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EBOOK

Channel Partner Marketing Best Practices & Planning – the Ultimate Guide

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Introduction

Channel marketing activities are increasingly valuable within hyper-competitive verticals like technology and software. For companies that rely on partners to generate the lion’s share of revenue, this is the perfect time to create new channel marketing strategies.

The objective of any channel partner marketing campaign is to generate awareness, gain trust, and acquire more customers. As a channel leader, you can accomplish these goals by highlighting how your partnership adds value to the end customer.

The following guide details best practices for creating and improving your channel partner marketing materials and promotional campaigns.

Chapters in this Ebook

What Channel Professionals Want from Vendor Training

Prerequisites to Creating Your Channel Partner Marketing Strategy

Explore the Many Vehicles for Channel Partner Marketing

Find the Right Messaging for Channel Partners to Deliver

Continually Finesse Your Content Partner Marketing

Think About Promotion as Much as You Think About the Messaging

Use Marketing Development Funds to Further Boost Visibility

Track and Analyze Data to Better Understand Your Channel Partner Marketing

Make Channel Partner Marketing Scalable With PRM Automation

Free Channel Partner Templates Free For Your Marketing & Sales

Bottom Line About Channel Marketing Best Practices

Why Channel Partners Benefit from Dedicated Marketing Materials

There may be plenty of Direct Sales marketing materials that channel partners can repurpose. However, don’t jump to the conclusion that this will always be the case. Consider the following:

Channel partners will want to market their brand alongside your own.

Chances are, partners will present your products in conjunction with theirs, emphasizing integration capabilities and how the two complement one another.

Channel partners’ target audiences will somewhat differ from those pursued by Direct Sales.

If you tactically mapped out your partner ecosystem strategy, there ideally would be limited overlap between Direct and Channel sales. Therefore, you would need materials that target the specific pain points and preferences of partners’ audiences.

To learn more, we recommend our article Channel vs. Direct Sales.

Prerequisites to Creating Your Channel Partner Marketing Strategy

If you have yet to complete the actions below, you’re not ready to have your channel partners market your products. Each listed best practice will provide essential guardrails which prevent your messaging from veering off-course.

Create Brand Guidelines to Consistently Reinforce Amongst Partners

Knowing the products’ end-users forwards and backward is essential to creating a comprehensive marketing strategy. Do your due diligence to apply this same line of thinking to your channel partner program as well.

To further flesh out your audience personas, consider the following tactics:

  • Collaborate with trusted partners to gain their audience insights.
  • Attend targeted conferences or digital events to network and observe.
  • Conduct interviews with representatives of your new ideal audience.
  • Hire a third-party research firm that offers experience with the niche you’re targeting.
  • Identify localized or industry-specific competitors and study their marketing messaging.
  • Examine the public social media activity of sampled audiences to observe preferred methods of communication, popular talking points, etc.

Determine Whether Your Marketing Strategy Aligns With Your General Partner Program Objectives

Some marketing activities are about raising brand authority, while others are about lead generation. Consider auditing your sales funnel to identify weaknesses with which channel partner marketing strategies could assist.

Are new audiences unfamiliar with your name? In this scenario, perhaps you would want to raise your overall profile by co-hosting an educational event with a reputable partner. Are the leads unqualified or pursuing the lowest tier package? Crafting marketing materials to better connect with well-defined, niche audiences may be the answer.

Pause immediately if you have yet to flesh out your guiding channel partner marketing goals.

 Not only will the lack of direction make your campaigns aimless, but you’ll struggle to measure their success and make informed decisions based on the data.

Explore the Many Vehicles for Channel Partner Marketing

Our Favorite Types of Content for Channel Partner Marketing

  • Original Research

In the expansive sea of blog posts dedicated to generic how-tos, unique data will make your brand voice ring the loudest. You’re providing new value that can inform even your most educated audiences while providing fresh tidbits they can leverage within their own messaging. Such statistics can enhance diverse kinds of marketing—from social blasts to white papers—that channel partners can share with their followers.

