With limited resources and budgets, partners are looking to their vendors to go the extra mile with content to support their marketing campaigns and sales efforts.
When it comes to partner marketing, vendor-produced content has always played a significant role in joint go-to-market campaigns and sales enablement. With massive pressure on resources and budgets, many partner marketers view good vendor content as an efficient and effective way to differentiate themselves – but their experience is slightly different.
Our recent survey of partner marketers looked at the true opinions around vendor content. It identified a demand for content, but for it to be used by partners, it really needed to much more targeted, relevant, and personalised. The appetite to access partner portals for this content is high – but portals are only as good as the information within them. So, if you want more partners to access your portals, and use the content you produce, here are our recommendations, based on the research we carried out:
What to think about? Working with market experts and specialised proposition agencies can help ensure your content starts with your target audience’s needs first.
What to think about? Engaging a 3rd-party agency to help create tailored content and do a ‘final-mile’ spin to personalise it and make it relevant. That’s just what one of our customers did….
“We work with partners/agencies to provide specialisms where we don’t have this within the team. One of the biggest areas is in ensuring that we create content that works for our business, that is client specific and that can be re-used.” Catherine Dutton, ATOS.
What to think about? Aligning your messaging with your partners is critical. This means developing content that matches your own go-to-market themes and strategy to get the best results from all your campaigns.
What to think about? As well as developing the right type content,– it’s also important to find the right ways to share it. Our research showed that partners would prefer to have content emailed directly to them (70%) and also wanted support to discuss and understand the content, for example by conference call or a webinar.
Whether you are responsible for creating content for partners, or looking to get content support from your vendors, there is one key message coming out loud and clear from our research. For marketing content to drive positive actions and create leads, it needs to show a real understanding of the intended audience, be crafted specifically for their needs and weave together the expertise, knowledge, and USPs of both vendor and partner to create true differentiation. This can only be achieved through the ongoing development of close partner marketing relationships and a structured, collaborative approach to joint go-to-market campaigns.
To find out more about what makes a successful partnership, check out our previous research here: The Seven Success Factors of Partner Marketing.
Director & Head of Value Proposition Development.
To download your copy of this digital marketing guide you will be asked to complete your name and email address.
Click here to download this paper.
When it comes to partner marketing, the opportunities for working together and implementing joint marketing plans are endless, but making the most of those relationships is key. The team at Coterie Marketing have had lots of experience of working with vendors and resellers, so here are our top tips for making the most of your supplier partners.
1. Understand your partner’s business:
It goes without saying that you should take time to really understand your supplier partner’s business. It’s true that you may only be interested in a small section of their products or services, but by making sure you understand the bigger picture, you may discover more opportunities than you first thought.
2. Know your key contacts:
Even though you’re focused on marketing, there will be other contacts and departments that you’ll need to know and can help you as you develop joint plans. Take the time to find out how you need to connect with and make sure they are aware of your role and how you can help them.
3. Know your partner’s strategy and objectives:
As well as understanding your supplier partners’ products and services, it’s essential to find out as much as you can about the company’s strategy and objectives. Their plans for the future may have an impact on your own proposition and may influence the way that you think.
4. Understand their marketing strategy and value propositions:
Before you can propose a joint marketing plan, it’s essential to know what your supplier partners have planned. Find out about their short-term and long-term marketing strategy so you fully understand where they are focusing their resources and see how your strategy compares. Also gain a clear understanding of their value propositions so you’re fully aware of their position in the marketplace.
5. Gain access to partner portals:
Most vendor partners have online partner portals providing resellers with access to information and materials. It’s definitely worth signing up for these so you have access to everything you may need.
6. Understand funding policies:
The majority of supplier partners offer Marketing Development Funds (MDF) to contribute towards activity that helps resell their products. But different suppliers operate different funding policies so it’s important to be clear on where they all stand. Some suppliers operate a set percentage contribution for all activities whereas others may vary depending on activity type.
7. Use a tracker document to manage joint activities:
Working with many different supplier partners and managing multiple joint plans can be a bit of a minefield. A simple solution, but a really effective one, is the use of a tracker document or even a collaboration tool like Sharepoint or Huddle. By collating all of your agreed activities and actions in one place, you’ll always have a clear view of what needs to be done and when, and the status of everything.
8. Arrange frequent catch-up meetings:
Communication is key to successful partnerships so make sure you catch-up and speak regularly. Use your tracker document as a focal point for a weekly or bi-weekly review meeting to keep up-to-date on the status of everything and keep the plan on track.
9. Be open and honest:
Last, but by no means least…always be open and honest. Don’t try to cover over the cracks if projects get delayed or encounter issues. Honesty is always the best policy!
