In the next few years, current business models will be unrecognizable. Tech vendors worldwide are using partners to reach end customers in a more personalized fashion. Channel partner marketing plays a critical role in getting the most from these relationships.
Studies show companies that use partner marketing grow 3x faster than their peers. Effective partner marketing ensures that partners understand the vendor’s value (both to themselves and their end customers) and sufficiently communicates customer value to the market.
The best partner marketing creates mindshare, drives partner engagement with the vendor’s brand, stimulates customer interest, generates leads, and boosts sales.
We recently spoke to Anne Aitken, Marketing Lead at Reis Informatica, a managed It service provider and cybersecurity company. She had key tips on partner marketing for her brand, the top tools, benefits, and where the industry will go in the next few years.
What Is Partner Marketing?
Partner marketing is a strategic and mutually-beneficial collaboration between two brands. Partnerships range from small initiatives to large-scale productions of an entirely new product.
No matter the size, a partnership should help both companies reach their personal objectives, whether this is to increase audience exposure, brand equity, conversion, revenue, or market share.
Types of partner marketing include:
- Influencer marketing
- Content partnership
- Affiliate marketing
Shared ecommerce stores and joint productions are also forms of partner marketing that a brand can explore.
Key Insights for Digital Marketing as a Partner
For successful partner marketers, clients are looking for these specialties:
Find creative ways to move a priority forward to work within your constraints (like timeline, budget, or labor).
Proactive innovation brings fresh ideas to the table to unlock new opportunities.
Be the partner marketer that takes the time to explain your recommendations (in business terms). Being an expert communicator also includes being highly responsive to clients you know are busy.
If you want to be a team player, you’ll have to go the extra mile. People should feel like they can rely on you. This can be anything from meeting last-minute deadlines to always doing what you say.
Part of being reliable is staying organized. Make a plan with your client and stick to it. Keep everyone on task and lift the administrative burden from their shoulders.
The Power of Interactive Channels
A common mistake partner marketers make is underestimating the power of interactive channels. Here are a few strategies to consider:
Social Media Marketing
Did you know that from 2021 to 2022, social media users increased by 10% across the globe? This is 10% more of an opportunity to reach your intended audience.
Additionally, 11% of marketers say ‘partnership posts’ are the most engaging type of social media content.
When we asked Anne Aitken, she had this advice: “We tried a lot of different platforms and LinkedIn has been the one that has worked the best. Specifically LinkedIn ads.”
The benefits of a robust social media marketing plan include the following:
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Greater brand awareness
- More inbound traffic
- Higher conversion rates
- Improved search engine rankings
It is also one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing, with 75% of marketers crediting social media with increased web traffic, and almost 90% say it has improved business exposure.
Video content is 1200% more successful than any other type of content, yet marketers tend to overlook it. That’s probably because a lot of work goes into creating and posting a video.
As Anne put it, “We haven't really focused a lot on the videos and that's something that we're going to be starting to focus on a lot more.”
Key advantages of video marketing include:
- Improved search engine optimization (SEO)
- Prolongs page visits and shortens bounce rate
- Videos are highly shareable
- Converts at a higher percentage than text
In fact, 68% of marketers claim the ROI of a video is better than Google Ads.
Anne also recommended webinars as a prime vehicle for her partner marketing strategy. Key benefits include:
- Boost brand awareness
- Generate new leads
- Reach a larger audience
- Nurture quality leads
- Position yourself as a thought leader/niche expert
Studies have shown that webinars convert between 5% and 20% of viewers into buyers, so it’s a smart idea to include them in your partner marketing plan.
Tips and Tricks for Partner Marketers
How can you improve your partner marketing game? There are many avenues to explore.
Take the time to communicate with your partner and establish shared values, goals, visions, ideas, and expectations. What type of partnership will benefit both of your audiences best? In what way can you create a mutually beneficial and authentic relationship?
Effective communication spurs meticulous planning. Having a concrete strategy is crucial to building a positive business relationship and maximizing growth. Consider a shared task management platform to ensure every team member remains accessible, regardless of location.
Innovative Content Creation
Put some thought and care into the content you are putting out there. Leaders in content marketing are pacesetters that are constantly improving their writing techniques. This is how you build a good relationship with your audience. Entertain them first and then teach them.
