The True Measure of Partner Engagement

Partner engagement is how you know that your partners are invested in you and your products. If your partners are engaged with you and your content, it’s a sign that things are going well. If they’re not, then it’s time to talk to them and figure out what’s going on. 

So how do you measure partner engagement? If you’re like most companies, you do it through the number of times they logged into your partner portal and the number of times they downloaded content. Those metrics are good. They show that your partner is at least logging in and looking at the content you give them, but they’re not the best to measure partner engagement. 

For one thing, they don’t show you if your partners are using your content. Are they sending your lead magnets as campaigns? Is the downloaded content just sitting on their hard drive? Measuring the number of downloads and tracking the number of logins doesn’t tell you that. 

How to actually measure partner engagement

There are 4 metrics that really give you an idea of how engaged your partners are. These metrics measure the actions your partner takes with the materials you give them and lets you know how frequently they take those actions. What each of these metrics measure will be unique to each company, but here are some broad examples. 

  1. Marketing Activities

This metric measures how much partners marketing your partners do on your behalf. Do they send out an email campaign to their customers when you introduce a new product? Do they promote your joint event through social media, email, or both? Are they keeping in touch with their customers via a newsletter that includes your best practices? The more marketing activities your partners do, the more mindshare you have. 

  1. Lead Generation

This metric measures how many leads your partners share with you. If your partner isn’t sharing a lot of leads with you, then it’s time to talk to them. It may be as simple as your criteria for a qualified lead not matching your partner’s criteria or as complicated as your partner feeling that you wouldn’t treat their customer well. 

  1. Social Sales

This metric measures the types of sales and marketing activities your partners conduct and gives your partners an activity score. For example, you may measure the number of cold calls your partners do along with the number of marketing campaigns they send. The higher this measurement, the more engaged your partners are. 

  1. Partner Meetings

This metric measures how often your partner does marketing and sales activities. It takes into account how frequently they have discovery calls, how often they send out campaigns, and how often they cold call prospects. It also measures how often they meet with you. This measurement shows you how communicative your partners are with you and with their prospects. 

xAmplify vs PRMs

xAmplify is a PRM and Through Channel Marketing Automation  (TCMA) platform. Due to this, we measure engagement differently than most PRMs. Most PRMs store partner education material and sales and marketing content. As a result, engagement is typically measured through the number of times the partner logs into the PRM and by the number of downloads for each piece of content. 

With the TCMA features of xAmplify, we measure how many of your campaigns your partner has redistributed. We’ve found campaign redistribution to be a reliable indicator of partner engagement because it shows what your partners are doing with the campaigns you give them. You know your partners are sending them out to their contacts and how often they’re doing it. 

For more about campaign redistribution and the platform, schedule a demo

Conclusion

To truly measure partner engagement, you need to track 4 metrics: marketing activities, lead generation, social sales, and partner meetings. Tracking marketing activities shows you how much your partners are marketing on your behalf. If they’re launching event campaigns to promote every single one of your events, sending their customers an update every time you have a product release, and constantly promoting your new products then they’re as excited as you are about you. 

Tracking lead generation lets you know how successful partners are at generating leads and sharing them with you. If they’re generating and sharing a lot of leads with you, they’re a highly engaged partner with a lot of confidence in how you’ll treat their customers. Tracking social sales shows you how willing your partners are to market and sell your products. 

Finally, tracking partner meetings gives you an idea of how your relationship with your partner currently is. If they’re always receptive to meeting you and proactively asking you for meetings, then you’ve got a great relationship. If they keep brushing you off and never want to meet with you, then you have a problem. 

These 4 metrics will give you a great overview of how engaged your partners are with you and how great your relationship with them is. If you want to learn more about these metrics and how xAmplify can help you measure them, schedule a demo.

Why you should survey your channel partners

Your channel partners aren’t your customers, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send them the occasional survey. Partner surveys can be a great way to see how your partners feel about you, your product and your partner program. They can also be a good way to refine your partner profile and get some insight on which kinds of partners are the best for your program. They can also help you get an idea of how partners are navigating events such as the pandemic or regulatory changes such as GDPR. 

Reasons to survey your channel partners

 Like surveying your customers, there’s many reasons to survey your partners. Here’s 3 important ones. 