Take this strategy one step further by involving channel partners in the initial research. By combining forces, you can near-double the number of survey participants or data points to yield even richer results.

For more insights into how to promote your original research, check out White Paper Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Thought Leadership.

  • Webinars with Guests from Partner Companies

The events of 2020 forced B2B technology sales to pivot away from tradeshows and conferences towards webinars and online events. As of 2022, many of these in-person gatherings are returning in prominence, but don’t expect their digital counterparts to fade into the background.

Today, webinar hosts enlist multiple speakers to offer their expertise in order to provide differing, valuable perspectives. So why not invite valued partners to share their expertise? Not only will you both be able to elevate your individual brands (and briefly mention how the two products integrate), but you can further nurture the relationship through this interaction.

  • Video

We know that “video” pertains more to the medium than the marketing message, but it’s too impactful not to highlight. Performance data across multiple industries show that audiences choose to interact with video more than any other type of medium. They are more likely to click and interact on social; web pages with video receive longer time-on-site and reduced bounce rates; viewers will retain information more easily; and associated conversions are higher.

Arm channel partners with video-based marketing assets, such as case studies, product demonstrations, and educational how-tos. You can even consider co-branding a video that highlights the power of your technologies combined.

A Full List of Channel Partner
Marketing Content Opportunities

  • Banner ads
  • Paid search landing pages
  • Sponsored social media posts
  • Organic social media posts
  • Organic web pages
  • Homepage banners
  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Product demonstrations
  • Leadership spotlights
  • Case studies
  • Charitable initiative
  • Happy hours
  • Digital happy hours
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Interview
  • Reddit Ask Me Anything

Consider How You Can Repackage Existing Content to Amplify Its Message and Value

Harkening back to the idea of original research, a new statistic can be leveraged in dozens of different ways. Write a white paper, create a press release, spotlight it in social media posts, and make it the focal point of a digitized partner round table discussion. Similarly, if you create an in-depth “how-to” video, why not divide it into multiple bite-sized snippets you promote across social media, in your newsletter, on your partners’ paid search landing pages?

Such channel partner marketing strategies will ultimately help you stretch your budget and enable you to explore new avenues without heavily investing in new content. It also enables you to amplify the potential of messaging you know resonates with audiences.

Create a growth path with clear benefits, expectations, and resources throughout the entire partner journey.

Fernanda Pires

Partner Marketing Manager

Create an Airtight Channel Partner Marketing Plan With Our Free Template

There’s no worse feeling than being halfway through a marketing initiative, only to realize that there is a crucial strategic element missing from the plan. At no point should you or your partners be forced to make crucial decisions on the spot!

Allbound created a comprehensive channel partner marketing plan template to ensure you’re answering important questions at the right time and limiting your blind spots.

Find the Right Messaging for Channel Partners to Deliver

A hard truth all marketers must face is that what we want to talk about may not always align with audiences’ interests. This could be due to a lack of education on their part or, more likely, they simply don’t place as high of a premium on a subject as you do. Your company’s internal communications may be flaunting the latest product feature as the coolest thing since sliced bread, but outsiders may not agree.

Make sure your content matches audiences’ priorities by doing the following:
  • Keeping your partner program’s customer personas up-to-date.
  • Collaborate with Direct Sales, Partners, and Customer Success to hear firsthand about which questions prospects and customers ask, as well as their general priorities.
  • Focus on customers’ pain points and try to offer solutions.
  • Target content to specific groups rather than casting too broad of a net.
  • Observe public peer-to-peer interactions to note common topics, whether it be through online groups or in-person events.
  • Conduct focus groups in-person or online to hear first-hand if messaging resonates.
  • Track a content theme’s performance to adjust your messaging.

