Most companies know that marketing to customers is imperative to maintaining a competitive edge, but they may not prioritize marketing to channel partners in quite the same way. But selling indirectly through a channel is not going away anytime soon. For the largest IT vendors in the world, for example, channel sales can comprise 60 to 70 percent of their sales. With such a significant piece of the pie coming from the channel, it’s imperative to develop an efficient and effective channel marketing plan.
First, do go deep on your knowledge about the channel. Not all channel partners fit the same mold. Are you talking to value-added resellers (VARs), distributors or systems integrators (SIs)? Understand the difference, the intersection between them and the compensation model for each, as well as whether they are sell to, sell through, sell with or some hybrid approach. Understand what their distinct personas and motivators are for doing business with different technology vendors.
Second, do tailor and prioritize your media contacts. Don’t canvass the whole IT trade audience hoping they might devote some of their website real estate to the channel audience. Focus on the websites and magazines that reach your specific channel audience and work exclusive angles with each. Read what they are writing about. While CRN is still the holy grail of channel publications, you can maximize your opportunity for coverage there by familiarizing yourself with what different reporters cover for different sections of the magazine. Understand the global editions of the outlet. And, know when you’d be better served by targeting a different publication, say TechTarget or even a key vertical publication for those channel partners who distinctly focus on certain vertical industries. Then, understand what other outlets beyond CRN offer and why the most effective strategy might be to strive for different types of articles in those outlets as well. For example, if you are trying to reach managed service providers (MSPs) specifically, then The VAR Guy might be a better outlet to reach your audience.
Third, interview one to two channel partners to understand their current and future wants and needs. It probably sounds obvious, but the more you know by meeting with and talking to channel partners, the better you can craft messages and stories that will appeal to them. Ask channel partners what they read, how they self-study and which websites they visit to better understand their buyer’s journey.
Plus, building those relationships can result in them being willing to tell their story through the press, as well as involve one of their customers for better and more colorful storytelling opportunities.
Last, know the channel strategy inside and out. What is unique about your channel partner program? What are the unique value propositions that set it apart from competitor programs? Do you have training and certifications for partners? Are co-marketing development funds available? What type of online portal do you provide partners? What’s unique about the user experience? How do you make it easy for them to find information online and support them with marketing and sales enablement programs?
Knowing the technology channel is not an easy task, and knowing it well enough to leverage strategic PR is even more difficult. PR and digital agencies that specialize in B2B technology are best suited to handle any communications marketing needs that involve the channel. Such agency teams have vast, collective experience in channel PR and understand how to design a campaign that complements your greater marketing strategy.
Selling and marketing through a channel is absolutely essential for B2B technology vendors to reach new markets and new geographies, but doing so also lengthens the sales cycle and makes the buyer’s journey more complex. To help tell the story of your unique channel offering, and to highlight your partner testimonials, make sure you seek out a digital and PR partner who specializes in B2B technology. The most effective agency partner will be able to provide plenty of specific examples of results they have achieved for other technology companies that target the specific needs of channel partners.