  1. To see how they feel about you

Are your partners happy with you? Are there things you could be doing better? Asking your partners will help you spot any issues before they arise and you can fix them before they lead to larger issues. 

  1. To see how they feel about your product

Your partners are selling or servicing your product, so getting their feedback lets you know what issues customers run into when using the product. That feedback can also suggest new features for you to add in your next product or your next product update. 

  1. To learn more about them

You may already have this information from your initial talks with them, but it’s worth revisiting. How many of your partners were able to hire more employees? How many of them are able to forecast their sales for the next quarter? Knowing more about your partners will help you determine the amount of support they need. It’ll also help you build or refine your partner persona. 

What to do with your partner’s responses

The partners who take the time to write detailed responses to your questions are going to be more engaged than the partners who just give you a star rating. But, both types of partners are going to be more engaged than the partners who didn’t respond to the survey at all. Make a note of this as you can add it to the rest of your partner engagement metrics. 

When you sort through the responses, make a note of what types of things come up frequently. Do 45% of your partners lack a sales process? Then it might be time to organize a webinar or another type of training on how to create one. Do 85% of your partners say they’re happy with the incentives you give them? Great! You don’t need to do a thing. Knowing what comes up frequently allows you to adjust parts of your partner program if necessary. It also lets you know what you’re doing well and can help you learn how your partners are keeping up with your industry. 

Sharing these results with your partners and letting them know how you’re using the results will help you be transparent with your partners. They may even offer some suggestions as to how to improve things and offer suggestions on things you didn’t ask about in your survey. 

How often should you survey your partners

You can’t just survey your partners once and be done with it. You should survey your partners over a period of time to see how engaged your partners are, to be able to spot any trends that occur and to see what effect the changes you made had on your partners. 

How often you send a survey will define its length. If you’re sending a survey every quarter then it will be shorter than a survey you send every year. You don’t want to send long surveys very often as your partners will get tired of filling them out. 

Here’s 3 best practices for sending surveys. 

  1. Make your surveys easy to answer

Don’t just give them a question and expect them to write an essay. No one has time for that. Instead give them multiple choice questions, ask them to rate something on a scale of 1-5 or ask them to agree/disagree with a statement. 

  1. Send them frequently, but not too frequently

Time is valuable and no one wants to spend it answering surveys. Make sure you’re sending surveys on a frequent enough basis to be able to spot trends. But at the same time make sure they’re not frequent enough to annoy your partners. Annual surveys would be the sweet spot here as you can make them strategic and pass the results along to your executive team. 

  1. Make your surveys anonymous

This doesn’t mean you can’t gather demographic information about your partners. It just means that you shouldn’t ask them for specifics such as their company name. Anonymizing surveys is the best way to get honest responses. People are more comfortable giving feedback, especially if it’s negative, if they know you won’t know who they are. 

Conclusion

Surveying your partners is a great way to see how engaged they are. It’s also a good way to see how they feel about your partner program and your product. Using the data you get from the responses to your survey, you can spot trends and see how many of your partners may need additional training on your product or additional sales and marketing support. Surveys should be sent consistently and should be quick and easy for your partners to fill out. 

Speaking of surveys, we’d like to introduce to you xAmplify’s new survey feature. Integrated with the rest of our platform, you can automatically send your partners a survey without having to configure a new tool. Survey data is automatically collected and generated in an easy-to-read report that you can share with your team. Schedule a demo to learn more.

PartnerUP Podcast: How Drift builds trust in partnerships

In the latest PartnerUP episode, Jason Yarborough shares his partnership framework. Yarborough joins Drift, a chat bot and revenue acceleration company, as the new Head of Tech Partnerships. They also give a quick shoutout to the Cloud Software Association where PartnerUP host Jared Fuller will be teaching a masterclass in October. 

Here’s what we learned.

  • Partnerships are an accelerated way of creating trust with your partner’s customers
  • Partners like it when you treat them as advisors and give them access to more than just your marketing and sales teams. Get them involved with your product development team or share your roadmap. Giving your partners access to these things reinforces the trust you have in them and allows them to add additional value. 
  • Understand how you help your partners solve a problem. What solution are your partners trying to provide their customers? How does your product fit into that process?

