Partner ecosystems are an essential part of any software business. And yet, not all partners are created alike. Having channel partners comes with diversity; each has different needs, different goals, and different business strategies to achieve those goals. Your channel program, therefore, needs to adapt and adjust to each type of partner, as well as to changing business environments that may influence your partners’ behavior. It’s an important first step to understand the composition of your channel, to overview where you are, and where you are going. Does your channel consist of SIs, VARs, MSPs or other ISVs? What does a winning relationship look like for you and how do you determine success? What are your goals for next year? Do you want to further support your partners to sell more or do you want to identify new types of partners to enhance your channel? Understanding your why will help give you the clarity you need to map out the how so that you can continue to improve your channel program in 2022. Here are some other tips to get you started.
1Run a partner satisfaction survey
Staying in touch with your channel partners is vital to ensure the viability of your program. By running a satisfaction survey, you can celebrate your wins and pinpoint areas of improvement. It’s also an important way to engage your partners and show them how you are working to enhance their overall experience when doing business with you. A survey of this nature should not be more than 20 questions in length, and should only take between 8 and 10 minutes to complete. By having a combination of multiple choice answers and free text, you will be able to uncover trends, and also get deeper insights from specific individual companies. You could even turn the results into an infographic that you distribute to your channel as a way of thanking them for their time and effort. Infographics can also be leveraged to educate and nurture potential partners in your pipeline. It’s a good idea to create a specific survey per partner type since the questions you ask an ISV would certainly differ from those you would ask of a system integrator or a value-added reseller.
2Tailor your marketing messages by type of channel partner to recruit new ones
As mentioned previously, not all partnerships are built alike and what may resonate with one type of partner, may not speak to another. Not only is it important to promote your program among the right audiences, but it’s also key that you tailor your marketing messages accordingly so that the “what’s in it for me,” is clear and concise. Distinguishing between current and future partners when you are designing landing pages will also help avoid any confusion as your call-to-action for both would not be the same. It is highly recommended that you spend some time getting to know your various buyers’ personas so that when you start an outreach initiative to recruit new partners, you are honing in on the right people. The key decision-makers’ job titles will differ greatly from one partner type to another. When recruiting ISV’s into technology or OEM types of partnerships, Product Managers are the most frequently targeted personas. However, for VAR’s, SI’s and MSP’s that may not be the case (and very often it’s not). The more you hone in on each niche with tailored messaging for each, the more successful your outreach will be. Don’t forget that OEM (or more accurately, ISV-to-ISV partnerships), can often be confusing to ISV’s. Factoring in education into your plan will help improve your conversion rates over time. Don’t forget that culture influences marketing and you may need to adapt your plan or your messaging according to local cultural norms if your channel program is a global one.
3Make your website more channel program friendly
Information on channel partnerships often gets lost on corporate websites. In fact, sometimes it’s impossible to find any information on channel programs at all! In order to improve the visibility of your channel program, you can create and promote dedicated landing pages per partner type which can include gated content (downloadable eBooks or success stories for example). You can integrate SEO as part of your content marketing plan by conducting keyword research and writing for those keywords. You want to be sure that your current channel partners are being served, but also that potential new partners are easily able to contact you for more information. This should be the goal of channel partner landing pages so that you never lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t forget that partnerships are about helping one another grow your respective businesses and building a win-win relationship together.
4Create a dedicated LinkedIn Showcase page
While presence on social media is a must, most company pages on networks such as LinkedIn are oriented towards the end-user customer and not to channel partners. In order to continue your efforts at creating tailored messages to engage your partners, having a LinkedIn Showcase page to highlight your channel program is a great way to stand out from the crowd. When animating a showcase page, it’s important to create a content calendar with supporting assets that highlight partnership benefits or partner success stories. (Again, make sure such content is geared towards each partner type). This is a great place to make announcements, promote webinars and events, or thank your partners for all their efforts. In parallel, you can create an email campaign to engage your current partners so that they like and follow the page. There is even an admin feature that exists so that you can proactively invite people to like the page directly via LinkedIn. This will exponentially increase your following and should help increase partner satisfaction because of your continued communication efforts across channels.
5Give your channel partners even more support
Funding co-branded marketing initiatives is a great way of giving back to your partners and helping them help you (through an increase in their sales). While many channel partner programs have integrated marketing support as part of the deal, not all partners take advantage of such initiatives. Many either do not have marketers internally, or they have no real experience with marketing; they can easily get lost if they are not educated about the value of such initiatives and guided towards the support you are offering them. By having an external marketing agency help bridge the gap, your partners may be more likely to see the benefits of participating in such marketing initiatives. Alleviating their fears and reassuring them that they don’t have to do it all themselves in order to see a positive return is a way to get them on board.
Motivating your channel partners takes constant effort, innovation and creativity. Designing the win-win comes from consistent and open communication as well as alignment on common business goals. Making sure that there are no invisible expectations on either side will help ensure the success of your channel program as you plan for FY 2022.