Think about the current performance of your channel marketing program. Now, whether it’s good, bad, or average, envision what you want your channel performance to be.

The only way to get there is by maximizing your partners’ performance, and you can only do that by communicating with them. They will tell you their challenges, what is working, and help you identify gaps. In fact, we conducted a survey to prepare channel leaders like you for 2018. We uncovered some great insights, and this blog will focus on the marketing support channel partners want from your programs.

We sought to define “high-quality” channel marketing support by asking our partners to identify the areas in which they needed support and to rank the importance of different aspects of marketing savvy. We’ve termed these the functions and features of channel program support.

Under functions, partners identified the top 3 challenges they face within channel marketing programs:

  1. Execution/campaign management
  2. MDF management
  3. Planning and strategy sessions

Execution/campaign management

Like it or not, yours is not the only channel program in which your partners participate. With that said, it’s also likely that you are offering multiple programs to your partners. Can you see how this might be overwhelming?

To support partners in their campaign management, consider adding some of the following elements to your program:

  • Marketing automation platform
  • Fully-built “campaign-in-a-box”
  • Sales enablement materials/content hub

If these elements are already incorporated, assess the utilization of these assets. If it’s low, consider revamping your ‘to-partner’ communications, meaning marketing to your partners. Ensure partners are aware of ways they can execute and manage campaigns more easily. If that hasn’t yielded results, it may be time to employ a marketing manager to drive utilization of your marketing platform and materials, or guide partners through executing a campaign more focused on your products/solutions.

MDF management

You had to see this one coming. MDF is a major component of most channel marketing programs, and it’s also one of the most frustrating. Understandably, channel leaders are protective of their funds—they need to demonstrate ROI to their executives.

But it seems that MDF guidelines are revamped far too often, much to the frustration of partners seeking reimbursement. Not only do the guidelines vary among programs, the funding platforms and processes do too. It’s clear why partners want help in this area.

In our experience, we find that a dedicated resource is the best support for MDF management; but if this isn’t something you want to invest in, at the very least provide MDF guidelines and platform reference materials for self-study. Most importantly, make these easy for partners to find in your partner portals.

Overall strategy and planning

The number 3 challenge from partners would be number 1 in our book, but the results stand. As technology becomes increasingly intangible, and as manufacturers further embrace “co-selling” motions with their partner universe, many partners are adjusting their go-to-market strategies.

Here you need to be a true partner and educate resellers on the new co-selling process, and the strategy behind it. Enable them to better identify target audiences, and feature key solutions that resolve the challenges those end-users face. Dedicated partner marketing managers are extremely helpful in communicating this information to partners and helping them execute on it.

Now, to the features of high-quality marketing support. We asked partners to rank the important qualities of a marketing manager. The top 3 were:

  1. Industry knowledge
  2. Product/solution knowledge
  3. Best practice experience

Industry and product/solution knowledge

Although different, these two features are highly interlinked, so it makes sense to address them together.

Industry knowledge is vital to the success of a partner marketing manager, and to your channel partners. Effective partner marketing managers are aware of their partners’ competition and help them differentiate themselves in their market. But it’s not enough to know about your own industry; partner marketing managers help partners understand the industries of their target audience. This leads to more compelling messaging around how your solutions help end-users overcome their industry-specific challenges and achieve their goals.

Additionally, partner marketing managers need to know about their products/solutions, and how each partner individually markets them. Where can partners add to their existing solutions? What is a logical next-step in the partners’ growth that would benefit their audience? The question is “what else?” and the goal is to show end users what they can do utilizing partners’ solutions by highlighting the business benefits.

Marketing best practices

This may seem like a no-brainer, but this quality is more difficult to implement than it seems. It’s well known that the art of marketing is everchanging, but it’s impossible to keep up with alone.

Partners greatly benefit from discussions of new ideas and finding out what’s been successful for other partners. They appreciate guidance on new marketing initiatives like social media advertising, content repurposing, or data analysis and testing. If you can provide your partners with a dedicated marketing manager, make sure they can effectively consult and educate your partners’ marketing growth.

The channel performance you envision is within reach if you’re willing to listen to your partners. You can conduct research like this quarterly, semi-annually, or annually to identify major pivots that may enhance your channel programs; but it’s most important that you implement those changes! Providing partner marketing support may be the easiest way to enhance or maintain your channel performance while you make larger changes.

So, are there any major challenges your partners have that didn’t make our Top 5? How are you addressing them to maximize your channel performance?

Want the full insight from our research?