Get the episode here

3 reasons why your partners aren’t engaged and 3 suggestions for a fix

A good partner relationship means that your partners are engaged, growing their revenue and yours. But sometimes, partner engagement can be difficult. If partners aren’t engaged, your channel is less effective. So how do you engage your partners and why aren’t they as engaged as you’d like them to be? 

Why are Your Partners Less Engaged?

Partners have many reasons for not being as engaged with you as you would like. Here are 3 common reasons why your partners are less engaged. 

1. Not enough support

Partners are often small businesses and have less resources. They may not have much knowledge about the industry and rely on a few large contracts to get by. These partners will need more support than other partners, but engaging them is a good way to grow your channel. 

2. They struggle to bring in revenue
Typically, partners are great at sales, but less so at marketing. They have difficulty keeping up with new marketing technology and trends. They struggle to reach potential customers. Partners are willing to learn how to market themselves. They just don’t know how. 

Also consider your sales process. If your sales process is too complicated or takes too long, your partners will lose their prospects. This decreases the likelihood of your partner selling your products in the future. 

3. The tools you gave them are complicated 

Have you noticed your partners logging into your PRM less? Do you have multiple tools, each with their own login? Your partners struggle to understand how to use the tools you give them. They find them time-consuming and costly to use. They don’t see how the tools can support them and their business. 

If any of these reasons sound familiar, take a look at your partner’s feedback. The feedback from your partner is the best way to find out what their problems are and what they want. 

How to Engage Your Partners? 

Your partners want to be partners. Providing them the support, tools and incentives they want, will help you maintain a good relationship. 

  1. Provide Support

Many partners are small business owners with less resources. Providing industry knowledge such as whitepapers and other material tailored to your partners’ interests will help show your partners that you’re invested in them as much as they are invested in you. This also helps your partners market themselves, allowing them to reach more potential customers.

2. Provide tools that connect to other tools

Partners use multiple channels because that’s what their potential customers do. Providing tools that connect these channels together enables your partners to coordinate their efforts across channels and expand their reach. Enabling access to all of your tools from your partner portal makes it easier for your partner to use the tools they need, freeing them up for more important tasks. 

3. Change your incentives

Find out what your partners would like as an incentive. Some of your partners may want incentives that allow them to focus more on customer experience while others may want a reward for finding new markets. Reward your partners for what they want to be doing.  

Conclusion

Partner engagement is essential for a good relationship. Ensuring that your partner program supports your partners and offers the incentives they want will go a long way in increasing your partner engagement. Providing your partners with easy-to-use tools will free up your partners and allow them to reach out to more prospects. 

About Us

At xAmplify, we’ve kept partners top of mind. With our decades of experience, we’ve helped companies engage their partners by giving them a marketing automation platform designed for partners and by partners. Our platform solves the challenges that partners face and automates much of the work they have to do.

Want to learn more? Schedule a Demo

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.

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.

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’.)

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.

3 Ways to Gain and Retain More Channel Partners with TCMA

The partner experience should be at least as important to your channel management team as customer experience is to your company. But how do you ensure that all your channel partners feel valued, supported, and important even as you scale your program? Your channel program must always be expanding to cover the turnover of partners leaving or the lack of engagement from a percentage of partners (that 80/20 rule generally applies accurately to channel partners, although true TCMA has the power to change this). And yours certainly isn’t the only channel program they’ve signed up for, which is why your program needs to be one of the best.

You need to support and empower your partners with clear sales enablement tools, mutually beneficial co-branding material, up-to-date content and regular communication, all the while making it easy for them to engage and redistribute. Simply put, deliver your co-branded strategy to them in the most functional way possible and you’ll not only gain more partners, but you’ll see higher retention among the partners already in your program.

There are three simple ways to achieve this using a bona fide TCMA platform like xAmplify. But first, let’s quickly talk about the current shift in technology.

Channel marketing technology: past and future

Traditional PRMs and portals never made the channel marketing process “easy” for partners, and now, with the rise of outbound solutions, these platforms are becoming antiquated. An outbound approach to the partner experience is a more thoughtful way to earn partner participation, as opposed to hosting a portal where partners must download your assets and do all the co-marketing work themselves.