As Anne relayed, “It’s about educating the client, rather than just posting random blogs about cybersecurity. They want to see how something is going to improve their business.”
Content marketing is worth improving upon since 95% of people only look at the first page of search results. The better your content, the higher you list on SERPs (search engine results page).
Know Your Audience
“Educate yourselves more on what they are looking for. Know your audience, basically.” is Anne’s take.
Understanding your audience helps a brand figure out what content and messages people really care about. It will also help you to decide on the appropriate tone and voice for your message.
There are many ways to determine your target audience, such as:
- Analyze your current customer base
- Hold client interviews
- Look at your competitors
- Create business personas
- Conduct market research and identify trends
You can also determine your target audience by studying who it is not. Start eliminating groups until you find your specific niche.
As Anne suggests, “Learn more about your client's interests and needs. We used to just push out sales blogs but we weren't really giving the client what they wanted. Make your articles interesting and give them a reason to keep coming back to read your content.”
Work Closely With Sales
It’s essential to work closely with sales to maximize new opportunities. Companies with aligned sales and marketing teams are up to 67% more efficient at closing deals.
Sales and marketing alignment is one of the most significant ways a business can grow quickly. When these two teams are united, there's a higher chance of achieving a positive ROI. 56% of aligned companies meet their revenue goals.
Companies with aligned sales and partner marketers consistently meet targets and experience higher customer retention rates.
Keeping Your House Clean
This is about ensuring your digital presence is updated and professional. This starts with your website.
Anne noticed, “If you look at other IT websites, some are not done particularly well. Especially when it comes to SEO. Your website is your number one missed sales opportunity if it is not done right. If the salespeople aren't there, or a potential client is looking for an answer after hours, they go to your website! So it should always be polished and perfected.”
A website needs to be fast. 40% of visitors will abandon a website page if it takes longer than three seconds to load.
A website should also be mobile-friendly and interactive, with clear navigation. 48% of people cited the design of a website as the number one factor in deciding the credibility of a business.
The Benefits of Partner Marketing
There is a multitude of benefits to partner marketing, but here are a few to get your wheels churning:
Increased Brand Awareness
The more people you have talking about your brand, the better. Partner marketing introduces potential customers to your business and you to more partnership opportunities.
Cast a Wider Net
You can reach more people through partner marketing. It gives you access to a ready-made audience that naturally finds value in what you offer (assuming you’ve done your homework correctly).
Every business needs customer trust to grow. Partner marketing is like having a friend vouch for you. Aligning yourself with a recognized brand will often make a business credible by association.
Retain more Customers
Loyal customers are the foundation of every successful business. By partnering with a brand that already has a loyal following (and complements your existing product/service), you add value to their purchases.
Common Challenges in Partner Marketing
Although partnerships are essential, 73% of marketers find managing partners a major challenge. Ineffective communication is the most common issue, which often results in a lower ROI, conflicts, and even a negative dissolution of the relationship.
A PRM (partner relationship management) system gives vendors a centralized platform for communication with partners. This tool can help support effective collaboration and align the goals of both brands throughout the partnership lifecycle.
Another challenge is the inability to plan successfully. Some brands are not equipped to deal with the influx of new customer expectations, especially if they have different communication preferences.
When planning to expose yourself to a new type of market, make sure to research first. Understanding this new market will allow you to accommodate new preferences. It also wouldn’t hurt to update your social channels, website, and customer service strategy.
The Future of Partner Marketing
Recent technological improvements and disruptive world events have changed traditional in-person channel partner marketing activities forever. Fewer people are going to trade shows, meetings, and events, pushing digital marketing to the forefront of everyone’s mind.
It’s more important than ever for vendors to better understand which channel partners have what it takes to effectively engage an audience, convert leads, and drive sales. With so many options and different models for partner marketing, now is the time to experiment and get creative.
As Anne stated, “The industry is always changing. Not necessarily It and cybersecurity, of course, but marketing in general. There's always something new that's coming out, so you really need to stay on top of it. Know what people are using so you can be the first one to use it in your business.”
All the benefits of partner marketing work together to drive results. It’s cost-effective, increases awareness, drives revenue, and reaches new people—all while promoting business growth. Partner marketing is truly a genie in the bottle. You just have to know what you're wishing for.