Marketing funding comes in many guises – MDF (Marketing Development Funds), BDF (Business Development Funds), ADF (Account Development Funds and Co-Op (Co-Operative Funds) – but at the end of the day, it all boils down to the same thing – money!
Most vendors offer their partners a funding scheme to help promote their products and services. But although very attractive-sounding, these schemes can sometimes seem a bit daunting and leave you pulling your hair out! Here are our top tips that will help you make the most of MDF schemes…
1. Read the rules!
Although the principles of partner funding are obvious, no two MDF schemes are the same. Make sure you read the rules and understand how they work, even if they don’t appear to be that formal. It’s crucial to find out as much as you can to avoid any delays or problems with your claims further down the line.
2. Make sure you can match-fund if required.
In many cases, your partner will require you to match the amount of funds they will offer so make sure you can fulfil your part before committing to the project.
3. Discuss your plans for required funds with your partners.
Before submitting a formal request for funds, discuss your proposed plan with your marketing contact. They are likely to know if the funding is available and can help you ensure your request will be accepted.
4. Use your partner’s MDF system (if they have one).
Most vendors have an online system that manages MDF requests and claims so it’s essential that you use it. Ask your marketing contact to set you up with a login and get some training to make sure you use it properly.
5. Be realistic with your targets.
When making a request for marketing funds, you’ll be asked to declare your targets. It’s only natural for your partners to want to know what they can expect in return for their contribution but it can be hard to specify targets for a specific activity, especially if it’s part of a wider campaign. Just be realistic and don’t over-promise, and use notes fields to mention your overall plan if possible.
6. Don’t start any work until your funding has been approved.
If you’ve already discussed your joint marketing plan with your main contact, it’s fairly unlikely that your funding request will be denied. But things can sometimes change which have an impact on funding, so it’s good practice to hold fire on starting any work until your funding request has been approved.
7. Gather evidence as you go along.
When it comes to claiming your approved funds at the end of a project, you’ll be asked to provide evidence and proof of performance. To avoid any frantic scrabbling around, it’s a good idea to collate documentation as you go along. You’ll need copies of completed collateral which includes your partner’s branding, plus copies of any 3rd party invoices to show the costs incurred.
8. Ensure you make the claim in time.
Most approved MDF requests have to be claimed within a certain amount of time. It’s often within six months of the project completion but it can often be sooner. There’s nothing worse than losing out on funds that you’ve worked hard to be entitled to, so make you check the rules and make your claim in time.
Once you’ve built go-to-market plans with your partners, the next step is to put them into action. But when you’ve got multiple plans with multiple partners, keeping up with the status of each of them all can be a bit of a challenge. But, as with many tasks in the world of marketing, by adopting a set approach, tracking your plans becomes second nature. Here are our top tips.
1. Define a clear list of actions:
First and foremost is to define a list of actions. Simply work through your activity plan and create a detailed action list, allocating tasks to appropriate owners. Create your list in an easy to read format that allows you and your partner to clearly see which actions are theirs and which actions are yours.
2. Set realistic deadlines:
For each action on your list, set a deadline. But ensure your deadlines are realistic and that any preceding items can be completed in sufficient time, and you’ll have a clear calendar of tasks for you to work to.
3. Use a tracker document:
It’s often helpful to incorporate your action lists into a comprehensive tracker document so you have all your activities and tasks in one place. Use your document to track the status of each of your actions and highlight any areas where your timings may be starting to slip.
4. Update your tracker on a weekly basis:
Update your tracker document on a weekly basis so you can see what needs doing during the week ahead. Circulate your update to other stakeholders so everyone has a clear view.
5. Hold regular review meetings:
Lastly, it’s a good idea to hold regular review meetings with your team to review and discuss the status of your plans. Meetings don’t have to be long drawn-out discussions but a quick update on a regular basis ensures everyone is kept up-to-date.
Gaining commitment from your partners is one of the most crucial elements to achieving partner marketing success. From our experience, a simple, yet disciplined, approach can create a good rapport and win your partners over.Here are our top tips for gaining partner commitment…
1. Champion Collaborative Working:
Be clear with your partners from the outset and reinforce that you’re 100% committed to working together. Set out your thoughts on how best to work together and find out if they have any preferences too. Agree an approach and ensure you stick to it.
2. Clear Plan Documents:
When you’ve formulated your joint plans, set them out in a clear and easy-to-read document. Share your document with your partner contacts to ensure everyone has an identical view.
