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Developing Successful Channel Partnerships

Michael White

Michael White

Senior Account Director | Channel and Alliances | Strategy

Companies are jostling for position and relevance through innovation and trust against an increasingly difficult political and economic backdrop. That being said, strategic alliances have become increasingly essential to achieve business objectives. BCG estimates an eight-fold increase in partnerships over the past decade with benefits ranging from know-how sharing, scalability & logistics, innovation & agility, and the significant value that can be passed to the end customer.   

As more companies identify the need to harness the opportunity within the partner ecosystem, it is of paramount importance to develop a clear and effective channel and alliance strategy, allowing a company to build and control their narrative, whilst aligning to each other’s collective goals and objectives that lay the foundation for partnership. 

Channel partnerships also continue to evolve and become a key aspect of the partner community. The ‘channels’ traditionally compete with each other by eroding the margins in order to offer the cheapest price in the market. That of course isn’t sustainable, so now channel partners look to be solution-focused and add value to maintain their margins in the sell-price. Channel players are shifting their business model to become trusted advisors in the market. The vertical knowledge transfer between technology provider, the technical expertise they offer, and a channel partner’s insight into the market place and routes to market have become invaluable.   

But just because you have formed an alliance or partnership that ticks each other’s boxes on paper, doesn’t mean success is a given. There are many pitfalls to be avoided. Hubspot has identified key elements that include communication, brand stories, consideration for the customer, and execution as the pivotal pillars of co-marketing success. Co-marketing campaigns is essentially what brings the partnership to life and reach prospective customer bases with the key value you bring to market. 

So how should you approach building a co-marketing program?  

Employ intent data 

You might think you know who your customers are and what they are interested in, but where in the buying journey are they currently? What is the language they use when they research related topics to your solution? Intent data allows you to understand exactly who you should be targeting and how to personalize your messaging to best resonate to the customer. As we enter a cookie-less world, intent data needs to be central to all your plans – check out our recent whitepaper on all things intent data here.  

Develop a Joint Value Proposition 

Customers are open to advice and actively need support on implementing solutions. The trap many fall into is each contributor of the partnership building in silo which results in a complicated and convoluted message that is lost on the customer. Here are some simple yet essential items to consider when designing the message of a partnership: 

  • Pool your research together with all parties – analyze the data gathered to get the latest view of the world. 
  • Hold a workshop with all key stakeholders from all parties – Really get under the hood of what working together brings to the table. Involve all key departments to ensure business buy in is achieved from the start and isn’t perceived as ‘just another marketing initiative’. 
  • Identify what the competition is saying – how can you differentiate? What is the problem it fixes, or what guidance does it provide for the customer? How does your target audience change with this partnership? 
  • Develop messaging pillars that form the base of your co-marketing campaign – this is more than a mission statement, slogan, product information & analyst reviews. It is customer-centric real-world benefit detail that covers all key aspects of what your partnership does for the  

Utilizing your sales team as a force for good 
Effective co-marketing campaigns will start to drive through high quality MQLs but how do you ensure progress through the funnel and convert into sales? Any good joint value proposition should be built with sales team insight & contribution, as they should be well versed in their own company’s value and offering, but educating the nuances of a partnership to the wider teams and how they can communicate this to customers will be key to any success. This builds their confidence to handle deeper conversations with prospective customers making a difference between success and failure. Here are a few steps that can be taken to keep the sales team up to speed: 

  • One-to-one sessions to understand personal goals & motivations – what engages your sales team, what are the challenges they face when speaking to customers and what is their current lead handling process 
  • Workshop sessions to present the outputs of your data findings and the joint value proposition. Speak to the feedback received in the one-to-one sessions and identify how to position the narrative with their challenges in mind 
  • Develop sales enablement tools which become a quick reference ‘bible’ of  
    information that helps sales take their customer through the journey of  
    the partnership 
  • Simple and efficient lead scoring that is universally agreed upon across all  
    parties, enabling real time tracking, and enabling effective performance  

Whether it’s a channel partnership that is taking a technology proposition into a specific sector or a strategic alliance that harnesses each other’s offering to drive innovation, ensuring you take a dedicated co-marketing approach is vital for success. Hotwire can help you develop a data-led strategy, identifying the key aspects of your joint value proposition and leading the cohesion between sales and marketing. Get in touch with us here.