3 Ways to Build Partner Marketing Impact

Fiona O'Connor

Senior Content Marketing Manager

partner marketing impactWithin the expansive partner marketing ecosystem, B2B tech organizations rush to build out a wide variety of tactical activity. It’s a very action-oriented space, and yet, as we move deeper into the digital era, many don’t have a clear sense of what their ideal partnerships need to be capable of to succeed.

To surface how some leading partner marketing organizations are strengthening partnering’s impact, BrightTALK’s Val-Pierre Genton, VP of Corporate Development, spoke with three partner and alliance leaders – Phil Gowing (bChannels), Sami Istephan (BAE Systems) and Meaghan Sullivan (SAP). Here are a few takeaways on the program elements they’re seeing drive partner marketing impact.

#1 – Revisit your ideal partner profile.

Adding new partnerships to your program will likely remain an objective from start-up through maturity. That said, to deliver maximum partner marketing impact, you must build an evaluation capability into your processes designed to minimize nonproductive additions that don’t benefit either party and can add significant cost.

Towards these ends, the panelists emphasized the importance of focusing on partner quality from the beginning. Building an ideal partner profile based on where you’ve succeeded in the past can be a good start, but you must build in flexibility to onboard new partner types with which you’ve got no history. That points to a need to build up capabilities for properly evaluating partner potential for success. You’ll need the ability to understand where their skills truly lie and whether or not their gaps can be overcome by the program you’re able to put into the field.

Of course, any single partner will rarely match your ideal profile completely. Overall success will owe a lot to how your portfolio of partners delivers as a whole. “That time that we’ve had to reflect and think about our strategies has meant we’re not just doing the obvious with a partner – we’re not just looking for scale, reach, capability.” says Sami Istephan of BAE Systems. “The increasingly competitive tech space means that we don’t have just one partner that ticks all those boxes, but an ecosystem of partners that do.”

#2 – Segment your partners in order to develop better, more successful relationships.

Research on the impact of the transition to digital reveals a true split between those partners that are thriving and those that continue to struggle: 33% of partners weren’t impacted much by the pandemic because they already had a digital marketing strategy in place, an additional 23% have now made the pivot, but another 23% are still struggling to adjust. Your program could benefit from an assessment like this. You may find you’ve got significant numbers of players in the portfolio who need additional assistance or other treatment.

By segmenting your program categories such as these, you can identify focus areas. The type of resource required from you will obviously be very different. For example, it would be a waste of your time and energy to develop campaign tactics for partners who lack the capability to deploy them.

Notes SAP’s Meaghan Sullivan: “As we look at our partner ecosystems, we try and segment in these ways to … help those who are struggling [with digital marketing]. How can we [best] help the ones that have transformed? And how can we learn from the ones that were born already doing [digital marketing]?”

#3 – Map partner marketing program design to partner marketing maturity and capabilities.

Given widely varying levels of sophistication within your partner ecosystem, you can’t design a program that treats every partner the same. And from the start, you’ll also need to consider the implications of 1-to-1 highly customized relationships versus the very different operationalization challenges of 1-to-many. To those experienced in account-based marketing, the implications here will be familiar.

Phil Gowing of bChannels notes that, “[Digital marketing] is getting more sophisticated, but you’ve got to do the sophistication with the right partners – not your 2,300 partners in the channel because that’s just completely unaffordable.”

Segmenting your ecosystem by potential provides a way to determine how your investment model should roll out. Those partners where the win-win is huge on both sides likely deserve more customized attention. Those partners who would benefit from basic block-and-tackling support from you points toward the need for a technology-based enablement infrastructure that can deliver to many participants at potentially significant scale. Note that, if developed wisely, tech-based infrastructure investments can support any segment of your ecosystem and may be available already from external suppliers. The same is not true of the personalized care you need to reserve for your most strategic 1-to-1 plays.

For more expert insights on delivering optimal partner marketing impact, watch TechTarget’s Partner Marketing Visionaries webinar series. To learn more about products and services to support your partner marketing efforts, contact Michael Latchford.

Channel and Alliance Partnerships, channel marketing, channel marketing strategies, partner marketing, partner marketing ecosystems, partner marketing impact

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