By David Pereira, President and CEO, GET LIFT Agency
Channel marketing leaders are always striving to improve their partner marketing programs in an effort to increase pipeline and engagement. One of the best ways to identify areas of optimization is to have an experienced, outside third-party do a thorough audit and assessment of your channel marketing efforts. There are several different approaches that can be used, but here are some areas that you may want an auditor to focus on:
It seems obvious, but anyone conducting an audit must have a sufficient understanding of your business in order to have the necessary context to do a proper assessment. Most notably, in the deep dive, you want them to focus on three key areas:
Business Goals, Alignment and Capabilities – Discuss how your business goals are connected to the channel goals and your channel marketing strategy and tactics. Also, have them review the depth and experience of your channel marketing team and their capabilities.
Partner Landscape – Have the auditor look at how you’ve tiered your partners and the segments of partners within each tier. As well, make sure they review your partner personas and clearly understand how these personas are applied in your marketing campaigns.
Customer Landscape – According to a study by 360Insights, 72% of channel partners agree that a huge challenge is their inability to connect offerings to buyer needs and challenges. Thus, a review of the personas of your end-customers, their needs and the triggers that caused them to enter the buying cycle are important. Ultimately, you want to know how you’re enabling your partner channel to capitalize on this knowledge.
This is an opportunity to get direct feedback from partners on where you’re standing out amongst the competition, but more importantly, it enables you to better understand where the gaps are in your program. This part of the assessment always draws the most attention when the final report is shown, so it is recommended that all responses be unfiltered and anonymous to not jeopardize any existing vendor-partner relationships.
Partner / CAMs Interview – We recommend conducting at least six partner interviews and up to four CAM (Channel Account Managers) interviews to get feedback on your current state. We also recommend splitting the partner interviews among your tiers to get different perspectives.
While you may already conduct regular surveys with your partners (which is an excellent practice that you should continue), having a third-party conduct them can be very helpful in attaining the “real truth.” It’s amazing what you can learn when partners know that their feedback is anonymous and they’re allowed to give unvarnished opinions. Likewise, you can also gain great insights from interviewing the CAMs as they play a pivotal role and can often be the first group to hear of any issues within the program.
Channel Marketers are always battling for the mindshare of your partners. Survey data tells us that, on average, partners work with five top vendors, 15 secondary vendors and a bunch of tertiary vendors. Thus, a very thoughtful to-partner program can set you apart.
Review To-Partner Communications – Review the last quarter of communications to your various tiers of partners to gauge the following:
Each of the communications you put out require time, effort, and often, budget. If a communication is not engaging your audience, then it’s simply noise that is taking your time from doing something much more valuable. The goal is to remove what’s ineffective, focus on what’s working, and come up with a plan to experiment with new ideas you haven’t attempted before.
Review of Digital and General Marketing Enablement
Most partners do a reasonably good job of enabling the technical and sales roles of their channel partners. However, there has been a big shift in the past couple of years about helping partners become more digitally savvy. Many vendors now are addressing this head-on by including digital marketing in their curriculum and are covering topics such as:
It’s also worth auditing the training of the marketing campaigns that you’re providing to partners. Are you providing clear instructions on how to execute campaigns? Are you empowering or incentivizing them to use the tools provided (CRM, partner portal, etc.) and content you create?
Channel marketers spend a lot of time and money equipping partners with campaign-in-a-box offers that they can execute on their own. A good audit should go through some of your recent campaigns and evaluate whether the campaigns were successful in driving pipeline.
While some partners use these ready-to-run campaigns effectively, many do not. This could simply be due to the partner’s lack of sophistication when it comes to marketing. But other common reasons that they have cited as to why they don’t use campaigns include:
A good audit will also evaluate whether the content is partner-friendly, whether the content is available in a variety of formats and channels, and whether the content is actually useful.
It’s also worth looking into the platform (PMM or CMM) you’ve providing to your partners to download and execute the campaigns. Many vendors are notoriously poor for curating content, so partners are left wading through dozens of campaigns and content pieces that may have been published years ago and are no longer valid.
Lastly, it’s worth looking at the KPIs you’ve assigned to these communications. Are they the right ones? Do they include usage and conversions or just views and downloads off the portal? In addition, are you providing any other incentives to drive more engagement and better utilization of your digital campaigns?
When the audit is complete, you should have a pretty comprehensive analysis of the findings. As you go through the report, you’ll notice that many of your assumptions will probably be confirmed, while some might be totally debunked. In addition, new issues that you didn’t realize existed might also come to light.
Once all the key stakeholders have had time to digest and discuss the findings, the salient next step is to prioritize the issues that merit attention and to assign an owner responsible for each issue. There will be some quick wins while other issues may require significant process change.
Another helpful use of the report are the valuable ideas that could shape your planning and programs for the next quarter or next year. Make sure to communicate these improvements in your to-partner communications so that the channel is aware of your efforts to address the gaps. These actions will help you win the battle for their mindshare, and hopefully, increase their engagement with you and your program.
GET LIFT Agency empowers B2B channel marketers with the expertise they need to succeed in their ultra-competitive markets. Learn more about GET LIFT’s Channel Marketing Audit approach.