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The Top Five Partner Marketing Mistakes … and How To Avoid Them

The Top Five Partner Marketing Mistakes … and How To Avoid Them

In a world where digital marketing techniques have become the rule rather than the exception, it’s tempting to just ‘get cracking’ on partner marketing campaigns, as the barriers to entry are seemingly relatively low. But in our experience, a lack of partner marketing campaign planning and preparation all too often leads to disappointing results.

Let’s take a look at the top five causes of partner marketing campaign failure and, more importantly, how they can be avoided with some targeted effort.

1. Not understanding partners’ go-to-market strategy

This is one of the biggest causes of partner marketing campaign failure. If a vendor’s product or solution does not fit well with a channel partner’s GTM model, things are not going to get off the ground – and no amount of marketing dollars will fix the issue.

Before embarking on any partner marketing campaign, vendors need to ensure they understand each partner’s business model and positioning. If there is a fit, the vendor’s marketing team should, ideally, build a joint strategic campaign plan in collaboration with the partner – as well as the sales team – and adapt its own product positioning to fit the partner’s GTM strategy.

2. Not knowing partners’ marketing capabilities

A channel partner may be a perfect fit for a vendor’s offering in terms of product or solution fit, and overall GTM strategy. However, if the partner does not have the right marketing capabilities, or capacity, to do what is needed, results are certain to be poor. For example, a small shop with no content of its own and no dedicated landing pages is not going to be able to take on a full-scale email campaign.

Vendors need to understand where channel partners are on their digital marketing journeys, and the types of campaign they are experienced at executing. It may be worthwhile investing in training and resources for partners that have just the right GTM model and solution expertise, but lack the required digital marketing capabilities.

3. Failing to provide useable content

This is another big partner marketing fail we see all too often. Vendors have a tendency to expect partners to make use of their own pre-existing collateral, which can be very solution-specific, somewhat out of date, and difficult to adapt to each partner’s own needs. The result is that, when engaged, partners spend too much time adapting and creating content, rather than focusing on demand generation.

Vendors need to be able to offer a range of content that is easily adaptable to the partner’s needs; for example, by being simple to co-brand and incorporate partner-specific messaging into.

Some of the most successful campaigns we have seen have been where the vendor has produced a campaign-specific ‘playbook’. This helps partners see how the campaign can work for them specifically, and how they can adapt and use content for different touchpoints along the buyer journey. For example, it is important not only to have content aimed at demand generation, but also to have strong landing pages and customized product information.

4. Not setting realistic goals

One common point of contention we hear about from channel partners is a lack of achievable goals set by the vendor. Keen to see quick results from their marketing spend, some vendors demand to see huge returns on investment – as high as 80:1 – often within unrealistic timescales, and sometimes inadequate budget. In short, the partner marketing campaign is set up to fail before it even begins.

The most successful partner marketing campaigns set achievable lead generation goals, combined with realistic ROI targets (one experienced vendor we work with stipulate a 5:1 return rate, for example), set over longer campaign periods (more than one quarter). This enables partners to focus not only on generating leads, but also nurturing them and establishing a deeper relationship with prospects, which ultimately leads to higher value sales.

5. Not providing sufficient incentive

Many channel partners often have trouble seeing the upside in participating in certain vendors’ marketing campaigns. As well as failing to take a collaborative approach to campaign planning and objectives, many vendors are also asking partners to wait to be paid for their efforts only after the campaign has been shown to have yielded results. Such ‘proof of execution’ processes are often completed many months after the campaign costs were incurred. Not every channel partner has the size or bank balance to carry such significant marketing costs for extended periods of time.

Channel partners – certainly the successful ones – are typically being courted by multiple vendors: vendors need to offer these partners a good reason to work with them. Some forward-looking vendors are now offering as much as 100 percent of MDF funding up front to their channel partners.

The most successful partner marketing relationships are a two-way street, involving a regular flow of communication, collaboration, and adaptation over an extended period: a win–win for both sides.


bChannels has created the Digital Partners suite of packaged campaigns, which eliminate the guesswork in the planning, creation and delivery of channel marketing programs. To find out more, contact us.

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