Is this a Channel Marketing Strategy or building a collaborative relationship?
One of my new customers was asking about a variety of marketing activities he thought needed to be done. As I reviewed what his company had and didn’t have, I started writing a brief email response. As I was writing, it turned into more of a marketing questions and suggestions email. Yes, I know I should have held back and presented it as a high-priced strategy for a Channel Marketing Plan, but I thought it would be more helpful for his company to get tidbits of their needs and what could be done combined with what are they are doing now. It gives the customer a sense of collaboration and builds relationship trust. I hope you find some value in this as a starting point with your company or customers –
Here are 10 Things to do to Help the Marketing Efforts for Channel Partners:
1. Analysis and Planning – Identify sales and profit by market segment, (rank industries by the greatest need for your product), and which of your products are hot and not – that could help determine growth opportunities. Evaluate competitors marketing, websites, products and services – what are they doing and is it working? Who are your competitors? The marketing program should identify timing of marketing initiatives throughout the year – I typically use a spreadsheet to manage marketing timelines, so channel partners know what is being pushed/featured/announced and when.
2. Channel Marketing Support – You probably have deeper marketing resources – expertise and available funding, then most of your channel partners. Glad to see you are currently providing templates and some optimized product photos for brochures –but you need to have a more organized system for distribution of product photos and text content. What about content and marketing direction for direct emails or case studies? You should consider hosting webcasts and product demonstrations that channel partners can either participate in, or communicate to their customers when they are. Does your company offer co-op or market development funds, to reimburse channel partners for approved marketing initiatives?
3. Build Awareness – A search-optimized website can improve search authority, but awareness is having a presence in your various regions and/or countries to build word-of-mouth and referrals. Participate in or sponsor business networking events. Are your products unique enough to write as news or press releases, to distribute to local, regional and national editor lists? Research and seek speaking opportunities at relevant events, like local business organizations and tradeshows. There should be someone at your company that could travel around to speak as an expert authority on your product niche.
4. Webcasts and Live Demos – You really need to develop frequent webcast demos/events on relevant topics. Promote and communicate those events via email and social media channels. Does you or channel partners attend and sponsor local or vertical marketing, relevant networking and trade show events? The home page of the website then could include a sidebar list of upcoming events, (online and at business organization’s meetings). Then we could add an events page to the website with archives that potential customers and partners could continue to access for additional information.
5. Direct Marketing – The purpose of all marketing is lead generation. So are your sales people managing a customer database with marketing automation software or contact manager? It is really helpful to code, track and report leads to be able to continually improve the results of that process. Are there potential prospect lists of members of associations that you belong to? Belonging to organizations is a great place to start a direct marketing campaign. Ideally you use telemarketing qualification to identify decision makers and contact information, or just sending out marketing info to potential prospects or providing them at meetings is a start.
6. Referral Program – As you know, more than half of business leads is from referrals, or it should be. Ask clients for referrals by requesting references and testimonials. Also, identify highly networked clients and ask for referrals from them as well. Recognize referrals with gifts and thank you notes. Systematically cultivate and give referrals. There should be a customer testimonial on all most every page of the website.
7. Content Expert – Is there someone at at your company that can be or is the subject matter expert for your niche? They need to be speaking to business groups and organizations as well as develop case studies and white papers, (which are great for social media blogs). Creating surveys and industry studies is also content that channel partners could use for their marketing efforts. Then you could use and repurpose that content for the website, blogging and social media channels. Use the created value-based content for your credentials kit when submitting proposals.
8. Website Improvement and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Your website is really the base foundation of marketing programs. A website needs to have content added to it frequently. Search engine bots scan websites frequently, and if nothing has been added or changed, the website is consider stagnant and typically drops in rankings because the website does not have fresh information. Does your site rank on the top page search results for keywords – nope not even close. We need to create a baseline now to compare after future SEO efforts). Then at some point I need to run search engine optimization diagnostics to identify issues and problems – and then fix them.
9. Blogging – This is a great tool for distributing all of your fresh new content. Blogging has many benefits to a marketing program including helping with search engine optimization. Blogs should integrate with the website and other social media outlets. It helps to build indexed pages for search engines, and distribute content through bookmarking and social sharing.
10. Social Media – Social media is marketing. It can build search engine authority, and generate leads. Do leads come from channel partners, or where do the majority of leads come from? Build-out social media profiles including LinkedIn personal profiles and company pages, a Facebook business page, Twitter profile, and the YouTube channel profile. After those are created, links need to be added to the your website and blog. It sounds complicated but much of that content already exists in brochures and the website.
I hope this helps as an overview of potential planning and prioritizing what needs to get done next. It is easy to pick the easy stuff to do, and focus on what can be done now. But also consider much of the above is for long-time vision planning, which takes time, and does not have immediate results. The results show up later, which in the long run drive the company to more sales and profits for a longer period of time. Consider if the competition is only doing half of the above, and if you do most or all of it – who is going to win the marketing and sales battle?