“Focus on the existing messages made for your ideal customer, then vary it toward the audience of your partners.”
There are three foundational partner program necessities: active participants, processes supported through designated software, and the content that makes it possible for partners to thrive. Yes, content is how you’ll teach partners sales strategies, enable them to promote you to their network, and how you’ll regularly communicate to them about the benefits of engaging with your company.
With this in mind, don’t fly blind when developing a content strategy for your channel partner program. The following tips will help you roadmap what to create and how to do so to maximum effect.
1. Don’t start from scratch – evaluate existing direct strategies
Your channel marketing strategy has a big job. It needs to account for your Direct Sales customers while indirectly connecting with new audiences through your partners. Even though the two sets of prospects may differ, they don’t require two completely separate content marketing strategies. However, don’t fall for the temptation to merely pass along your materials from Direct Sales to your channel partners.
Compare your various customer personas to identify how they overlap and how they differ. This can help determine which of your existing sales materials you should apply to your channel strategy and which should be replaced. For example, let’s say you’re a Canadian company that sells time-tracking software primarily to law firms; your existing marketing content may not help partners target new audiences, whether they are UK lawyers or Canadian advertising agencies.
Knowing that you need new content for partners isn’t necessarily enough to drive your channel strategy. You must pinpoint messaging themes and preferred mediums, as well as determine how to efficiently disseminate materials. While market research is helpful, don’t forget to consult with your most valuable asset of all, your partners. Pick their brains about content strategy they’ve seen work and how they interpret your existing materials.
2. Assess your channel partner content strategy for gaps
As we highlight in Channel Partner Lifecycle Management – Processes for Each Stage, the type of content partners require will change as their experience with your program evolves. Make sure that you give newcomers the lessons they need to gain confidence in your program, and that veterans are continually enticed with new industry learnings. To help you get started developing your content strategy, make sure to include:
• Recruitment materials, including a partnership page on your website
• Onboarding materials, ideally organized in a clear sequential order
• Marketing and sales enablement materials including white papers, sales scripts, battle cards, case studies, product sheets, and product demonstrations
• Sales playbooks that organize the above materials with clear directives of when to serve what to whom
• News and updates to give participants insights into shifting industry practices and company developments
3. Have a shared content platform
Having a technology platform where you can share and store marketing collateral should be a priority. You can have the best content in the world, but if it’s not effectively shared and managed, it won’t get utilized to its full potential.
While there’s a ton of content management software on the market, it may not be right for the vendor and partner relationship. The right content platform should be chosen explicitly for partner relationships to avoid issues of access and privacy.
Partner portal software will allow you to collaborate, share, update, co-brand, grant approvals, and store everything in one place. Being organized is the best way to create a channel strategy that is cohesive.
4. Continually seek to evolve content strategies
This point should be obvious, and yet too many companies rely upon old messaging. The way audiences absorb inspiration and information perpetually changes, so it’s your responsibility to continually weigh the following:
• Are there fresh mediums or formats that better convey your selling points? For example, Troops recently embraced Playing Cards in place of lengthy case studies in order to deliver their story in a more enjoyable, concise way.
• What new audience priorities should your sales content address? Business operations don’t exist within a bubble; they must contend with workforce demands, global events, new consumer interests, and technology development. While your product’s limited carbon footprint may not have swayed any buyers five years ago, it could now be noteworthy as decision-makers pay increasing attention to software’s energy usage. Create a channel strategy that addresses today’s reality.
• What are competitors saying (and how)? That case study trumpeting 50% growth may underwhelm prospects if your main competitor boasts significantly better improvements. Staying aware of rivals’ key selling points helps you identify what makes your offering unique (or better), as well as areas on which to focus future product development.
Ultimately, you must refresh your sales content strategy on a regular basis in order to effectively convey your brand and products as innovative and future-proof.
