By Heather K. Margolis
No matter what you call the programs – co-marketing, co-branding, MDF programs, or co-op – most vendors provide their channel partners with assistance to market their joint product and services. As social media becomes such a valuable tool in acquiring and nurturing relationships with customers, there is a fundamental shift in the types of resources channel partners need to reach these customers but few carriers and vendors are catching on.
As Steve Darius, strategic alliances account manager at Nexus, explained, “When end-users perceive a need, they are increasingly using the Web and social media tools to proactively seek out a solution. The VARs and agents that are having the most success generating opportunities are those with skills in the promotion and marketing of their businesses through social media."
Before we go on, answer a couple of questions (in your head or out loud; it’s OK, no one is listening). When was the last time you searched online for something you were about to buy? When is the last time you asked a friend or colleague for advice before buying something? I’m guessing you’ve done both recently. Now, when was the last time you got a postcard or phone call from a company you have never heard of and said, “YES, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for” and purchased it on the spot? I’m guessing rarely if ever.
So if we as consumers don’t pay attention to these methods of communication, why are we as marketers and salespeople still using them to communicate? The bottom line is you need to use social media tactics to become more valuable and, thereby, top of mind. Your suppliers should help you do just that!
Here is how social media can improve co-marketing campaigns:
1. LinkedIn should play a huge part in any campaign vendors are funding. Information about joint events, promotions and e-mail campaigns can be publicized through LinkedIn. Vendors should provide a webinar or a “how-to” guide, but it has to be something channel partners can use over and over again.
2. Twitter may not be for everyone, but if some partners are using it, vendors should show them how to better use it to get the word out about an event, campaign, survey or webcast they are doing. It starts with building two-way conversations, so tweet early and often, not the day of a launch.
3. Facebook, in my opinion, is not a great business-to-business tool, but if channel partners are selling direct to consumers, there should be a guide similar to those on LinkedIn and Twitter showing how to use it correctly.
4. Multimedia content is what gets prospects to pay attention. Whether created by the channel partner or carrier, videos, webinars, e-books or podcasts that help prospects do their jobs or make informed decisions are the carrot getting people to pay attention to your activities on these platforms.
5. SEO allows prospects to find channel partners when searching for a product. Niney-one percent of IT decision makers will search for a product even if they know what they need before purchasing. What better way to spend MDF than leveraging an SEO specialist or tool?
6. Social media tools provide channel partners with the ability to track and leverage the above tactics. There are lots of options out there, but my personal favorite is hubspot. It even provides a content management system for your website.
While the traditional e-mail campaign or event is still a popular use of co-marketing resources, the above mentioned tactics will strengthen them and help turn a cold call into a warm call.