At the SiriusDecisions Summit earlier this year, the Citrix Partner Kickstart initiative was selected as a Channel Marketing Program of the Year. Citrix, a digital workspace platform supplier, launched the comprehensive program in 2018 to help partners generate demand and accelerate opportunities by providing them with marketing and enablement resources and training and support for prescribed marketing and sales activities.
The comprehensive program was designed to help partners with content creation, marketing planning, program budgeting, and execution resources. In addition to marketing training and a deep selection of campaign elements, the Citrix Partner Kickstart program offers three engagement options.
Partners can get access to a list of agencies that offer preferred-pricing services. A “grab-and-go” model” provides customizable campaign components that partners can distribute on their own marketing platforms. A “click-and-launch” model enables partners to distribute marketing materials on Citrix’s through-channel marketing platform.
Launched last year, the Citrix Partner Kickstart program is well-timed to meet the rising interest that surveys say partners have in marketing activities. During a recent conversation with Channel Marketer Report, Tricia Atchinson, the company’s group director, worldwide partner marketing, enablement, and Microsoft business development, shared more insights on the program.
CMR – The creation of a program like Citrix Partner Kickstart suggests that there’s a pretty good demand for the support it provides. Are more of your partners signaling that they want to develop better marketing capabilities?
Tricia Atchinson – Our partners’ interest in marketing has become more widespread. As they mature and get more size and stature, they are starting to see that marketing can be a differentiator for their business.
Because there are so many tools and vendors are offering so much assistance, marketing is a little bit easier for them. Further, I do see that they’re willing to invest some of their own dollars. For example, they’re starting to hire people who are more marketing savvy.
CMR — Is there a segment of your partner ecosystem that Partner Kickstart is better suited?
Tricia Atchinson — Like most companies, we have a tier or partners that have their own very functional marketing teams in place. Typically, what they want from us is content to plug into their own marketing engine.
But the next tier is where Partner Kickstart really comes into play. These are good size organizations that lead with us when they go to market. They recognize that marketing can help them differentiate their business but are lacking some of the key capabilities of an effective marketing organization. Maybe they’re not comfortable with how to build a marketing plan, or they’re not digitally savvy enough to take advantage of new technologies. In some cases, they don’t have the skill sets to nurture leads as they come in.
So what Kickstart really does is enable us to have a productive planning session with the partner where we sit down and work out what they want to do and get their buy-in as we launch the program.
Very often, an agency comes in to help execute the program, because the partners may have a bandwidth or infrastructure issue. And they just need some help to move things along through the process.
CMR – How do you prioritize which partners are supported by the Kickstart program?
Tricia Atchinson — They must have a marketing manager or somebody to shepherd the process because we want to sit down with them and build a plan. Even though they’re going to have help getting it executed, it’s important the partner has somebody actively participating in the process.
We want to have a business plan with the partner too. It’s not easy to build a marketing plan if we don’t actually understand what we’re trying to do with them, where they’re focused, and what’s important to them. So one of the requirements we have is that we have a business plan in place with the partner prior to trying to build out a marketing plan.
And while this may sound a little obvious, we want to make sure that they’re certified in the solution we’re focusing on. So if the partner is focused on workspace or SD-LAN for example, and are getting trained and have people that are knowledgeable, we want the program to align with those products.
Finally, we want to make sure that all leads are being addressed. In some cases, partners have a mechanism that makes it easy to get leads to them and have them take action. And in some cases, you have partners that have some digital-savvy sales folks. But they often need help following up on leads too.
CMR – You commented that having a business plan is critical. Can you talk more about that?
Tricia Atchinson – When partners ask why we want them to have a business plan, I explain that marketing should support what they’re trying to achieve from a business perspective. If they don’t have insight into that, it makes it a little challenging to build an effective marketing program.
The other piece that is really important from the business plan is understanding the goals — what you’re trying to achieve in pipeline, what you’re trying to achieve from a revenue standpoint. If you only have a certain amount to invest or if you really need to get up to a particular pipeline number, you need visibility to all of that to benchmark whether your program worked or not.
Do we want to add money to it? Or can we live with that number? Marketers, I think, have become much more sophisticated in the work that they’re doing. And so the business plan to me is like the linchpin of how this all comes together. And it allows the marketer to be much more strategic when they’re building out a plan.
CMR – It’s clear that external marketing agencies play a key role in the Kickstart program.
Tricia Atchison – Agencies are definitely critical to the program. They provide the support that partners need to execute agreed upon plans. In particular, they enable the marketing activities to be much more digitally focused versus a lot of in-person activities.
In selecting the agencies, we were careful to identify a couple of firms in each geo, because understanding regional nuances is important. It’s also important to choose marketing agencies that have worked with partners and understand them. There are more of them than there used to be, so we were able to find firms that have experience in working with partners and understand vendor-partner relationships.
We also looked at agencies that would actually provide campaign follow-up mechanisms. If partners didn’t have a telesales team or somebody who would take a first pass at the leads, some of the agencies offer that capability.
CMR – A program as attractive at Kickstart is likely to attract the attention of more partners. Can the program scale to accommodate them?
Tricia Atchison – We definitely have capacity to work with additional partners. I think the key is making sure that they fit the profile and that they’re willing to commit to the program because it really isn’t for everybody. You have to have a plan and you have to balance that. And you have to know where different types of partners fit into that. It works fine when you do that because you’re putting your investment in the right places.