As a marketer, it's natural for me to look to my in-house sales staff first when wanting to increase revenues. They've been trained to know the product inside and out, and they have the experience to ensure timely and efficient implementation of a new sales campaign.
Then I remember a powerful sales tool many people overlook: channel partners. Ever heard of a little company called Google? Back in its early days, the search engine giant utilized channel sales and marketing partnerships with AOL and Yahoo to eventually dwarf its two competitors.
Channel partnerships, as opposed to in-house sales campaigns, should be a mainstay in every marketer's arsenal for three primary reasons:
When properly utilized, channel partners help drive revenues and build brand potency. For example, if my company's products or services align with my partner's, we'll create a mutually beneficial relationship that delivers an immense return-on-investment.
Let's consider the costs associated with an entire sales team versus the overhead for an indirect sales team. Despite being on my partner's payroll, these costs can match, and even exceed, the revenues generated by my in-house sales force.
Too many vendors fall into the trap of expecting their partners to do all the heavy lifting. However, the most productive partnerships require effort from both parties.
We practice and preach the following four guidelines to produce successful channel sales and marketing campaigns:
1. Make sure your partner is a good fit: As a vendor, my partner's products or services should complement mine, and vice versa. My partner should also possess skills or resources I lack, making the relationship mutually beneficial.
2. Build and maintain a healthy relationship: Both parties should perpetually work toward a position in which we're both invested and eager to sell or promote each other's products.
3. Provide them the right tools: Empowered with the right training, resources and tools, partners can become an enthusiastic second sales force.
4. Don't bite off more than you can chew: I need to find a partner with whom I can grow, not one with whom I'll struggle. Think of it like a marriage.
Smart marketing requires recognizing when a channel partner occupies a unique position in the market. If they've developed a loyal base of customers who would benefit from my products or services, then introducing a referral partnership or a full product integration can drive sales for both of our businesses to dizzying heights.