Whether you’re a technology vendor, distributor, or reseller, getting the most out of your marketing can be a challenge.
The bottom line is that the traditional growth model may not be bringing you the results you want to see. This can become even more apparent as your organisation grows. In the early stages of a business, goals and targets are clear, the strategy is simple, and growth drivers are plain as day.
But as your organisation expands and matures in its lifecycle, processes will increase in complexity and your strategy will require more structure. One way to continue in the growth journey is to work with channel partners who have established networks – this is where channel partner marketing comes in.
But what is channel marketing strategy development going to do for your business, and how can a channel marketing agency help?
As an agency, we’re here to get you noticed by the right people, on the right platform and at the right time – all whilst creating meaningful partnerships that benefit everyone involved. But first – here’s the lowdown on what channel marketing is all about…
What is channel marketing?
Channel marketing is the practice of partnering with third parties in order to distribute and sell products/services to customers. Channel marketing is a hugely collaborative effort, that involves multiple stakeholders and organisations – which means it’s often helpful to have a trusted channel marketing agency onboard that knows your industry inside out and can act as an intermediary…that’s us!!
In addition to IT Channel expertise, an agency that’s worth its salt will have a black book of contacts, helping you form strong relationships while ensuring you get the most out of these partnerships from start to finish.
We work with a variety of different vendors, distributors and resellers, assisting each one with their goals.
We know that success is only achieved when everyone collaborates and everyone benefits, and that’s where we excel. We’re skilled at bringing everything together to create effective campaigns that get products and services seen by the right audience. Using a channel marketing agency like ResourceiT gives you access to experience and expertise that you may not have in-house, meaning you can maximise ROI and drive business success while focusing on your day-to-day operations.
Although the channel marketing model is most popular for larger organisations with diverse product portfolios, or for companies tackling multiple sales regions, channel marketing is also suitable for smaller businesses who need a proven way to scale quickly.
A very simple way of explaining channel marketing as a service is this: wouldn’t it be great if you could focus on product development and other core aspects of your business, while someone else did the hard work of selling? This is where channel marketing can really bring home the bacon.
By connecting vendors, distributors and resellers, it’s possible to throw additional resources into the mix, enabling you to reach audiences you would otherwise not have had access to. This collaborative approach often requires careful match-making, training provision, and the skills to convince others to work with you. In simple terms, an agency is essentially Cupid (but with excellent marketing capabilities).
This is why it’s important for agencies like ours to focus on to-partner marketing as well as through- partner marketing. To be clear, here’s a breakdown of what we mean:
- To-partner marketing – Marketing efforts that are targeted specifically at resellers/partners. Typically, to-partner messaging is all about helping partners understand why they should work with the vendor, and what sets the vendor apart from the competition.
- Through-partner marketing – This involves providing partners with the tools and resources they need to effectively take the product/service offering of the vendor to market. Marketing assets created as part of a through-partner marketing campaign are all created with the end-user as the target audience.
What channel marketing is not…
The term ‘channel marketing’ can sometimes be mistaken for marketing channels (such as social media and automated emails). However, these are two very different things. Sure, your channel marketing strategy will likely leverage these marketing channels at some point or another –but channel marketing refers to strategies involving third parties and a variety of marketing efforts via these distribution channels.
A closer look at the different organisations
Let’s dive deeper into some of the different organisations involved – and some of the ways that we can help in terms of marketing services and support.
An IT Vendor is an organisation that develops, manufactures and sells IT hardware, IT software and/or IT services. Vendors forge a direct link to end-users, making channel partner marketing hugely valuable for vendors in the IT industry. Resellers and partners not only create critical avenues for selling, but are also hugely valuable for collecting consumer data.
We’ve worked with a number of vendors over the years, including Microsoft, AWS, Logitech and Cisco. Typically, our goal has been to help them recruit and maintain the right partners, whilst also ensuring partners have the right training, resources and support needed to succeed. Developing a partner recruitment strategy, designing attractive partner programmes, and developing partner portals that enable seamless communication are just a few of the campaigns we’ve worked on for our vendor clients.
An IT reseller, or partner as they are often known, are organisations that purchase IT hardware, IT software or IT services with the intention of selling them, rather than consuming them. They are sold on behalf of the vendor directly to the end-user.
For smaller resellers with no dedicated marketing manager, a channel marketing agency can empower teams by providing additional support and training. Resellers will also benefit from marketing support, which can lead to greater ROI and more leads.
Need help securing Marketing Development Funds (MDF)? We can help you do that too. Getting funding to boost your marketing efforts may seem too good to be true – but for businesses that know how to maximise MDF potential, it’s a reality.
At ResourceiT, we guide partners through the MDF application process, as well as providing vendor-approved Proof of Execution (POE) – which we know can be a bit of a minefield. You can find out more about the whole MDF process and how it works here.
In simple terms, an IT channel distributor is an organisation that acts as an intermediary between IT vendors and IT resellers, in the distribution of software or hardware.
For distributors, relationships are everything. They work with both vendors and resellers, and often have to juggle the different and wide-ranging needs of their business partners. Working with an agency like ours helps to streamline channel sales strategies, by delivering successful partner programmes that benefit everyone in the channel, while also ramping up demand generation and attracting the right partners during the recruitment phase.
Other services we provide include general marketing support, partner portals, and channel enablement programmes to really scale the partner network.