3. Regular Catch-up Meetings:
It’s a simple task – and one that sometimes gets forgotten – but a regular catch-up call is crucial. Book a regular slot in the diary – weekly, bi-weekly (it’s completely up to you!) – and use it to catch up on the status of actions to help keep everything on track.
4. Circulate Meeting Notes:
After each catch-up call, circulate notes and updates on actions. You don’t need to write war and peace, just a quick recap on what you’ve discussed and the priorities for the next couple of weeks.
5. Regular Plan Review:
It’s good practice to review your joint plan on a regular basis. Things do change in the marketplace and you may come up with additional ideas, so carrying out a monthly review will give you the opportunity to make adjustments.
6. Be Consistent:
Adopting good practices and ensuring regular contact is key to the success of your relationships. So don’t let things slip! Be consistent and ensure you stick to agreed meeting times and updates, so everyone’s kept in the loop.
As the old age adage goes, forewarned is forearmed. Put simply, this means that having an understanding of any potential issues upfront will give you a tactical advantage. In our terms, this will then make your marketing planning and eventual execution run a lot smoother and have greater chance of you achieving the results you need.The best way to do this is through an audit of both yours and your partner’s business as well as the wider market. Here are our top tips to do just that…
1. Build a team:
Gather a team from across all areas of your business. By gaining their input and listening to their views, you’ll be able to build a true picture of what is really happening and more easily identify your business’ strengths and weaknesses.
2. Hold a brainstorming workshop:
Hold an open session with all of your team members to collate information and share knowledge. Work to an agenda to ensure you discuss all the different elements that you want to cover in your audit.
3. Speak to your customers:
Include some of your customers in your information gathering stage and find out what makes them tick. Ask them what drives their decision-making process and what their key considerations are, which will give you a good view of the marketplace. If you can’t speak to them, consider using a quick online survey tool such as Survey Monkey or access 3rd party research undertaken in your key target markets.
4. Do a SWOT analysis:
Look at the internal and external factors that affect your business and think about how these could be overcome or exploited. A PEST analysis is also another useful methodology to use helping you to look at any macro factors which may impact your business.
5. Do some desk research:
Look around the internet and gather as many industry statistic as you can to help you get a feel for the size of the market and the available opportunity. Industry associations, government statistics and independent analyst reports are a good place to look to help you start building up a picture.
6. Collate and analyse your own business statistics:
As well as looking for industry statistics, don’t forget to look at your own. By analysing and reporting on your customer data, you can make some assumptions on market-share and find some clues on customer buying habits.
7. Be clear on your target audience:
Whilst you’re gathering your information and researching your market, make sure that you’re looking for the right thing. Be clear on who your target audience is and drill-down into specifics as much as you can to get a realistic view for your business.
8. Use a document template to collate your information:
Using a template is a great way to ensure you cover all the areas that you need and set the information out in a logical way. There are many standard templates available or you could create one of your own to cover all the areas mentioned above. You can also use your document template to frame your brainstorming session.
9. Circulate your findings for review:
When you’ve created a draft of your market audit document, circulate it to your team of colleagues for review. Ask them to give their feedback and highlight any key facts and information that’s missing and should be added into the mix.
10. Repeat the exercise with all of your partners:
Once you’ve completed a market audit for your own company, work with your partners to complete one for theirs. Use the same document template and formula and see how your businesses compare and where the joint opportunities lie.
Once you have all this information, you are then in the perfect position to start creating your joint marketing plan with real insight and understanding, making sure you invest your time and money – and that of your partners – in the best possible way to achieve the results your business needs.
Value Propositions are carefully written messages that describe the benefits and values that a company – or its products and services – promises to deliver to customers.
Stating the features and advantages of a product is all well and good, but the thing that will really set you apart from your competition is the benefit that you can bring to potential buyers.
To help you write effective value propositions, here are our top tips:
1. Understand your team:
Your colleagues are central to the development of effective value propositions so it’s essential to understand who you need to involve at every step of the process. Establish who you can go to for input and information – who in your organization is particularly knowledgeable in the sector you’re looking to target? When you’ve drafted your value propositions, who needs to approve them? And finally (and perhaps most importantly), who do you need to engage when the propositions are complete and how will you brief them to gain maximum impact?
2. Create a stakeholder map:
When you’ve established who needs to be involved in the development of your value propositions, it’s a good idea to create a stakeholder map. Write down who should be involved, what their needs/expectations are and detail what how they will need to be involved along the way.
It’s also a good idea to build a timing plan so that everyone involved is aware of the timescales you are working to as a team. It also helps you to gain their commitment upfront and ensure they attend scheduled calls and meetings.
