Marketing in an indirect sales channel is no easy feat. The channel manager has little visibility to their end users, and they have to rely in part on their channel partners to effectively market their products in order to make sales. How do you as the channel manager supply your partners with what they need to succeed? Below, we’ve gathered some ways you can enhance your partner marketing program for smoother selling throughout the entire channel.
1. Implement a Partner Relationship Management Platform
PRM platforms address a variety of common issues with management in an indirect sales channel. When it comes to partner marketing, these powerful platforms can foster communication and collaboration between managers and partners. PRMs offer partners their own portal to access or request marketing and training materials, and channel managers can follow their partners’ progress and track needs.
Adopting a new technology sounds like a roadblock, especially when you’re not just getting your own company on board, but your partners as well. It’ll be important to communicate the value for them in utilizing the platform. Some examples of this are: quick access to materials they need to sell your product, and one portal to communicate with the channel manager, order product, track stock and sales, apply for MDF, and register leads.
Learn more about the capabilities of PRM software in our blog: What Is a PRM?
2. Offer Online Partner Training
You know you have to communicate the value of your product to your customers in order to sell, but are you communicating this to your partners doing the selling? Since your partners are likely selling similar products from multiple companies, getting yours to the front of their minds should be a top priority. Beyond the initial onboarding process, making online training available to your partners will continue to demonstrate the value of your product.
Taking steps to educate your partners will help them make more meaningful sales, as well, because they’ll be more knowledgeable to answer questions about your product. You might also consider offering your partners courses to become certified in training or maintenance.
Online training might also include digital marketing training. While the indirect sales channel used to rely on techniques like telemarketing and in-person events, digital marketing is no longer a nicety but a necessity. If you provide marketing materials like social posts, a digital banner, or social ads to your partners, make sure you offer them knowledge on how to succeed with the digital strategy.
3. Build Campaigns-in-a-Box
Some partners in your channel are stretched thin in the marketing department, having only one dedicated marketing person or a person whose responsibilities include marketing among other things. For partners who don’t have the resources themselves, offering campaigns-in-a-box can help alleviate some stress on both sides. On your partner’s end, they have access to marketing materials to put out without having to spend time developing them. For you, the channel manager, you can ensure the content put out by your partners is inline with your branding guide and has the proper messaging.
These types of campaigns should be customizable to some extent on the partner’s side. They aren’t just marketing your product for you, they’re also trying to market their own name and services, so it’s important they can include their logo and information somewhere visible. Additionally, your partners serve a variety of markets and should be able to choose the approved message that best resonates with the area they serve.
4. Initiate Collaboration
They’re your channel partners, so collaborating with them from time to time is a simple way to improve your overall channel marketing strategy. In the indirect sales channel, you as the manager don’t have a lot of visibility into your end users—but your partners are the ones with their feet on the ground, connecting with leads and customers on a daily basis.
Collaborating with your partners benefits the channel in a couple ways:
- •Insight into your end users’ needs, concerns, and desires
- •Opportunity to strengthen partner relationships
- •Opportunity to build up both you and your partners’ brand awareness
If you’re a channel with tens or hundreds of partners, start with your top-performing all stars to develop a campaign with their customer insight in mind. Remember: give credit where credit is due; collaborative efforts should recognize you and your partners equally.
There’s a chance that, as the channel parent company, you have the highest brand awareness in the nation- or world-wide, but in some cases, the opposite might be true. Collaborating with a partner can raise awareness for both your brands. Boosting partner brand awareness means they have better chances of selling your product in their area. When your partner has the higher awareness, you have the opportunity to gain sales off of their customers’ trust in them.
5. Simplify the MDF Application Process
If you’ve set up marketing development funds for your partners, how do your partners apply for funding? Often times, channel managers put up a lot of red tape when it comes to applying for and using MDF, which has contributed to the problem that around 50% of these funds are not utilized.
While ensuring MDF are used responsibly by your partners is important, there could be some unnecessary hold-ups in the application process. Take another look at the application, identify the partners who apply, and those who are given MDF. If you find mostly your larger partners are able to make it through the process and receive the extra help, look at what might be preventing smaller partners. These are the partners more likely to need the funding, so look for roadblocks they face during the process and assess how you can resolve them.
Why aren’t your channel partners utilizing your MDF? Read more.
When it comes to marketing through an indirect sales channel, your partners are your champions. Enhancing your partner marketing programs by putting their needs at the center can drive their engagement and put your product at the front of their minds when they’re selling.