Benefits of channel marketing
If you’re looking for more effective ways of getting your products and services seen by relevant IT audiences, channel marketing could be the right solution. The benefits go far beyond just increasing your customer base, as forming partnerships can elevate your brand in a number of ways. Here are some of the advantages of working with channel partners:
It’s cost-effective - One of the most attractive incentives of entering into a partnership is to keep costs low. For businesses in the midst of scaling, this can make a huge difference to internal overheads. With a channel partner, you can save on advertising costs and reduce customer acquisition spend. It can cost a lot more to acquire a new customer than to retain one that already exists, and using partners can help you tap into ready-audiences who are already interested in your product.
Boost brand recognition - Careful selection of affiliates can bolster your brand reputation by association. If one of your channel partners is well-known in the industry, your products or services could get an instant boost in credibility.
Leverage the trust factor - Just as your brand reputation will increase, so will your level of brand trust – something that is particularly advantageous for drumming up excitement in new products entering the market. Partnering with established companies who are trusted by your target audience can help you get your products out there.
Achieve greater marketing variety - Channel partners often do their own marketing, which adds more variety into the way you interact with end-customers. It also gives you an indication of tried and tested methods, while diversifying your strategy.
Reach customers at every stage - Not all customers are ready to buy from you. Today’s chaotic marketing funnel also means that it’s necessary to connect with prospects across multiple touchpoints. Channel marketing allows you to engage customers who aren’t actively looking for your product. Instead they could be searching for ways to solve a problem, and are therefore looking for useful content in the research phase.
Learn more about your customers - Wish you knew more about your target customer and what makes them tick? Working with partners in the channel could give you access to more data, ensuring you make informed decisions on future campaigns.
Build lasting relationships - Having a reliable network of partners can transform the way you do business. The relationships you form are mutually beneficial and you all share similar goals. This not only gives you a sustainable way to sell products, but it fosters a collaborative culture where everyone wins.
On top of this, you will of course benefit from a rapid distribution of products and being able to tap into audiences that were otherwise not open to you. But in order to maximise these gains, it’s important to work with a specialist channel marketing agency – one that has experience in your industry.
As you may have realised by now, effective partner marketing is all about the people and organisations within your channel. So it pays to work with an agency with sector-specific experience – this gives them the upper hand when it comes to coordinating the channel and making sure everyone is getting what they need.
Optimising partner experience
Partner experience (PX) is just as important as customer experience (CX) or employee experience (EX). While your partners are not in your workforce, they often operate as an extension of your brand or business.
If you want to squeeze the most potential from these partnerships, it’s important to ensure that everyone is happy – not just you. This all starts with the overall experience, and making sure every stage of the journey is considered.
Here are the essential steps to getting it right:
- Firstly, know your partner personas Who are they? What do they want to achieve? What are their pain points? How can you make their life easier? Understanding your partners helps you put the right efforts in place to build lasting relationships.
- Map your partner journey How will they interact with you? What are the steps to creating and partnership? Is support provided for each of these steps? Will they need onboarding or training?
- Deliver personalised channel content Your BoM (Bill of Materials) is a framework to guide their marketing efforts, but should be tailored to them. Remember to see it in the context of your partners. They’ll want to know, “What’s in it for me?” and “How can this benefit my business?”
At ResourceiT, we have years of experience bringing together vendors, resellers and distributors to ensure a positive outcome across the channel. We can help you with developing outstanding partner portals, sales and marketing training, as well as to and through partner marketing.
We also provide content creation, demand generation and training in addition to our partner-specific services. We always say to vendors, “Be the programme that partners want.” Your partners are busy so when it comes to developing programmes, tools or training, you have to make it attractive.
They want every interaction to be seamless to navigate and profitable to their business. By working with an experienced channel marketing agency, you can close gaps and build trust. Ultimately, partner experience sits at the heart of any successful channel strategy, so it pays to put them first.
If you’re a reseller looking to partner up with major vendors, we can help you get your foot in the door. Partner experience is something we care deeply about, so you can rest assured that you’ll be getting the maximum value out of the partnership.
But what about the challenges?
Like anything else in business, channel marketing comes with its own unique set of challenges. For organisations with a lack of expertise or resources, navigating the process can be time-consuming.
But that’s where an agency like ResourceiT can make your life easier. Not only will working with a specialist agency take your channel strategy to the next level, but you’ll be guided in avoiding common pitfalls whilst having the right expertise, tools and support you need to excel.
Here are a few examples of challenges to look out for…
Channel partners are companies, not people - Working with other organisations can be complicated. Companies have their own unique way of working and you’ll need to adapt to a whole new ecosystem and forge relationships with multiple individuals, not just one.
Who reports to whom? - The answer here is no-one. Forming partnerships in the channel has to benefit all parties involved, and partners do not need to report to vendors, or vice versa. So ensuring everyone gets what they want out of the arrangement requires a gentle, supportive and collaborative approach.
Everyone has their own priorities - Goals aren’t always exactly aligned when it comes to different organisations. However, the underlying goal for everyone is to maximise business, build meaningful relationships and find ways to improve customer experience. The key is understanding what each partner needs and using different engagement models.
Whether you’re an IT reseller, vendor or distributor, we can help you run a structured channel programme to elevate your channel strategy while evading these common difficulties.
We can develop systems for partner relationship management and partner marketing management, while also coordinating essential training. Our goal is to make sure everyone in the channel is happy, because channel sales strategies can only thrive when each party is able to achieve positive results.
To find out more about how channel marketing could benefit you, get in touch with ResourceiT today.