The Ultimate Partner Marketing Strategy Model to Accelerate B2B Sales
Partner marketing programs have proven to be massively successful to accelerate growth for many companies. By partnering with companies that offer a related portfolio, you can maximize your marketing impact while sharing the costs. With the right partner marketing strategy you can take advantage of each other’s audience, combine forces in content production and optimize commercial follow-up. In this blog we take a closer look at partner marketing strategy and present a new model to manage it.
What is Partner Marketing?
Let’s start with a definition:
Partner marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on accelerating growth and market exposure with and through a network of partners sharing joint commercial objectives.
And take a closer look at some of the elements:
- Strategic marketing approach: Partner marketing should be part of the company’s overall commercial strategy. It needs resource allocation and tuning in accordance with direct sales channels to avoid channel conflicts.
- Acceleration growth and market exposure: The company must be convinced that partner marketing is an essential element in realizing growth or enlarging market exposure.
- With: Partner marketing is always in cooperation with partners, it must be a mutual effort with a mutual benefit. A one-way street will not work. You can for instance help partners with their own marketing, promote their proposition in your channels, share leads and/or make them part of a joint platform.
- Through: The ultimate form however is a ‘through’ partner strategy in which the message or portfolio of the partner has a value-add on yours. Your joint message, customized by the partner, has a higher relevance to a certain market segment. By reaching potential customers ‘through’ the partner you have a higher change of winning new customers in that segment.
- Network of partners: Partners are companies outside your organization. Think of resellers, distributors or agents. Typically a partner marketing strategy includes multiple partners, or a network of partners, to create a multiplier effect.
- Joint commercial objectives: In partner marketing there should always be a clear mutual benefit and commitment from both sides. All collaborations require a little give and take – and both sides should be fully aware of the other’s objectives when they’re working on a joint project.
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Partner Marketing Model
Manceppo has developed a unique partner marketing model based on our 7 step approach to B2B content marketing. In partner marketing however each of the steps has two sides of the same coin, the vendor side and the partner side. Applying the model allows you to put the partner marketing puzzle together.
- Step 1: Partner Marketing Strategy
- Step 2: Partner Marketing Planning
- Step 3: Managing Content Creation
- Step 4: Managing Media Strategy
- Step 5: Lead Generation & Distribution
- Step 6: Organizing Partner Marketing
- Step 7: Partner Marketing Technology & Tooling
We’ll discuss each step in more detail below.
Partner Marketing Strategy
Your partner marketing strategy must be an extension of your company’s overall commercial strategy. This means it needs strategic attention, management commitment and resource allocation. But your commitment to accelerate growth through a network of partners is not enough to make it work. As this coin has two sides, the same vision must be shared by the partners you work with. When your partner marketing strategy offers a mutual benefit and ensures commitment from both sides it can contribute to commercial success.
In formulating a strategy, be aware of the following 5 pitfalls:
- A campaign is not a strategy: When your company makes the decision to strategically implement partner marketing, it’s important to realize that partner marketing is a process, not just a campaign or an event. Partner marketing has a long-term nature. Partners aren’t aligned overnight and commitment based on trust grows over time.
- Avoid channel conflicts: A specific deal can only be closed once. So think about how you can avoid channel conflicts between your partners and between partners and your own direct sales. Untransparent rules on customer and lead ownership can lead to distrust in the partnership.
- Partner maturity: Partners will vary in partnership maturity. Differences typically include executive level of commitment, revenue driven by partners and resources dedicated to partnering. Consider aligning your partner program to the maturity stage of your partners.
- Types of partnerships: Some type of partnerships will be more effective for different types of companies, goals and customer bases. Partner types can be categorized in different tiers that require varying levels of effort. Think of affiliate partnerships, co-marketing partnerships, referral partnerships, co-sell partnerships and resell partnerships.
- Mutual objectives: As with any marketing initiative, the first step in successfully executing a partner marketing strategy is to articulate your goals and define the key metrics you need to track to understand whether or not you’re hitting those goals. The goals you set should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
Plan a Partner Program
Shaping marketing programs with partners start by defining the product-market combinations around which the partner focuses. The vendor typically offers a broad portfolio of products and services that can be relevant to multiple markets. The partner is typically focused on certain market segments and/or offers a complementary portfolio making the vendor offering more relevant.
