Most multi-national IT companies, who are partner-focused, have co-funding programmes, which as their goal, drive the amplification of the vendor’s marketing strategies. Through these programs, vendors aim to widen their brand awareness, create a preference for their products/ services through their channels and ultimately create demand.
However, frequently the actual execution of co-marketing programmes result in ineffective expenditure and the return on investment is not forthcoming. The theory of extending reach through our partners and the intentions behind setting up such programmes are sound, but often the execution falls flat. Considering such a huge chunk of a vendor’s overall marketing budget can be tied to partner co-marketing programs, this is a waste of scarce money and resource. Why is this so and how can we fix it? This series will focus on my personal experience on both sides of the fence and give some high-level advice on best practice in Partner Co-Marketing.
1. Vendor Sales Resources Trying to Market
In many cases, the root of ineffective partner co-marketing can be simply be that the vendor is lacking in direction on what they are trying to achieve. In my experience in IT, many partner-facing sales resources lack the nous to even create a marketing strategy. They are tasked with growing the partner business and often not given the background or support on how the practice of marketing fits in. They are just given money to spend. They may not even know the difference between awareness and demand, or have any strong idea of where in the funnel their set of initiatives will play and what result they are trying to achieve.
2. Lack of Marketing Skills on the Partner Side
Most resale or distribution partners are ill-equipped to maximise the investment made available to them. In many cases, they are devoid of a marketing function and in the cases where they do have one, the marketing function is part time or very junior. The spending of the co-funding often becomes lower in priority, in favour of day-to-day sales and support operations. As a result, co-funded marketing projects may not be as effective as planned, or very supported by the wider partner organisation. In some cases, the vendors and the partners lose funding through expiration and non-performance.
3. The Default to Event Mode
Commonly in IT, when in doubt, the partner and the vendor will opt to throw an event. While there is nothing wrong with events, events need to be part of a wider marketing strategy, thought through and followed up. The trouble with defaulting to events in Australia and NZ is that there are only so many customers you can present to. Once more, in my experience, events are hardly ever followed up on and converted to leads. Even if the event is fabulous and attendees (leads) are warmed up by the event, if nobody contacts or nurtures them post event in any sort of meaningful way, the “lead” grows cold or moves to a competitor There is a lot more to say about events and I will come back to this in later blogs.
4. Lack of Common Strategies and Sales Interlock
In IT we commonly get caught up in our own hyperbole and we forget that we, and our partners, are completely separate business models, with separate business goals. In a way we are “parallel playing” in the sand box, and not empathising with one another. In some cases we may not even understand our partners and how they operate. For co-marketing to succeed, we need to have at least a set of common goals and defined outcomes agreed to make any progress. Furthermore, we need to get our wider business to agree and support how we are addressing these common goals so that they support our execution. Marketing without sales interlock, is a waste of money.
I have painted a rather bleak picture here, but there are certainly steps vendors and their partners can take to make expenditure on partner co-marketing pay back a lot more.
Creating the right Partner Co-marketing Environment for Success
1. Define a set of aligned goals and where in the funnel you are playing with your initiatives. If you have an internal marketing team, engage them and ask for their help. They will be stoked. If you don’t have internal marketing resource, reach out to an agency, with a professional service pedigree to help facilitate and strategise.
2. Select the right partners to market. Your biggest partners are not in many cases, your best marketing partners. It is more important that the partners you select have the right operational model for successful marketing. The ideal partner will have marketing resources, and more importantly, sales interlock. They will also have process for follow up, and have a set of goals that can align to your set of goals for a common vision.
3. Critical to defining common goals is to understand and match your partners’ market dynamics to your solutions and services. Select the common sweet spot.
4. Build marketing capability (insourced or outsourced) – The most successful engagements I have had is when we have had focused and capable resources driving the initiatives. In many cases this does not exist in-house – you might need to take part of the co-marketing funding and source a mutually selected external agency. You’ll want to select an agency with a professional services model which allows them to work with you as a “Marketing Manager in a Box” - or part of your extended strategy team, as opposed to a traditional agency with pre-baked ideas.
5. Understand your Target buyer – The most common mistake I have seen in IT marketing is the “Spray and Pray”, or the tendency to talk at a group of prospects without the context of their issues and personas. Taking the time to profile your prospects pays back enormously.
6. Create the Offer make sure that in your initiates you are working towards a compelling reason to buy now.
7. Focus on Sales/marketing interlock - process and motivation– Listen to your sales teams, understand, empathise and over communicate regularly.
8. Make sure both sides of the partnership have the capability to sell, deploy and support the offer. This can even come down to making sure you have stock in the country.
The more of this environment you can create, the more control you will have in the successful outcomes from your initiatives.
This is the first in a series on creating the right environment for IT Co-Partner Marketing success.
If you're interested in exploring co-marketing opportunities please get in touch.
For part 2 in this series, click here.