By Patrick van Boom
Every supplier wants to work with resellers that market its brand and products as well as possible — ideally operating as a seamless extension of their brand. But as a supplier, how can you ever be sure that resellers are managing both your brand and campaigns correctly and with the proper attention being paid to prospects?
The average reseller has to maintain multiple supplier relationships at the same time, and there’s no way to guarantee they are prioritizing your brand over others. This means it’s up to suppliers to make sure their reseller partners are able and willing, and have the resources to market and sell your solutions as effectively as possible. On top of managing your own sales and marketing teams, creating a partner journey can seem daunting. When activities are better coordinated, however, and technology is put in place to support channel activity, suppliers and resellers can collaborate more effectively and efficiently to lead to better sales. By investing more in a better partner experience, resellers save valuable time and suppliers increase their ROI in the channel — a win-win situation for all parties. There are three clear obstacles in the partner journey that exist in any partnership between a supplier and a reseller. With the right approach and the right tools, these obstacles can be mitigated effectively.
Partners have limited time and resources. Time is scarce for all parties involved in a supplier/reseller relationship. Resellers therefore often don’t focus on brand management and user experience; they just don’t have the time and resources to do so. Herein lies an opportunity for suppliers: if the supplier can provide content, tools and applications that can be easily used and implemented by resellers, they provide a low bar to clear for optimal support from the reseller. Think of your affiliate program as a restaurant — you are the cook and your partners are your servers. You do not want your partner to cook their own meals, you – as a cook – take care of this for them and they deliver it to the customer. If they had to cook the meals, too, customer service would lag and the meal wouldn’t be prepared how it should be (it would be “off brand”). The same logic applies to marketing; it is up to the supplier to provide the tools resellers need to implement a good campaign, stay on brand and sell to your customers. Put simply, as the workload for a reseller increases, the effectiveness of the campaign decreases in tandem.
Channels are not sufficiently integrated. When partner marketing channels are not integrated, it is nearly impossible to ensure brand consistency during a campaign. Because of this, during the phase in the partner journey where demand has to be created, it is important to automate marketing tools as much as possible.
You can accomplish this by connecting the marketing messages you send on your own channels to those of your partners. For example, you can syndicate social updates to your partners to ensure they are in line with what appears on your own social channels. The same should apply to emails, promotions and even AdWords campaigns. Syndication allows for an improvement in the indirect sales process by automating information processes. Thus, sales dashboards are automatically posted on the intranet of partners, which makes it possible to directly add or modify new prices or tools. This is the ultimate tool in partner marketing, as it ensures that the partner always has a real-time tool at hand to automatically post relevant information about your products. During a telephone acquisition, this information can be accessed directly, making the sales process more efficient.
No insight or useful data to improve campaigns. Data is more readily available today to increase sales targeting and effectiveness than ever before. Often, however, data gets siloed within organizations and never leaves the four walls of the business or the sales team. As a result, resellers operate with blinders on, not really having the full picture of your customers.
By establishing partner profiles based on collected data, suppliers can better support resellers in their efforts to implement effective campaigns. By combining profile data of resellers with input from the field, you can easily determine and what type of activity results in leads in their target group, and make that data available to them to execute the most successful tactics for their audiences. Suppliers can also analyze sales data from different channels to figure out how resellers are performing compared to one another. This gives insight into what sales and marketing tools and campaigns have the greatest impact. With this data, adjustments can be made in the process prior to sales conversion, so the partner program can be pushed in the right direction.
The amount of work that a reseller needs to put into generating sales is a crucial factor to consider in any partner program, and is among the most important considerations when brands are evaluating their channel strategies. The supplier should always ask itself “How can I help my partners turn buyers into customers?”
While channel programs are meant to increase your sales without relying entirely on your internal sales team, if you don’t put the right efforts and resources in place, you’re going to lose out on potential customers.
Ultimately, by lessening the workload of a partner, and automating as much work as possible, suppliers are bound to set their partners up for success and create a situation that increases the sales and ROI for all parties.
As chief marketing officer of TIE Kinetix, Patrick van Boom brings more than 20 years of management experience in large corporations and startups in areas including corporate strategy, change management, new business development, strategic marketing, channel marketing, product development and information technology.
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