Continually Finesse Your Content Partner Marketing

If you google the phrase “content is king,” this phrase appears word-for-word in an estimated 5,830,000 search results. Why? Because everyone knows it and prioritizes it within their channel partner marketing strategy. With this in mind, you must always be in pursuit of improvement, or else your competitors may leave you in the dust.

Always Have a Clear Audience and Purpose in Mind

As a best practice, ask yourself the following about each piece of partner marketing content prior to creation:

  • Who is the intended reader?
  • How does this apply to their goals? Why should they care?
  • What is the ideal action for them to take following finding this piece?

The more specific your answers, the better the piece will become. After all, B2B marketing is not about casting a wide net and pleasing everyone; it is about crafting targeted messaging that speaks directly to the niche needs of a limited (but powerful) group.

Embrace Local Preferences and Priorities

Localizing a marketing resource for partners means more than merely translating the text. You’ll want to account for cultural preferences, differences in priorities, and potentially unique pain points.

For instance, marketing techniques intended for Americans could come across as aggressive and self-centered to European audiences, as detailed in Expanding Your US Channel Into Europe. Another example? Prospects coming from countries with stricter privacy laws may be more focused on these talking points than their international counterparts.

To ensure marketing materials have the intended effect on unfamiliar audiences, collaborate with trusted partners to shape the messaging and pinpoint appropriate distribution strategies.

If you and your organization are committed to customers for life, then you better be committed to having partners for life.

Dan O’Leary

Director of Partnerships

Never Take a Marketing Strategy’s Past Success for Granted

Just because a channel partner marketing strategy has a proven track record doesn’t mean it will continue to deliver. After all, both best practices and audiences’ preferences are fairly fluid. Therefore, pay attention to its current performance. If a strategy’s primary KPI consistently trends downward, it may be a sign that it is overdue for a refresh; after all, no one cares about outdated best practices from 2018.

Be Open to Channel Partners’ Ideas for Marketing Content

Don’t think of your partners solely as foot soldiers, as they are co-conspirators who bring fresh opinions and expertise. Regularly ask them for customer insights and how you can empower them to further connect with audiences. Not only will this yield a bounty of ideas, but it gives partners a sense of ownership when you put their concept into action.

Leverage Partners’ Perspectives and Authority to Strengthen Messaging

Why not turn select channel partners into hands-on collaborators by pooling your collective expertise (and brand awareness). Opportunities include co-branded studies and white papers, co-hosted webinars, integrated product demonstrations, and co-authored articles. In many cases, the two brains (and voices) will outshine the one to make content truly stand out.

What’s more, there may be scenarios in which your partner has a larger loyal following than you do amongst niche audiences. Placing their logo beside your own can lend immediate credibility to the messaging.

Lose the Zeroes and Stick With the Heroes (and Learn)

Every marketer has had the heartbreaking experience in which a seemingly great idea fails to generate the anticipated buzz.

Perhaps co-written blog posts don’t attract readership, or an email blast doesn’t deliver traffic. In such scenarios, do the following:

  • Acknowledge the under-performance, as determined through pre-determined KPIs.
  • Dive deeper to understand why the strategy did not deliver the expected results.
  • Either evolve your approach or pivot entirely—to proceed “as is” is to waste resources.

In short, embrace change and don’t drag your feet when determining what channel partner marketing activities aren’t working.

Keep an Eye on the Competition

Truly one-of-a-kind ideas are few and far between nowadays. If you are focusing on new marketing mediums or revitalizing old copy, chances are that your competition is doing the same. You can only hope to execute the various partner marketing best practices more effectively.

Staying aware of competitors’ marketing content and techniques can give fresh ideas or move the goalposts for what to consider “the bare minimum.” If they recently invested in a high-production video that they prominently place on their Become a Partner page, it may be time to revisit your 2015, low-budget equivalent.

To learn more content marketing best practices, we recommend our article Strengthen Your Partner Program with Content Strategies for 2022 and Beyond.

