Let me set the scenario for you: you’re a channel marketer new to the company. You are being asked to implement a new channel co-marketing marketing program, via a network of 10,000 partners, of all different sizes, in different locations, selling different things.

I’ve been in this situation a few times before, and there is no better way to get your heart racing. So what exactly do you need to do? What do you need to remember?

Understand your partners and adapt your approach 

The first thing you need to start doing is understanding, and segmenting your partner network. With a typical network of this size, you are obviously going to work with many different types of partners.

There are going to be a handful of large, important partners. These are likely to be account-managed, with strong marketing teams, good budgets and good access.

But you can’t generalize, and your approach needs to be different, depending on who you are working with.

Most of your partners are likely to be small with no marketing teams, they won’t be account managed. In fact, most of their relationship with your company is likely to be through your partner portal, and perhaps an annual face to face meeting, maybe.

So, you need to consider that whilst some of your partners will have the time, resources, knowledge and budgets to do marketing (with or even without you), the majority of your partners won’t have!

You need to adapt what you do and what you offer. Yes, you can put together a very complete co-marketing programme (with lots of collateral, potentially running off a concierge platform where partners can send emails to prospect from within) but for most partners, simple things like logos, key supporting collateral and word descriptions will be enough (and all they want/need). 

You are NOT alone 

Another thing to consider is that most of your partners will not just be selling your products or services. As much as you want to believe that you are the most important name in the market, the reality is that there is a lot of competition for your partners and your customers from other companies. Your partners will be selling your products and services side-by-side with your competitors.

With this in mind, your marketing needs to be simple, relevant and timely. This is as important for your larger partners as it is for the smaller ones. For larger partners, you need to be more hands on, working with them. For your smaller partners, it’s about ensuring that you can provide marketing collateral for them that they can take and use quickly and easily. This also needs to happen frequently, continually evolving and adapting to the changing needs of your partners and customers.

So what about failure? What definitely does not work in the channel?

Simply: Co-Branded Marketing. I’ve seen so many different companies launch or attempt to launch co-branded marketing campaigns with their partners. This fails for a number of reasons. Initially, the requirements of co-branded marketing, effectively rules out all but the top echelon of partners to work with. This immediately alienates everybody else. Then you have the issue that any marketing campaign which is co-branded is immediately, and exponentially more complex than any other type of marketing. You now have two brands, two marketing teams, two chains of authority all fighting for space, influence, prominence and message. This is a nightmare, and even with the most precise management of these types of projects, it’s impossible to manage and control, remain in budget, meet expectations, deliver on time and maintain a good relationship.

Ultimately, co-branded marketing efforts are too focused, and often too complex to work properly. When you stack up the time, money and effort required to complete a co-branded marketing proposition versus a traditional channel marketing campaign, it’s a no-brainer.

As a channel marketer, you should distance yourself from complexity at all costs. This relates to complexity for your partners. The final thing to remember is that you are effectively a marketing resource for them as much as your own organisation, so anything you can do to reduce the complexity for them, will work. Anything you do which adds complexity into their daily jobs, will definitely not work.

What works?

Well, I am undoubtedly biased, but clearly whatever you do needs to:

–          Be simple for partners to understand and use

–          Be relevant to partners and their prospects (with news from you as well as industry/ though-leadership content).