The most important step here is gaining insights into the buyer journey of the target audience by formulating answers to the following set of questions:
- Who are the key buyer personas of the partner?
- What are their challenges, fears and dreams relating to the combined offering?
- How does the combination of the vendor and partner portfolio add value?
- What messages are then most effective to share per buyer stage?
- What content formats and media fit best?
Answering these question will be the foundation for your joint messaging, content and media plan.
Creating Content with and for Partners
Based on insights in the buyer journey of the combined proposition, a content plan can be drafted. The partner is typically strong in creating content and messaging that resonates well with their specific audience.
The vendor on the other side typically creates content that can serve multiple partners. This content can be published as vendor branded content assets or as co-branded assets, adding logo, design and/or messaging from the partner. Co-creating content, such as e-books, white papers or webinars, with your partner companies is a great way to amplify the value of the partnership. Vendors can typically re-purpose content for different partners, ensuring a good return on investment in content assets.
Collaborating with partners in content creation will result in content that will be valuable to specific customer segments. Remember, the content you create should offer real value for your audience, so take some time to plan out a killer co-branded content initiative, not just develop content for the sake of it.
A common low barrier way to cooperate is guest blogging. For the blog this is a great way to boost SEO ratings, increase web traffic, establish credibility and add additional value for your prospects and customers. Subject matter experts from each partner can leverage each other’s audience to expand their company’s reach and educate their prospects with fresh, relevant content.
Partner Marketing Media
To gain traction from the right audience in partner marketing the next step in the partner marketing process is media exposure. As in any marketing approach a combination of owned, earned and paid media can be used. The main challenge is to combine the vendor and partner controlled media to optimize impact.
Special attention should be given to the option to create a joint media platform. Think of a joint magazine, portal or industry conference. The idea is to launch a platform on which content and messages from the vendor and its partner eco system can be combined, typically based on an editorial formula. A joint magazine can for instance contain a combination of background articles, interviews, columns, infographics and illustrations from different partners. A content marketing portal can be used for blogs, white papers, expert profiles, e-books and webinars. Or an annual industry conference can be organized with key notes form the vendor and tracks and sessions from the different partners.
Production of a joint media platform should be based on long-term objectives and is aimed at establishing fixed value for a specific the target group based on messaging from different partners. The starting point is completely aligned with the continuity of partner marketing, which should be strategically deployed and viewed as a process rather than a one-off campaign.
One of the major goals of partner marketing normally involves lead generation to boost sales for the partners. To track, understand and optimize this you’ll need to know exactly how many leads your partner generated for you, and in a revenue share model, you need to know how much their actions influenced revenue.
Especially in B2B its important to track leads in the different stages of the sales funnel. Fresh leads need to be nurtured and handed over to the partner sales team at the right time. Make sure it’s clear what the definition of a lead is and who is responsible for nurturing leads earlier in the buyer journey.
Manceppo offers a great platform to execute campaigns on a partner level, manage leads across multiple partners and track conversion from lead generation to sales.
Partner Marketing Organization
The exposure a partner eco-system can bring may sound appealing and logical, but it’s hard work. Your company needs to make sure the resources are available to make it successful. And for each partner initiative, you need to define clear roles and expectations for what you aim to achieve. Especially project management of initiatives that involve multiple partners can be challenging.
This involves discussing timeframes, costs and responsibilities. It’s important to clearly define early on who’s responsible for what aspects of the partnership, to reduce any risk of complication further down the line. The last thing you want to have to do is have an argument halfway through the project about who was supposed to complete a particular task, or contribute certain funds.
Partner Marketing Technology
For effective partner marketing you’ll need all the marketing technology for effective marketing PLUS a platform to track leads and performance across the partner eco system. An additional challenge is that each partner is a company with marketing tooling of its own. Your partner will already have tools for their website, analytics, CRM, email and analytics in place.
With Manceppo you can manage partner marketing with the tools many of your partners already use. To start with: WordPress, Mailchimp, Google Analytics and LinkedIn. With Manceppo partners can create landing pages on their own WordPress website, nurture leads with their Mailchimp account and follow-up on hot leads in their CRM. And as vendor you keep oversight across the partner campaigns with a Manceppo Partner account.