5. Don’t treat your audience as a monolithic group
Ask a COO about their motivations and definition of success, and you’ll hear a very different response than if you probed a Director IT or Sales VP. So why would you guide your partners to have identical conversations with each of them? Create content that strategically addresses specific segments, influenced by your audience personas, observations from Direct Sales and trusted partners, and measurable engagement data.
However, content creation is only one element of correctly targeting customers. You must have a system in place that guides partners to the right sales and marketing resources with minimal confusion.
Choose a partner portal with an included content library tool that lets you automate who can access what. After all, there’s no reason that a partner who sells exclusively in China would need to read battle cards designed for American audiences.
To further elevate your channel strategy, create multi-piece playbooks that sync with your prospect pages. When partners register new deals and enter key information (like title, location, company size, etc.), the partner portal should automatically suggest applicable playbooks.
6. Enable polished (and controlled) co-branding
Build content that is engaging, shareable, and can easily be co-branded by partners. While managing partner relationships virtually, it’s imperative to maintain your brand integrity. Using a PRM tool arms you with the ability to control what content has co-branding permissions and which partners have access to that functionality. By taking this approach, you set the standard for how you want your product to be marketed and the expected content quality.
Keeping marketing aligned and consistent is a challenge for most partner relationships. When creating content for your product, be sure to write down rules and guidelines along the way that can be shared with partners via a PRM.
7. Plan joint promotions
If you have many partners, prioritize in-depth collaboration with your top-performers. Choose three partners to do joint promotions with, such as webinars, blog posts, and email blasts. One goal of joint content marketing is to raise awareness in one another’s audiences.
Buffer x Social Chain are a great example of two companies that partner with each other while also creating great joint content. They created a “State of Social” report that showcased the collaboration of both companies.
8. Ensure channel content speaks to your brand identity
Throughout this piece, we discussed the many external factors that should influence your channel’s content strategy: industry trends, competitors’ tactics, consumer needs, etc. Yet it’s important to never lose sight of your internal culture and brand voice, a challenge that can be particularly tricky when it’s conveyed by partners.
Ways to safeguard your brand when creating your channel strategy include:
• Dedicated training materials that discuss the company (and not just the products)•
• Collaborating on a partner’s first sale so they can watch a member of your team in action (and vice versa)
• A well-equipped content inventory and a strategy to address any newly identified gaps in the partner onboarding or sales conversations
• The above-mentioned co-branding software feature that dictates what and how partners co-brand
• Strategically recruiting partners that meet strict criteria rather than having an open-door policy.
• Cutting partners who fail to complete relevant training, violate program policies, or repeatedly misstep during sales conversations
9. Measure your channel content’s effectiveness
The best way to improve your channel strategy and create impactful content is by assessing what works and what doesn’t. Observe the materials successful partners gravitate towards and which fail to convert prospects. Note whether there are certain pieces that connect with some audiences better than others. Content measurement features like Channel Insights gives you the perspective you need to elevate your best sales content and ditch your worst.
Partner performance metrics that can help you refine your channel strategy’s content include:
• Content clicks and homepage pins within the portal – look at individual pieces as well as group-level data defined by the medium and content theme
• Number of co-branded content
• Subsequent quiz pass-rate
• Digital marketing metrics – this can include PPC landing page metrics, social media interactions, etc.
How to Create a Channel Content Strategy: The Bottom Line
When creating a channel marketing content strategy, think efficiency. Content creation is the most labor-intensive part of creating marketing campaigns, so it is imperative to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. You can streamline a cohesive partner content strategy by focusing on creating core content for your prospects and amending it to meet the needs of different partners.
Using a PRM to share content and collaborate with your partners creates organization and streamlines your channel management. Invest time in creating a content strategy before working with your partners. This allows you to set the stage and standard for how all marketing initiatives should look and feel. Knowing where you and your partners’ audiences intersect allows you to double down on the most potent marketing copy that can be reused or reworked. Finally, the more you and your partner can work on joint marketing efforts as a united front, the more effective your overall brand recognition will be.
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