Feb 2023

Marketing With And Through Partners: The Alchemy Of Co-Marketing

Written by Carlo Tortora brayda di Belvedere - CEO Gorilla Corporation
Orignially posted to Forbes

'How do you make your channel partners effective at driving pipeline for your products or solutions?'

In the dark ages, alchemists would work frantically but methodically to convert lead into gold; that was a transformational process. Of course, this was an allegory for personal growth and evolution. Today, successful marketing through the indirect sales channel may seem equally as esoteric and as difficult. There is a rigorous process in terms of how you engage and enable your partners.

Many industry analysts have, over recent years, endorsed the idea of enabling the channel partner to market with you and for you. There is a myriad of reasons for doing this, ranging from getting their buy-in and involvement to being able to access their network of existing and prospective buyers, as well as leveraging their status as trusted advisors. When you look at the benefits, it is easy to see why you would want to get on board with this method.

Well, this is easier said than done.

We in the vendor community sometimes overlook the fact that these partnerships are not one-to-one but rather many-to-many relationships.

Typical partners will have 10 to 20 vendor relationships. Each vendor demands mindshare, commitment and share of wallet. They each have their partner portal and co-marketing automation platform. Consider for a moment the complexity for partners, having to log in to multiple platforms for each of the vendors they represent. All the while, they are rushed off their feet running their business, serving their customers.

Poor adoption of partner co-marketing programs can be a hard realization for vendors that may have invested a significant budget on platform technology. Software platforms are great and necessary. They embody a methodology, but unless there is somebody to crank the wheel, the software will not do much on its own.

This brings us to the idea of partner marketing concierge as the enabler for co-marketing. The industry has been adopting this concept and making it a global best practice.

The partner marketing concierge is a partner-facing, vendor-sponsored, expert digital marketing consultant. These individuals act as guides to scope and plan co-marketing strategies and will support campaign execution to ensure return on investment is realized for the benefit of both partners and vendors.

This range of support will go from platform onboarding for partner marketing enablement, all the way to evaluating the marketing funnel, the assets and designing tactics.

The golden ratio here is 5-to-1. You need to generate a lead waterfall to enable the partner to meet this pipeline to the quota goal ratio.

Partner marketing concierge activities appear in two flavors: the white-glove approach, which goes in-depth and is typically deployed over a few strategic partner relationships, and the velocity approach, where the concierge supports and deploys ready-set campaigns straight off a platform.

From my experience, the results of this practice can generate a very high ROI. 

Incorporating partner marketing concierge into your business is a matter of resolute determination. The first thing you want to do is to segment your partners into the ones earmarked for the white-glove treatment — involving in-depth needs and gap analysis, strategy workshops and custom heavy lifting — and the velocity partners who will engage with standardized best-practice programs and enable you to leverage your technology platforms.

Next, you need to recruit the right level of talent. You need resources that are marketing solution consultants. I believe it's most important to pick them out of the service agency segment, not from vendor corporate marketing. These are worlds apart. In effect, with partner concierge marketing, you are acting as a marketing agency for the partners, and agency service culture is a key ingredient.

Lastly, make sure you are KPI-driven. Build a dashboard measuring all the KPIs that matter. Typically, these would include:

  • Number of partners onboarded.
  • Number of marketing plans achieved.
  • Number of MQLs.
  • Number of SALs.
  • Number of campaigns planned.
  • Number of campaigns live.
  • Pipeline revenue created.
  • Pipe-to-sales quota ratio (to exceed 3.5 times as a minimum).
  • Weekly goal-setting/gap actions/weekly takeaways.

Be methodical about the process, as each day is precious. Maximize partner engagement. Make your partners feel valued and show them that together, you are stronger.

Partner marketing concierge is about turning lead into gold, modern-day alchemy.

If you prefer to outsource, look for an agency that has long-term experience in partner marketing and, particularly, the systematic processes to pull it off at scale. Partner marketing concierge is the industrialization of partner marketing.

It is so much more than teaching partners how to use co-marketing automation. It's minimally about platform enablement, but it's mostly about listening to your partners, sharing strategy and having a creative mind with regard to tactics.

A common pitfall is to try to get an existing member of your team to take this on part-time. That frequently results in an activity that does not have the punch to impress or move any tangible needle in your partner business.

Sometimes, partners will push back. That's fine; do not let that demoralize you. Let them dictate the terms of engagement. Perhaps you might want to circle back a few quarters later.

If they do engage, make sure they come with realistic expectations. Frequently, partners will have less experience of marketing and will turn skepticism into overinflated expectations — sometimes just to prove it wasn't going to work anyway. This is when the diplomacy skills of your partner marketing concierge need to shine. Building a marketing culture in the partner is a prerequisite and must not be rushed.

The method is highly scalable and transposable. Nowadays, vendors working through global agencies can roll out a program worldwide and maintain consistency of messaging while taking into account cultural, language and format localization.

Like with any industrialized process, it all takes time to build, but the benefits are something to behold as the process matures.

And that is the alchemy of co-marketing, divining gold from partner relationships requires the best tools but also the wisest alchemists to work.
Look out for our future articles discussing how a powerful TCMA solution can help support both program and concierges at scale, helping drive program adoption and partner excellence.