Even before the pandemic, there was a growing talent crisis in partner marketing. Vendors and their partners were already having a hard time finding, recruiting and retaining experienced partner marketing managers (PMMs). The rapid growth in digital through-partner marketing techniques demanded a broader, and rarer, mix of skills and knowledge to manage a partner network successfully.
As a recent article published by CRN highlighted, the past couple of years have only intensified the challenge. Experienced channel marketers are very much in the driving seat when it comes to shaping how, where, and when they work. They are very comfortable with moving on, or even taking multiple jobs, if they are not getting what they need.
While hiring their own PMMs – and developing an in-house team that is perfectly in tune with company culture and strategic direction – may still be the ideal for most tech vendors and their channel partners, it is an increasingly difficult wish to fulfil.
This is why many companies are turning to ‘virtual PMMs’ to deliver, or supplement, the through-partner marketing expertise they need. While the concept of outsourcing marketing services to an agency is nothing new, partner marketing as a service offers particular benefits over an in-house only PMM model.
Scalable, adaptable talent pool
A key benefit of hiring a virtual PMM is that it is not like hiring an individual with a particular skillset and experience. Virtual PMMs are, in effect, a managed ‘slice’ of agency resources, with access to a pool of different skills and experience, as well as all the infrastructure, tools and support the agency has on hand. They allow vendors and their partners to spend less time on managing and supporting in-house resources, and more time on strategic campaign direction.
Virtual PMMs can adapt flexibly to campaign needs. As an example, a vendor wanting to run a series of multi-language campaigns across different geographies would find it very hard to manage this in-house without recruiting multiple PMMs with the required language skills to manage agencies in each country.
A ‘softer’ benefit of the virtual PMM model is access to the entire accumulated knowledge and information resources of the partner agency – earned from working across a wide range of vendors, partners and campaign types – which is almost impossible for any individual in-house PMM to replicate.
Another benefit is that the balance of senior (experienced) and junior (less experienced) people can also shift in line with campaign management needs. Vendors and partners avoid putting their limited senior PMM resources to work on tasks that can just as easily be handled by juniors, at lower cost.
The partner-marketing-as-a-service model also enables the delivery model of each campaign to be defined entirely by desired outcomes, or the specific results the vendor wants to see among target audiences in particular roles, sectors and geographies. It’s down to the agency to choose the best people and tools to deliver these outcomes.
One word of caution: hiring virtual PMMs does not remove the need for day-to-day management from the vendor or its partners. It’s vital that the agency providing the virtual PMM service is kept fully in the loop on strategic direction, changes in messaging, and product and campaign timelines. In effect, the agency needs to be treated as part of the channel marketing team to ensure engagement and performance are maximized.
bChannels has created Digital Partners, which offers vendors an experienced virtual team for planning, creating and delivering channel marketing programs. To find out more, contact us.