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How to Successfully Market Your Channel Program

Blog Series: The Old Man and the Channelwith Olivier Choron, Managing Director EMEA, Impartner

Part 1: Build it and They Will Come!

Background:

After more than 20 years in the channel, I sometimes feel like Santiago, Ernest Hemingway’s hero, unlucky in my quest to get the big fish. For Santiago, this was taken literally, for me, it’s been all about getting the best from my channel program.

During my voyage, across the seas and within my programs, I have accumulated a large net of ideas, strong-minded opinions, hobgoblins and dreams about what truly drives success in the channel.

Failing is part of the process

How many of us have created what we thought was the best program, campaign, or tool, only to see them inexplicably flop? For me, and I will be frank, this has happened a few too many times.

I have always considered it to be part of being in the channel; always assuming we didn’t have enough budget to make it big, and assuming our channel partners had too many other fish to fry.

The trick is to recognize our failures and rearrange to make situations work in our favor.

Invest in yourself

Very rarely did I invest enough energy, budget, or activities to drive partners to my ‘best thing since sliced bread’. I did just enough to tick the box and launch. Even then, I’ll admit I didn’t do a good enough job to communicate the relevant value proposition and tailor it to my audiences.

I created great partner programs, but partners were confused. I created limitless incentives, but nobody took part. I created dreamy campaigns, but not many bother to run them.

Although I had the ‘best thing’, nobody really knew about it or knew enough about it to care, hence the flop.

One size rarely fits all

There is no excuse. It can be expensive and time-consuming to communicate to partners, but it is crucial to put a strategy and action plan together for launch and beyond. We must understand and segment our partner audiences to deliver meaningful messages. We need to create ‘personalized’ content and translate when needed. We need to build emails and repeat this process until the message gets through to our partners. In today’s age, our traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ activities need to change.

Focus on people

Don’t go mad and over-do it. Your channel partners are people, with different backgrounds, knowledge, needs, and understandings. Don’t slice the cake in too many small portions or you will not be able to deliver anything. At the very least, focus on those who sell, market, are technical and who direct and manage. Focus on the groups that tend to be very active and even those who are dormant.

Focus on what makes your partners tick. Hone in on their interests and effectiveness of your messaging.

Let them decide

You have all the information about how much and what they sell, and this is in your CRM. Don’t make the mistake of assuming what they want. The CEO of a channel partner organization could be very technical, another could be salesy. Assuming they are all equals and treated the same way could lead to more mistakes and a failed communication approach.

It may be helpful to build a preference page for your communications. A place where your partners can choose exactly what they want to hear from you and when.

Once you have this information, you can start to automate your communication processes and deliver targeted messages, which you can use at launch and post-launch.

Application Tactics:

  • Scrap your existing email platforms – none allow you to customize content to partners, or at least easily (considering you have many partner types/ tiers, countries you cover, languages you need to support).
  • Use our own News on Demand (this is the biased part) – this will allow you to share news based upon the recipients’ selections (in their Communications Preferences Centre), delivering email communications when requested, without the need for any HTML development. With News on Demand, you can deliver 100% personalized and targeted newsletters and emails to each user, in a highly cost-effective manner.
  • Think about your audiences – do they all need to receive sales, technical, marketing and other news? Write different content for the selected audiences.
  • Tailor your content on the portal or landing page – with the right PRM platform like our own Impartner PRM (yes, I am biased again), you should be able to tailor content based on job roles or any other partner segmentation options you have.
  • Communicate, communicate and communicate – never stop; partners have typically little time to give you. It’s not that they don’t like you, but they work with many other suppliers and have their own job to do. So, communicate with them until you are happy with the results or until they say ‘enough’; you will catch them once and this may be enough to hook them in.
  • Think all media – don’t just focus on emails; think about your partner account managers and the phone calls they make every day (and make sure they talk about your campaign); think about your distributors (and make sure they are equipped to talk about your campaign); think about social; think about paper-based media too (if your campaign is big enough).
  • Track and track again – remember, you need to make sure they come and visit the page or program you want them to see or participate in. Don’t be satisfied until you know!

About the author

Olivier Choron joined Impartner in June 2018 when Impartner acquired Tremolo Software. Olivier was the CEO and Founder at Tremolo, the provider of News on Demand and Social on Demand products, which have now been added to the unique Impartner PRM portfolio. He is currently the Managing Director for EMEA.

With 25+ years of channel marketing expertise, gained in Europe and in the US, at companies such as 3Com and Nortel Networks, Olivier is a well-recognized figure in the channel. Having also run a channel marketing services firm for 12 years in the UK, Olivier has advised many organizations on how to best structure their channel programs and how to best enable their partners, including Adobe, Vodafone, Trend Micro, Zyxel, and Samsung, among others.

Olivier holds a ‘Diplôme d’Ingénieur’ in computer science from the ENSI de Caen (France), and a master’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Kent (UK).

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