A true through-channel marketing automation platform leverages delivery to and through your partners to simply, seamlessly provide them with everything they need. Using one such TCMA solution, you can attract new partners, onboard them faster, and retain them longer.

Here are three methods for gaining and retaining channel partners:

#1—Expand your channel program through personalized outreach

The first step in starting or growing a successful channel is to determine what type of partner will be best for your product or service.

Are you developing an ecosystem of solution partners that offer additional tools to round out your solution, like value-added resellers (VARs) or independent software vendors (ISVs)? The value message here is the access they’ll have access to your client base and a co-branding opportunity to sell their solution through your sales team. You’ll need to provide co-marketing campaigns that strengthen their branding and tell the story that their offering is an integral piece of the full solution.

Or are you primarily looking for resellers and/or system integrators (SIs)? The value message to  this type of partner is more straight-forward—increase their revenue by adding your product to their portfolio.

You could also be in need of referral partners, who simply refer your solution to their client base and get a commission for doing so. Similar to an ISV or SI, except with no integration, the value here is that they’re pointing their customers to a known and trusted solution which their platform doesn’t offer.

Finally, you might also be looking to attract distributors. You’d traditionally have a closer relationship with this type of partner. Distributors will rely heavily on regular communication, sales enablement tools that you provide, and channel marketing material that you develop and deliver.

Once you’ve determined your ideal types of channel partners and created a list, follow these tips for initial outreach using an outbound platform:

  • Take that list of ideal partners with whom you should be doing business and enter it into the software as a new segmented list of Potential Partners – you could further segment the list into ISVs, Resellers, Referrals, Distributors, or SIs
  • Create the content with the value message that applies to each type of potential partner. Think about the qualifying questions they might have for you, and answer them before they have a chance to ask. For example:
    • For referral partners:
      • How large is your client base?
      • How many sales people could be introducing them to your client base?
      • How often do you run programs to introduce partners to internal sales teams?
      • What type of co-marketing programs do you run and how often could they take part?
      • What are the requirements for co-marketing opportunities?
    • For reseller partners:
      • What is the average sales price, time to close and close rate?
      • How much revenue could a standard partner generate?
      • How much training and co-marketing do you provide?
  • Create the templates and campaigns with personalized content, ready to be sent to your corresponding partner lists at any time. Of course, be sure to include a Request a Demo link and create an auto-sequenced series of targeted follow-up emails.

#2—Onboard channel partners faster than ever before

The faster you onboard partners, the sooner you’ll both see the mutual benefits of the partnership. As soon as they’ve signed up for your channel marketing program, cover the introduction basics:

  • Leverage your segmented lists again to ensure that their welcome and continuing journey with you feels personal.
  • Let them know their participation is appreciated and they will soon be rewarded.
  • Remind them of why they signed up in the first place—that redistribution will be easier than ever because you’ll be delivering campaigns in true automated through-channel fashion.

xAmplify makes this whole introduction incredibly simple and functional by allowing you to build nurture campaign templates and launch them from the same platform your channel partners will be using to redistribute. Not only do partners feel welcomed, they’re simultaneously becoming familiar with the platform they’ve just adopted… The faster they become familiar, the faster they onboard and begin putting the platform to use for mutual benefit.

#3—Use your TCMA platform for to-channel initiatives, too

The incredible thing about compulsory outbound solutions like xAmplify is that they force various and previously scattered pieces of channel marketing strategy to happen in one platform. This makes the first half of the TCMA acronym—the through-channel portion—an unprecedented model for success. With ease and simplicity, partners participate, you get insight into never-before-seen metrics, and you can dole out MDF (the reward you promised earlier) knowing that it’s going to partners who’ll put it to the best use.

This may all be enough to keep channel partners from leaving your program. But don’t forget that there’s a “to-partner” mode in addition to the “through-partner” mode.  

Using this alternate mode allows you to keep that initial introductory momentum going by delivering check-ins, newsletters, videos, case studies, white papers, educational materials, current sales enablement tools, product highlights, SPIF campaigns (more reward!), and more straight to their inbox. No portal or PRM login necessary.

Plus, with data insight to show you how often they’re opening, clicking, reading and watching, you’ll know exactly when to pull back and when to keep reaching out.