Think About Promotion as Much as You Think About the Messaging

Once Again, Embrace Local Preferences and Priorities

It’s important to not only recognize individual audiences’ interests but also how they find information in the first place. For example, depending on the industry and targeted region, paying for a sponsored post in a large magazine may not have nearly the impact as dividing that promotional budget amongst micro-influencers.

Your regionally-focused channel partners are arguably your biggest asset for gaining an understanding of unknown territories. So welcome their ideas and encourage brainstorming.

Welcome ideas and encourage brainstorming.

Create an Omnichannel Promotional Strategy to Maximize Results

Back in the days of Mad Men’s Don Draper, options for media consumption were much more limited than they are now. With professionals’ eyes never far from a computer screen and their phones within arm’s reach, your channel partner marketing practices should account for the many possibilities for digital touchpoints within the user journey.

Let’s use the scenario that you are releasing a new product that solves a common problem.

  • 01You can raise awareness
    around the root issue by publishing content on third-party sites or being interviewed for a podcast. Perhaps you collaborate with a partner to release a study highlighting the surprising prevalence of this pain point.
  • 02You can capture the attention of interested parties
    by then creating an SEO-friendly landing page targeting those who seek solutions. Perhaps you’ll want to film product demonstrations that encourage channel partners to share on their social channels.
  • 03To help partners convert interested parties,
    you can equip them with case studies, battle cards, and other materials geared towards lower-funnel audiences.

The collective of these actions ensures that you have targeted messaging for audiences at all legs of the buying journey, and that you chose appropriate mediums for each stage.

Streamline The Process of Sharing Marketing Content for Channel Partners

The following may seem like common sense, but it’s worth underscoring nonetheless: the more barriers there are to sharing your marketing content, the less likely partners are to do it.

In an ideal world, partners could post your thought leadership to their own social channels with a single click. For example, within the Allbound platform, partners can easily co-brand pre-selected content with their own logo and information about their offering. Giving partners the power to co-brand content without the waiting time involved with a manual process keeps this process streamlined and decreases the chance of a partner unengaging.

For more tips on coordinated content distribution, visit Co-Marketing Activities and Ideas for Joint Promotion.

Equip Channel Partners With Various Marketing Templates & Best Practices

Content marketing takes on many forms, from email blasts to social media posts to landing pages. Help your channel partners maximize their effectiveness by passing along best practices. For example, if they’re creating a landing page promoting your product packaged with theirs, share ideas for PPC keywords from which you’ve seen results.

Embrace New Digital Frontiers

Digital marketing is a vital component of any channel partner marketing best practices. There are very few, if any, businesses that wouldn’t benefit from an increase in their online presence. As a channel marketing strategy, it’s wise to offer paid advertising and other online visibility opportunities to partners. Offering paid ad opportunities proves your investment in partners and further builds the relationship. Digital marketing is a prime method of marketing the partnership and presenting yourselves as a united front to your audiences.

Use Marketing Development Funds to Further Boost Visibility

Marketing development funds (MDF) are the budget you assign to partners that they can put towards promoting your products and brand. It’s best described as a win-win; you help with the upfront promotional costs and, in turn, both you and your channel partners emerge with greater revenue.

To ensure you make the most of your partner marketing development funds, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • 01Not every partner should have access to the piggy bank
    Not every dollar you spend on partner channel marketing will have an equal return. Maximize the ROI by granting marketing development funds to the channel partners who have proven themselves through past successes. In fact, it’s common for programs to treat MDFs as rewards used to motivate partners to reach well-defined goal posts.
  • 02Not every marketing idea will be worthy, either
    Similar to the above point, you don’t want to hand out marketing dollars blindly. Have a vetting procedure in place so you can approve (or decline) channel partner proposals.
  • 03Track the success of your MDF spending
    So, how do you know with absolute certainty if a channel partner marketing idea is good or not? Preferably, you would consult with past data. For instance, if historically banner ads generated unqualified leads and no revenue, you’ll know to reject similar strategies in the future. To make comparisons between initiatives easier, systemize all requests within identical forms so you can group them by marketing channel, partner type, region, etc.

