LEVEL 1 INTENT: The target partner is in profile for the vendor offer and has no immediate plan to discuss a partnership but will be interested to learn more. These Level 1 target partners require nurture.
LEVEL 2 INTENT: The target partner is in profile for the vendor offer, is interested to follow up, but is needing more information before a decision about partnering might be made. It might also be that the timing is bad, and that the partner needs to be re-approached later.
LEVEL 3 INTENT: The target partner will enter now or soon into a discussion with the vendor about the offer and the potential for partnering. They may have immediate interest or market opportunity. Alternatively, they could now have gathered the information required to move up from Level 2.
We said that the difference between these intent levels is the amount of nurture activity that will be required in order to move a partner to intent Level 3.
COMMON NURTURE FAILINGS
Here are three common failings for vendors when it comes to nurture as part of partner recruitment program. First is failing to invest in nurture. Second is treating all nurture partners the same. Third is not building the content required to nurture. Let’s look at each of these.
FAILURE POINT #1: FOCUSING ON LEVEL 3
The fact is that building a target list and engaging partners to assess intent are not the most significant potential investments when recruiting partners. Nurture should be the main investment.
Many vendors treat intent as the endpoint in the process. They build a target list of partners, they contact them, and Level 3 intent outcomes are followed up. All other outcomes are let go. Yet experience, and indeed common sense, tells us that the target partners in intent Levels 1 and 2 are equally valuable. Compare this to B2C marketing. How often does an end customer for a consumer product respond to marketing by immediately purchasing? If an end customer does not immediately purchase are they set aside as offering no opportunity? Of course not. Consumer marketeers recognise that nurture is key. The ‘Jeffrey Lant’ rule of seven says that consumer marketeers must connect with potential customers a minimum of seven times within 18 months to get to a sale. In the digital world, it is likely that the number of touches will be much higher than seven.
FAILURE POINT #2: ONE SIZE FITS ALL
The second failure point is to treat all nurture partners as equal.
In their article ‘The Consumer Decision Journey’ McKinsey identify three buyer stages in modern marketing called ’consideration’, ‘evaluation’ and ’closure’. McKinsey discuss how ‘accumulated impressions’ impact consideration. They also show that different types of marketing move customers through the buying journey at different points. So for example brand awareness is key in the consideration phase, and comparison versus competition and users’ experience will matter during evaluation.
We take this for granted in B2C marketing, but many vendors in B2B seem to ignore these lessons and go for a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to nurturing potential partners.
FAILURE POINT #3: THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTENT
Nurture is about recognising the value of intent Level 1 and 2 partner targets, and then investing in multiple marketing touches customised to the partnership journey.
For vendors recruiting partners at scale the nurture process requires use of marketing tools, like Partner Relationship Management and Automated Marketing systems. These tools group partner targets into intent categories and then automate the release of marketing content to suit the needs of each group. For vendors recruiting at lower volumes the same process can be handled manually.
A critical failure point in many partner nurture programs is content.
All too often the content is customer facing, not partner facing. What is required is partner facing content that aligns to the journey discussed above, moving partners step by step from interest to commitment.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
bChannels offers a model that calculates the investment required in the nurture phase of partner recruitment as compared to the list build and outreach phase. Based on a wide range of real-world client examples the model shows that for every $1 put into the list build and outreach phase, $1.25 must be put into the nurture phase.
If you don’t invest the $1.25 in nurture then in effect you’re throwing away a good deal of the $1 you invested in the list build and outreach phase. This has a direct impact on ROI, in terms of eventual sales generated by partners recruited. Partner recruitment programs without nurture generate extremely poor ROI because few partners emerge from the outbound engagement process in Level 3, wishing to partner immediately. Much of the value is in Levels 1 and 2, which is developed by nurture.
Vendors looking to recruit partners might be put off by the ‘extra investment’ required in the nurture process. However experience shows that ROI is higher with the investment, not without it.
At bChannels we can help understand the investment you are making as a vendor in partner recruitment, and how to get the most out of the nurture process. To take a next step with us, you can read about our Partner Engage service to find and identify partners, or you can contact us to talk about your requirements.