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.