Don’t forget to include senior stakeholders (who will ultimately sign of the Value Propositions), key influencers (such as heads of business units, sales managers and products managers – who will have a want input), and also your immediate peer group (who may have key insights to share) in your plans.
3. Hold an internal workshop / kick off meeting:
When you’ve established your group of stakeholders, set up a kick off meeting to gain their buy-in and agree upfront the areas in which you need information, such as product information, sales insight, customer feedback and competitor intelligence. Document everything that is discussed in the meeting then circulate it after the meeting and get agreement from all attendees that the information is correct.
Continue to the group along the way to review and test messaging – DON’T leave it until the last minute to get their feedback!
4. Do your research:
Supplement the information you’ve gathered from your colleagues with some solid desk research. Look at what the industry analysts are saying to understand key trends, market drivers and so on. Whitepapers are also a good source of information and can be widely found via the internet.
Also look at what your competitors are saying and how they position themselves in the marketplace. What benefits do their propositions focus on?
5. Speak to your customers:
Too many value propositions fail because the company using them hasn’t grasped a basic understanding of their customer. Make sure that you take time to speak to your customers to fully understand their needs and requirements and to understand the nature of the business world that they operate in. This can be done in many different ways such as through surveys, workshops or by simple 1-1 account calls.
If you have some particularly loyal and supportive customers, why not test some of your early messaging ideas with them – this will certainly help you to build a more solid proposition and increase your chances of it resonating in the marketplace once you launched it.
Are you a marketing professional working in the IT or telecoms industry?
Do you work on joint marketing activities with vendor or reseller partners?
Are you secretly baffled by the terminology that is used in this sector?
If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the above, then fear not, here’s our no-nonsense guide to the top 10 partner marketing terms…
Partner Marketing is the marketing by two or more companies, of a bundled set of products or services, to an end customer. An example of this is the well-known collaboration between Nike and Apple who worked together to develop and offer the ‘Nike + iPod Sport Kit’ which measures and records the distance and pace of a walk or run.
Alliance Marketing is typically the same as partner marketing but tends to be more strategic and longer term in intent and can sometimes result in a Joint Venture. An example of this is the collaboration between technology leaders Accenture and Microsoft who came together to create the joint venture company Avanade.
Channel Marketing is the marketing of your products or services to a reseller, which could then lead on to collaborative partner marketing to the end customer. An example of channel marketing is Microsoft marketing to its partners, which leads to them working jointly on a plan to market to end-customers such as a retail company or a bank.
BDF, ADF, Co-Op and MDF: When two or more companies decide to collaborate on a joint marketing plan, the supplier / vendor typically supplies some marketing budget – this can be known as BDF, MDF or Co-op…
Vendor, Reseller, Value Added Reseller and SI are all similar terms. The vendor or reseller supplies a product or service to the company that sells it on to the end-customer. Value Added Resellers are resellers who add value by wrapping a service around the product, whilst Systems Integrators (SIs) will incorporate the product or service into a bigger solution.
Playbook vs. Battle Card vs. Cheat Sheet: When a vendor / supplier is trying to get the resellers to resell their products and services effectively, a document called a playbook, battle card or cheat sheet describes how to sell the wares in a summarised format. All contain similar information such as market challenges, target customer profile, qualification questions, objectives, examples, facts and figures, as well as the product information.
Value Proposition and FAB: Value propositions are the set of benefits or values that a company delivers to its customers. This is particularly important in partner marketing, as the collective benefit or value that is delivered is vital to the proposition. This is similar to FAB which is where a marketer looks at Features, Advantages and Benefits of a product or service…
Conflict Management and Deal Registration: Channel management is the process by which a producer or supplier directs marketing activity by involving and motivating parties within its channel of distribution. Channel conflict can occur in this scenario, where channel partners find they are competing against one another or the vendor’s internal sales department.
Deal registration is one of the tools to address this. As part of channel management, some vendors ask that VARs (Value-Added Resellers) or SIs (Systems Integrators) inform the vendor about a lead in order that they receive the appropriate commission or incentive.
Joint GTM stands for joint ‘Go-To-Market’ plans. The vendor and reseller agree their joint objectives and the strategies to achieve their joint objectives. These would generally include market conditioning activity such as PR, advertising and editorial. The plan would also include campaign and lead generation activity such as events, telemarketing and emails, as well as any mutual sales training.
Sales Enablement: Within Joint Go-To-Market plans, partners may include ‘Sales Enablement’ activity. This incorporates any activity that provides sales personnel with the information they need to effectively sell the joint offering. Activity may include face to face training, online training, sales support guides and co-branded presentations.