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. The strategy is a sane one on the surface. After all, these are our partners, who have jumped through many hoops to be our partners, and these partners are keen to make money selling our products and their services. If we give them some “marketing” money, then this has to help, right? Again, this is a mostly sane strategy.
Why is it then, that so often much of this “marketing” money does not provide the results we seek? Where are we getting it wrong?
The answer, in my experience, is that IT companies, vendors and partners alike, default to throwing an event. Historically in “IT Land”, events have equalled marketing and marketing has meant events, or maybe even events with t-shirts, at a stretch. To be fair, IT companies, in most cases are trying to market complex technologies with technical messages, to a much wider audience.
In the “old” days, an IT vendor or partner could send out invitations to a predominantly technical audience, some who love the chance for networking and muffins and get some reasonable response. If their messaging was not too far off base, they would probably build a following from their audience, just by teaching and showing them something new and giving them a cool t-shirt and some catering.
However, now that information technology is a board level topic for many our customers, who need to get their heads around digital disruption, we can not just focus on events to technical folk to make sales. That horse has bolted. Now we have to have the right messaging, given in the right language, for our much wider audience to consume, where they consume.
Most CXOs would not have the time nor the inclination to attend an event, but they do research and follow headlines on social and traditional media. They also probably listen to their peers and their subject matter experts. But they are increasingly interested in what technology will do for them. They know they have to be. So how do we market to these folk?
Other cross-functional roles, such as Sales, Marketing, Finance, etc. are now also key consumers of technology strategies. How are we talking to them? From which watering holes do they drink? How do they consume information?
Even our technical audiences are more complex these days. There are those that still thrive on “Speeds and Feeds”, and they are important, but there are also those focused on user experiences, customer interactions, customer behaviour and other more intuitive areas. How do we talk to them and where do they get their information?
In many ways, partners and partner co-marketing is even more critical than it used to be in this new environment. Vendors need their partners even more than ever to focus on making digital disruption happen for their customers. Vendors cannot be specialists in all these new disruption areas, so to be relevant they need to rely on their partners to create new markets for them.
So in this new and complex marketing setting, how do we talk to the right people and say the right things? How do we spend our co-marketing funding more effectively? The answer needs to be to devise a co-marketing strategy that does the following for the vendor and the partner as a unit:
1. Clearly identifies the target audience and their personas. You simply cannot talk the same language to everyone, and if a CEO is your audience, then please don’t bore him or her with speeds and feeds. You don’t have that many opportunities to speak to such a person. Make it count.
2. Has multiple channels of touch to your target audience. Events definitely have a place in a multi-touch marketing plan, and maybe t-shirts do too. But they cannot and should not stand on their own. They need to be part of a wider strategy, including brand, content, communications and more.
3. Know where in your funnel, your marketing tactics are playing. Activities that create brand awareness and mana are very different than tactics or activities, which are asking for an order. Know where you are playing and how your tactic will move your prospects down the funnel. Know how to measure success. Your metrics will vary depending on where in the funnel you are playing.
4. If you are spending money on events or any other tactic, have a follow-up or nurturing strategy that keeps engaging your audience that want to engage. There is nothing more wasteful and possibly damaging to your brand than not responding to someone who has asked for more engagement. It happens all the time.
5. If you do have an event, please understand what your audience wants to hear. Do not “spray and pray”. It is a waste of everyone’s time. You need to have the right messaging for the right audience and you need to pitch it in a very interactive way for maximum impact.
6. If devising such a multi-touch co-marketing strategy is beyond your own skill set, either engage your internal marketing team or if that is not possible, outsource to an organisation or person who can come in and help you facilitate the design and execution plan for a strategy with you and your partner.
In choosing an outsourced facilitator, make sure that you choose a professional services organisation or person who clearly understands multi-channel, multi-touch marketing, and who can help you define and play to your strengths. One marketing strategy does not suit all, so your strategy needs to reflect the combined value that you and your partner can provide and it needs to play to your collective sweet spot.
This is the second 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.