develop your channel marketing strategy with your partners in mind.

Because they’re the ones you’ll be relying on to deliver it, remember? This may seem obvious, but it’s incredibly common for vendors to forget the needs of their channel partners in achieving success. They expect channel partners to, indeed, do all that old-school manual labor. The truth is, 80% of them won’t.

So don’t retroactively build your partners into your plan. Instead, plan to meet their needs and requirements during your initial blueprint phase, so you’re always keeping them engaged and they feel they were always part of the plan—not an afterthought. This will take more manual labor on your part (unless you’re ready to adopt a platform that takes the heavy lifting off your hands) but absorbing some of that hard work on the front end can have exponential results for your distribution channels.

2) Provide marketing collateral via a platform that makes co-branding and redistribution easy.

In an attempt to assuage as much manual labor as possible, the widely accepted approach to channel marketing has been for vendors to adopt a partner portal or PRM. It’s likely you already have one of these, so you’re familiar with using such a platform to drop off your branded content—like design assets, data sheets, price lists, landing pages, infographics, etc—then let your channel partners know it’s there and expect them to come collect, co-brand, repurpose, and redistribute all on their own.

While this removes some of the manual labor for you, it’s not doing much for your partners. And it’s been this way for decades. (Hence why we said in the intro that this evolution has been slow and scarce.) The most recent SaaS technology available truly battles this issue by bridging the labor gap between you and that 80% of your partners who can’t or won’t do all the work you’re expecting.

3) Incentivize and reward your highly active distribution channels.

As your partner program grows, there will be varying degrees of partner engagement and you’ll want to prioritize those most engaged by incentivizing them with MDF and SPIFs. But again, today’s most common channel marketing approach requires the partner to proactively use the partner portal or PRM to retrieve collateral and generate campaigns on their own.

So aside from remaining a manual and time consuming process, this approach makes it nearly impossible for you to determine which partners are truly engaging. There are no metrics tracking who’s doing what, making MDF management a blind undertaking.

Engage your channel partners with today’s tools

Fortunately, according to Forrester, there’s been an evolution in technology to assist today’s vendors and manufacturers with their distribution channels. These through-channel marketing automation platforms are considered the “third stage” (in other words, the future) of digital marketing. But like most solutions, not all are created equal.

When your channel marketing team is ready to adopt a more modern and intuitive platform, be sure to search for TCMA tools that truly automate old processes and deliver your messaging with ease through partners and onward to their pipeline. The ideal solution will make it simple for both you and your partners, and will empower you to effortlessly deliver consistent, co-branded campaigns while providing insight into your partners’ activity.