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Occasionally Allbound invites guest bloggers to contribute to our Partner Relationship Management conversation, and today’s blog post is from Gina Batali-Brooks, founder of Is Inspired.
Relationships matter! That is what companies like Hubspot and Forbes highlight in their 2016 Marketing Trends articles. For those of you who have been working with channel partners, I can almost see you rolling your eyes. It’s not that you don’t know that, it’s that the reality of doing something about it is daunting. It doesn’t have to be. Let’s break it down into some simple, tactical things you can try right away.
Take a ‘Partner In’ vs. a ‘Vendor Out’ approach to program definition and business requirements
As channel professionals who are being asked to move quickly, we often forget that the people who have the best insight are the partners themselves. I invite you to incorporate a partner feedback step in everything you do. Work with your account managers to set up short (15 minute) interview sessions with your partners on a specific topic or need, or enable them to ask a couple of specific questions on your behalf during an existing meeting. One of the companies I work with incorporated their partners in early feedback sessions on the partner platform and the toolkits they were developing. The partner participation was high and the feedback was invaluable.
Cherish and continually build your partner profile data
In Hubspot’s 7 Game-Changing Marketing Trends To Tackle in 2016, they discuss the importance of data for the development of a relationship marketing plan. The partner profile is one of the most underutilized tools I see in companies I work with. It typically has an abundance of fields in the system with many of them not used. The fields that are populated were filled out 3 years ago when the partner was signed and not updated again. Many tools today allow you to prompt for regular profile updates, allow you to use progressive profiling, or enable things like monthly polling questions to gather data. The beauty of something like monthly polls is it can be a win/win. It allows you to gather information while compiling the results for your partners so they get additional information. You can even incorporate it into your gamification approach.
One more consideration for profile data; as the channel morphs to adapt to new customer needs and business models, you need to think in terms of multi-select instead of single-select values. For instance, a Distributor may also be a Cloud Provider, or a Reseller may also be a Service Provider. An individual at a partner may be a sales rep and a marketer. Make sure it’s an “And” experience in the tools you have, not an “Or.”
Use the data
Now that you have good profile data, use it. Combine it with data from other tools you have to make incremental improvements to your program and communication strategy. For instance, look at what type of content people are downloading and the profile of those downloading it. Use that to drive new content development, remove old content that isn’t being used, or feature content that you think is important but underutilized. Understand what you want for a partner scorecard and start building it, one attribute at a time. Don’t think you need know everything about a partner up front. Your understanding of who your partner is and what drives them can grow as the relationship grows.
Create a personalized experience
Use the information in steps 1-3 to help define a personal experience. Again, baby steps are ok. Start by making sure people see relevant information on the homepage or dashboard. It can be as simple as a navigation structure that allows them to self select content based on their role or featuring a document on the homepage that is specific to their role. Some platforms are offering the innate ability to understand what people are viewing and recommend relevant and fresh content to them based on defined profile experiences making it an even more personal experience.
Put your content marketing hat on
Content marketing is not just for customers. Channel professionals should incorporate the same techniques to reach their partners. I recommend a rolling three month editorial calendar leveraging the partner platform at the center. Use the profile data you have to create customized communications. Again, it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even if you don’t have the resources to created targeted content, consider creating two nearly identical emails using the same content piece but positioning the value for a sales person and then a technical person. My parting comment comes back to the power your partner platforms have to foster relationships. Use this mindset to turn everybody in your organization into partner advocates. Educate others on how this tool can help them sell more products and solutions, have more successful launches, build strong relationships with the channel, and ultimately drive mutual success for you and your partners.
My parting comment comes back to the power your partner platforms have to foster relationships. Use this mindset to turn everybody in your organization into partner advocates. Educate others on how this tool can help them sell more products and solutions, have more successful launches, build strong relationships with the channel, and ultimately drive mutual success for you and your partners.
For the last 17 years, Gina has been combining experience with curiosity and measured experimentation to help companies improve their channels and achieve their revenue goals. She loves to build and work with teams who share a passion for success, laughter, learning and serving others.