Small or Big Fishes:
Here is the question, “Should you focus your channel sales and marketing efforts on catching and retaining the big fish, or try to net as many small fishes as possible?” Over my numerous years in the channel, I have found many companies struggle with this and yo-yo constantly between one approach and to the other.
Is this a real problem? It’s actually not about whether or not to work with big and small channel partners. The difficulty is, companies find it a strain to support both types of partners in a cost-effective manner. This is because companies cannot align their sales and marketing support structures to meet the needs of these differing partner types.
Typically, sales organizations can cope well with this situation by employing Strategic Channel Account Managers for the most ‘significant partners’ and by sharing account management responsibilities across inside/telesales teams and even distributors for the smallest partners.
If an organization isn’t coping well with the different types of partners, they need to support their channel marketing organization. Marketers struggle to align their strategy and activities with these varying partners and tend to deliver the exact same programs for all audiences. Remember, there is typically not a channel marketing team responsible for the big partners and one for the smaller partners.
Creating programs for the ‘big fish’ and trying to apply them to the other thousands of small partners (and vice-versa) does not and cannot work. It’s not only because these partners are different and want/ need different things, but it’s because the cost models to efficiently support them, at a marketing level, are different.
Your MDF programs also need to be different. Your co-branded campaigns, which may work well for well-engaged, highly-aligned-with-you, mono-brand-supporting partners, but will fall flat for the other small multi-brand-supporting partners you have. Your partner portal will have to present different options, menus, personas, and journeys. Your partner recruitment processes will have to include certain steps for partners and an entirely different set for the others.
Partners V. Activities
Going back to the initial question, it’s not about whether you should focus on small partners versus others, it’s all about focusing your marketing efforts on delivering effective and cost-efficient campaigns, tools and program that work for all sets of partners.
Aligning these campaigns to your respective revenue models and spending a little on each small fish, while using automation as far as possible, you will ultimately be able to spend more on each bigger fish and include some of the communication media you have just for them, i.e. your Strategic Channel Account Managers. Resulting in making sure our activities are cost-effective and targeted.
If you can separate campaigns and make sure they are aligned to each audience, then you can win that battle and deliver, at the right cost level for each audience, something that is meaningful and has a chance to succeed.
Don’t fall into Santiago’s trap and focus solely on hooking the big fish. It could lead to a substantial loss. Make sure you are ready to deal with the big fish, but also be prepared to catch small fishes.
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).