One of the most common refrains I hear among marketing solution providers in the channel is that any kind of partner marketing initiative must be blindingly simple for partners to execute. If you require partners to do so much as press a button from time to time, that may be too much to ask. God forbid you ask your partners to put some effort into their campaigns. The ideal scenario is for your partner to just open their mouth so your automated message can tumble out.
The origin of this Through Partner Marketing (TPM) mindset is understandable. Most partners have small marketing teams, often just one-person teams, with substantial demands on their time and many competing vendors to work into their overall marketing efforts. They don’t have time to continually visit each vendor’s partner portal and navigate different campaign systems, much less think about what they’re doing long enough to add real value. If you can sign partners up to automatically parrot your canned marketing messages, it’s a win win: your partner doesn’t have to lift a finger, and you get to amplify your message.
The problem with this mentality is that it perfectly solves the wrong problem, and results in a marketing approach that is easy and nearly worthless. The problem is not that partner marketing teams have no time and therefore should be turned into messaging autobots. The problem is that your marketing approach isn’t valuable enough to partners for them to make a real investment in driving your message to their customers. If you offer the same incentives, the same cookie cutter campaigns, the same canned messages as every other vendor, surprise!, no one has time to spend on doing anything more than the minimum.
Getting your partners to spread the word about your company is a critical success factor for channel marketing organizations. But you really need to ask yourself: do you honestly want partners that don’t want to make any kind of effort beyond being a sock puppet? Do you really think customers are seeking out services from companies that mindlessly parrot the marketing slogans of their vendors? TPM applied to social media is even more cognitively dissonant, relying on partners to sign over their social media accounts to automatically spew whatever the vendor tweets. As if marketers have learned none of the lessons social media has hammered home about authenticity and trying too hard to control your message.
The thrust of this mindset, when you break it down to the core, is that partners are too lazy to do anything more than the minimum effort, and too stupid to realize that being a sock puppet is an astoundingly poor business strategy in a marketplace that demands more authentic customer engagement. Are some partners stupid and lazy? Sure. But why would you invest in cultivating them?
The problem with the TPM mentality is that it perfectly solves the wrong problem, and results in a marketing approach that is easy and nearly worthless.
We’ve worked with hundreds of partners around the world and see an entirely different way to address the challenge of partner marketing. The majority of partners we’ve engaged are intelligent, motivated and insanely busy. What they don’t have time for is useless marketing that doesn’t move the needle. They get the same cookie cutter campaigns delivered through poorly executed partner portals from almost every vendor they work with. Who has time for that?
When you ask partners what they want, they’re clear and direct: They want help learning how to be more effective marketers so they can grow their business. We’ve seen time and again when cookie cutter MDF campaigns are replaced? with creatively customizable campaigns backed with a little training and support, partners step up and suddenly find extra time and resources to execute. The result is more mind-share from partners, and a more authentic and differentiated message to the market.
Is it harder to manage such a campaign? Only at the outset because it requires a different mentality and approach.
Is it more expensive to support such campaigns? Not if you execute intelligently, and the ROI is demonstrably greater, as measure by Marketing Qualified Leads.
The key to building your next generation of champion partners is not turning your partners into mindless sock puppets with TPM automation. The key is enabling your partners to speak for themselves, and to deliver your message in a far more compelling and authentic way. That’s what we call Inbound Channel Marketing, and the results we see in increased partner engagement and improved quality of leads speak for themselves.