To learn more, we recommend our article MDF Program Management Best Practices.

Track and Analyze Data to Better Understand Your Channel Partner Marketing and ROI

Throughout this guide, we alluded to the value of data time and time again. Well-defined KPIs will prevent you from flying blind as you shape (and re-shape) your channel partner marketing strategies.

It’s considered best practice to track:

  • The popularity of specific marketing materials amongst channel partners.
  • The achieved visibility and subsequent audience interactions.
  • The quality of the leads generated by different materials.

For the best results, organize and assess the data through the lens of:

  • Individual content pieces
  • Content themes
  • Promotional channels
  • Partner type
  • Audience type

This enables you to understand which audiences respond the most to which materials, as well as the preferred vehicle for delivery.

Marketing ideas that seem brilliant on paper don’t always deliver the expected results. On the flip side, I’ve been blown away by runaway successes. Performance data allows me to remove personal biases to make sound decisions about which practices to evolve and which to discard.

Tori Barlow

Head of Partnerships

Another point to remember is that not all channel partner marketing strategies will have the same goal. Obviously, an activity with the objective of introducing the brand to new audiences should not be directly compared against an initiative to upsell current customers. Make sure that you are using the appropriate KPIs when grading the success of a campaign.

To learn more, we recommend our article How to Measure the ROI of Your Partner Marketing Campaigns.

Make Channel Partner Marketing Scalable With Next-Gen PRM Automation

When executed correctly, channel marketing involves cohesive omnichannel campaigns, active participation from partners, and a thorough analysis of the impact. It’s impossible to manually coordinate the many moving pieces while enforcing marketing best practices. A first-class PRM (partner relationship management) tool balances automation with customization to maximize efficiency and make scalable growth sustainable.

Examples of how a PRM is vital to channel partner marketing best practices include:

  • Upholds consistency in marketing practices across both partners and program managers.
  • Automatically shares with partners only the content that applies so they share the right messaging with their audiences.
  • Enables co-branding for a clean presentation with instant turnaround without managers’ direct involvement.
  • Employs a search bar so partners can find desired content within seconds.
  • Hosts diverse content mediums, including video and audio files.
  • Social sharing buttons allow instant promotion to their audiences.
  • The MDF management tool templatizes and centralizes requests for easy organization and tracking.
  • Elegant prospect pages allow partners to assemble (and update) content, eliminating the need for clunky email threads.
  • Merges data points across the sales journey to measure content’s effectiveness.
  • Integrates with tools for upper-funnel marketing tracking to determine ROI of campaigns.

The more you automate key partner marketing functions, the more you free channel managers from having to complete menial tasks on behalf of program participants. This contributes to quicker turnaround times and scalable channel growth without a bloated budget.

You have to build alignment, that’s the important thing. Start with the C-Level and work your way through Sales, Marketing, and CS.

Brandon Lytle

VP of Marketing at Allbound

Free Channel Partner Templates Free For Your Marketing & Sales

The Allbound team created a series of channel partner management templates you can apply directly to your marketing and sales program, re-branding them as your own:

Click here to view the full list of free templates Allbound offers channel partner programs.

Bottom Line About Channel Marketing Best Practices

Channel partner marketing activities strengthen partnerships and grow awareness around your collaboration. Highlight the benefits that the end customer receives as a result of your partnership. By creating brand guidelines, you set parameters for all marketing efforts, which makes them consistent and streamlined. By creating shared content that resonates with both of your audiences, both companies can grow their reach. Digital marketing is the most effective method for joint promotions like webinars and landing pages. Implementing these tips and best practices allows you to receive the most ROI on your channel marketing activities.

Tori Barlow

Simplify Channel Management and Increase Partner Engagement with Allbound.

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