In Today's Very Different Market What Do Partners Really Want from Their Vendors?
The problem is not marketing enablement/automation - its content, content is king, and partners don't have any or enough for their marketing engine, what is best practice in helping partners create great content?
Chanan Greenberg: There are tools that help channels take content created by the vendors and automatically co-brand them and convert them to content they can use with their customers (e.g. Structured Web) as well as using social media to connect with the channel (like SparkYourChannel.com).
Mike Moore: i. We recommend using agencies who are already connected to your brand, who can take on project work for partners, or channel-specific agencies like Lauchlan, Achieve Unite, and Channel Impact, etc. who understand channel partners. They can help craft original content. ii. One other option is Tempesta Media. They have a network of over 20,000 writers with subject-matter expertise in every area imaginable. iii. Package up content into turnkey programs like a four-pack of blog articles to make it easy for partners to engage and for agencies to deliver.
Sal Patalano: Most of the leading PRM and marketing automation vendors provide an extensive library of pre-existing content that can be accessed and modified. Depending on the vendor, these libraries can contain hundreds, if not thousands of curated documents. I suggest shopping vendors to determine who can offer the best bang-for-the-buck in this area.
How does Robinson Patman play into a vendor’s ability to be do support some partners over others? Does the "if it is reasonable" test allow for more flexibility?
Chanan Greenberg: This act does not effectively prevent “different pricing” to different retailers. Since circumstances are always different. Companies may have contracted prices with end customers, different pricing for different volumes, special pricing for end customers, incentives for different levels of certification and training etc. In short, this act does not prevent companies creating special promotions, special discounts and qualifications for channels to receive different pricing.
Mike Moore: i. This isn’t legal advice. Always consult your legal team. ii. Typically, you need some objective criteria to engage with some of your partners, but not all of them. What prerequisites make sense for the program you want to run? Past sales results? Or marketing program participation?
Sal Patalano: Disclaimer – I am not an attorney. That being said, 30 plus years in the industry informs me that the Act does not apply to service or support – it is specifically about pricing. When it comes to the amount of support a vendor offers to partners, it is almost always tied back to revenue, performance, and stratified by some criteria based on attainment (gold, silver, platinum, etc.). The bottom line is that vendors point their support dollars and resources based on the 80/20 rule. One example is to offer the vendor some resources that is in short supply within their own organization. For example, when I was an IBM Business Partner, I offered IBM reps access to a SW IT Architect as needed on deals. This caused them to engage us as a co-seller.
I've experienced challenges where customer isn't clear on what their KPIs are. Is this something we as vendor could propose and if so, what are the typical KPIs defined?
Mike Moore: i. Think about the KPIs you’ve used with other customers and recommend a model that’s based on those best practices. It’s easier to react to something and iterate versus starting with a clean slate. ii. Typical sales and marketing KPIs around lead generation, opportunity generation, and sales results are always important. In partner programs, we recommend having KPIs around partner engagement activities that lead to the marketing and sales measures.
Sal Patalano: I assume you mean “partner” not customer. Vendor issued KPIs are commonplace; in many instances they represent the price of entry. KPIs are typically specific to your business and the solution you offer. They are determined and communicated in an annual business planning session and reviewed during QBR (Quarterly Business Review). The most basic of these are focused on sales and marketing activities that generated leads, develop into opportunities and result in revenue. Examples include marketing campaigns, outbound and inbound activity, deal registration, utilization of MDF, deal progression, etc.
Do any end-user focused marketplaces "marketplaces" (i.e. Amazon, etc.) have a system to include the Channel?
Mike Moore: Most marketplaces are product-oriented, not service-oriented. Many brands are reinvigorating the use and development of partner locators to try and make it easier to connect the services of the channel with end-customers.
Sal Patalano: Many companies are now offering channel-focused marketplaces. These are designed to allow potential customers to review/trial products and any leads are routed to the partner. Take a look at Pax8.
What are the main changes you foresee with channel partner after the end of COVID-19 crisis? What won't go back to normal (before the crisis)?
Chanan Greenberg: Remote selling and the increasing importance of Digital Marketing will not go back to the state of things before COVID. Despite some of the challenges many companies are also finding productivity gains and employee satisfaction with working from home and will continue to enable it. Channels’ ability to identify and engage with the right market segments and customer subsets that are recovering faster from the effects of the pandemic will be the key differentiator for these channels ability to return to profitable growth.
Mike Moore: i. Partners should embrace digital marketing and selling for the long-term. Falling back into an event-only marketing plan would be a mistake since it doesn’t align with how modern buyers discover and select products and services. ii. Partners should also continue to focus on recurring revenue, both subscriptions and services, that help insulate their business from the typical ups and downs of the economy.
Sal Patalano: Remote selling will likely continue, as will the need for improved digital marketing skills. Also, partners will continue to grow in importance with respect to a vendor’s overall ecosystem. Vendors can expect their dependency on the channel to expand, not contract. So, investments made during the COVID crisis are not short term or gap measures. These will likely grow in importance and become staples well into the future.
We are telling partners to avoid hard sell and be helpful – are there any training aids companies you know of who can help them do this
Mike Moore: i. Most of the sales enablement tools or partner portals out there can helpful. It’s all about how you use them. Partners need a lot of coaching and for you and your team to model the behavior you expect of them. ii. For non-channel tools, I really like Vidyard and Wistia for quick and easy videos. I like Anchor.fm for podcast hosting and distribution.
Sal Patalano: I’ve had great experience with a company called “Corporate Visions” and a senior instructor there – Joe Collins. What the market is really telling us is not so much about avoiding hard sell, it’s about understanding your partner’s business model – particularly from a financial perspective. Your CAMs and PAMs need to be business consultants, not facilitators. Finance backgrounds will prove to be more useful as the market matures. Remember, today’s partner is interested in much more than their next deal. Developing IP, growing valuation, establishing long term sticky relationships, these are the things that are becoming front-and-center.
We are trying to run a virtual event for multiple partners any key tips or pitfalls to avoid? Mike Moore: i. You host and multiple partners drive demand? If so, keep the content neutral so it can suit all the partners and whatever unique value prop they represent. ii. Partners as the audience like a partner advisory board? Set some ground rules around sharing so that everyone feels like they can be open without being fearful of giving away trade secrets.
Sal Patalano: Just remember that virtual events will never generate the returns one expects from a face-to-face event, so go in with your eyes open and govern your expectations accordingly. Keep them compact. Too many choices will dampen the effectiveness of your messaging. Better to pack rooms with more people than to offer too much content.
Can you be more specific on the financial help being offered to partners.
Chanan Greenberg: Examples include extending MDF programs effective dates by 1 or more quarters. More generous payout rates on targeted rebate programs (e.g. 6% instead of 4%), extending effective dates of registrations, paying some incentives against funnel development (not just conversion to revenue), paying on time, some paying monthly rather than quarterly.
Mike Moore: Extended payment terms and more flexibility on discounting are the most common ones I’ve seen.
Sal Patalano: What we are seeing most often is partners needing a 2-3-month forbearance or hold on billing. In some instances we are offering free concierge services to assist in developing content or campaigns. Extended billing terms is another area in which we have been able to assist a small percentage of our partners.