Those who have worked with me in IT know that I have an obsession with integrated marketing models, whether we are marketing purely as a vendor or if we are co-marketing with one or many partners. My simple definition of an integrated marketing model is that an organisation has a key strategy or strategies, a target audience, the right channels and partners to reach that audience and the right offers and contextual messaging to resonate with that audience. Of course, all of this has to be interlocked with the sales teams and importantly all of it has to be measured, monitored, reviewed and renovated as needed. I call this my “perfect storm”.
In 34 years in the IT marketing game, I have rarely seen this model executed properly due to some observed B2B marketing “norms”.
There are two norms that seem to pervade the B2B IT industry:
1. The well-resourced, global marketing teams that operate in a sort of “parallel play” mode. This is to say that they are resourced well enough to have focused marketing organisations that cover the various tactics but who seldom interlock with one another, never mind the partner-sales or direct-sales organisations. And don’t even start me on how these “global marketing” organisations interlock with their non-head office field organisations, in a sort of “top-down” manner. This is worthy of a whole separate discussion.
2. The under-resourced marketing team, who might be driven out of the sales or technical teams, or who might have their own budget, but they run on the “smell of an oily rag”. These guys typically have more junior marketing coordinators and typically are driven by short-term sales goals and who focus on sporadic tactics, which may or may not connect.
Both of these “norms” create a disparate set of marketing activities, which although may include moments of brilliance, probably are not going to provide the best return on investment. Furthermore, the greater the distance away from the actual customer these tactics are created and executed, the less effective they are in relating contextually to the people who actually matter, the customer.
The good news is that this can be turned around with some simple alignment tactics, which are not earth-shattering (and do not need to cost more) but which give structure and a tick list of sorts for any campaign. This is my version of an Integrated Partner Campaign Model. I am calling it mine for the purpose of this article, but this model has been formulated iteratively from my practical interactions with brilliant colleagues of mine in sales, marketing and technical roles, and the model has been created with practical sweat and love. You know who you are.
Integrated Partner Campaign Model
1. Firstly we need a strategy or purpose. A strategy, which is S.M.A.R.T., meaning specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted. Again this acronym is not original, but something to add is that this strategy needs to have specific buyers (target audience) in mind. In creating a strategy we need to make sure we are solving a problem for the buyer, and we are talking to that buyer in language the buyer understands, and gives them a compelling reason to act. We also need to choose the partnerships and partnership models which will best execute against this strategy.
2. In a co-partner marketing model, we need to make sure that in defining our strategy, we also have unique but interlocked plans to execute against that strategy through our own organisation, through our distributors or external suppliers if we have them, and through our selected best partners to market. These plans will have their own clear definitions of roles and responsibilities and messaging structures to elicit the requisite performance from each organisation. The pillars of these plans should include:
a. Sales enablement for all sales team. What is the strategy? What is their part in the strategy? What are the materials they can use to sell? What should they expect and when?
b. Offers and competitive positioning – This part of the campaign needs to be dynamic and reactive to the market, and needs to give the various sales teams the compelling reasons to sell.
c. Sales Incentives – Sales people are “coin operated” and in general perform better with more that just the incentive of keeping their jobs. Incentives can be structured in a variety of ways and shapes and should be created with a meaningful context to each organisation involved in the plan. Also in campaigns involving multiple partners, partner sales incentives should be structured to reward overall growth, as opposed to market share “grabs” from one another.
d. Co-branded Partner Assets and Marketing Tools – These are tools and assets which partners can use to promote the campaign or offers to their own customers. Please remember that each partnership is a completely unique organisation with it’s own solutions and business models. Whatever assets you create need to allow your partners to promote their own version of the campaign in their own style and to sell themselves.
3. Awareness and Air Cover – this is probably what most will identify as “marketing”. These tactics are the messages, which will be your umbrella of customer and partner messaging across your entire campaign. This plan can comprise a mix of ads, content marketing, events, public relations, user stories, technical stories and more. This is the air cover that lets your customers and your partners know what you are doing and why they should be involved.
4. Communications and Nurturing Calendar - This is the calendar of how you are going to communicate with your customers and partners, how often with which tactics. Again this is not brain science, it is just a method to achieve consistency and alignment with your partners. It gives everyone involved in your campaign, a “heads up” about what to expect and when. An important thing to consider in your calendar is a process for how you will react to those customers and partners who have engaged with you as a result of this campaign, and what sort of sales journey you will take them on. This is also a critical tool for alignment with your various sales teams.
5. Something to sell- with the penetration of cloud delivery of IT solutions, the topic of stock to sell has taken on a different meaning, but we still need product in the market. We also need to make sure both sides of all partnerships have the capability to sell, deploy and support the offer, before we go to market. A simple yet often overlooked pre-requisite to mounting a campaign.
6. Governance – One of the most basic, yet one of the most ignored parts of any campaign - measuring your success and making sure that all are executing against their roles and responsibilities. Governance is tricky, as many marketing professionals like to measure results down to a minutia of trends and outcomes. On the other hand, most leadership teams (budget owners) and sales personnel only want the big picture. The key is to put together regular reviews of key leading and lagging success indicators with your leadership and sales team, with numbers that are relevant, but also meeting enough (but not too much) to make sure they are involved and doing their part.
In the more global (top-down) marketing organisation, putting such a process into your field markets (closer to the customers in country) will also mean that execution against your plans is more effective and localised, regardless of whether your own global teams are fully aligned.
For the budget-challenged, local marketing organisations, most of what I am saying here, is not about spending more money, but rather making sure the money you spend is spent more effectively by putting structure and process into your efforts – i.e. lining up your ducks.
In either scenario, it is more about driving the process, closer to your target customers and partners, rather than spending more money on new creative or inventing new campaigns. If you do not have the right resources in field, outsourcing the management of such a process can be outsourced to the right professional services organisation, closer to your customers in your target markets.
If you're interested in exploring co-marketing opportunities please get in touch.