5 ways to know you’re getting the best from your partner marketing

There are no ‘rubbish’ partners. Just partners whose needs are not being met. 5 things you might hear/say when questioning your partners marketing – and what to do about them.

Channel relationships can be delicate and complicated. As a marketing professional in a reseller or disti, you often find yourself stuck between several rocks and even more hard places, trying to meet internal targets, and drive leads for the sales team but also stay true to what the vendor has asked you to do – it’s their money you are spending after all. But we don’t always give these professionals the credit they deserve, often treating them simply as pawns in a wider game of corporate chess when in actual fact, given more creative freedom and space to let their innovative mind wonder – a channel marketing executive is your greatest asset for driving the results you expect from your most valued partners. However – overlook these key players, and you’ll end up wasting precious MDF with partners that either don’t make the most of the funding you are providing or are just left feeling undervalued with their talent’s unseen, regardless of outcome.  

Speaking with our internal team here at Purechannels, who between them have several decades of channel experience, and several of our valued clients, we identified some clear patterns when it came to vendor experience. We have crafted 5 Top Tips on how NOT to speak to or treat your partners and key phrases that are bound to strike fear and resentment into the hearts of your partners marketing team. Hopefully you might recognise the scenarios, relate to the feedback and maybe even think  “Oh my gosh – I hear that all the time!”. 

1. “We have created the campaign for you! All you have to do is add your logo press send – isn’t that great?” 

No, it is not great. Your partners are businesses in their own right, they have brand guidelines, datasets, their own marketing strategy, schedules to fit your activity into, other vendors and their own services to promote. So, in fact – they have to do more than just simply ‘press send’. Oh, and how many other partners have you sent this pre-built campaign to? Probably all, if not most of them? So, if they all ‘just press send’, they’ll all be sending out the same email – possible even to the same audience. Either way it reflects badly on both you and the partner to be spamming the customer with the very same email – just with a different partner logo. Forcing these pre-built campaigns on your partners leaves them no room to collaborate, create or add the value and partner messaging that is expected of them by their business – isn’t their value-add why you do business with them in the first place? Maybe it’s time to stop paying so much attention to the assumed good idea of ‘Campaign-in-a-Box’ and switch your thinking to ‘Content-in-a-Box’. This allows your partners to take your quality content and use it as they wish in their marketing… making it more about their choice and less about your instruction. 

2. “Do you have access to our portal?” 

Frankly, the answer is often “No” or that is normally just a smokescreen for the real answer which is “Yes, probably, but there isn’t anything compelling enough to motivate me to visit, nor is the experience very good when I get there – and that is even if I get there, once I have found my login details among the other 20+ portals I also have access to. Normally I just ask my CAM for what I need.” More often than not, portals are not personalised, full of irrelevant and/or outdated content and built with the vendor in mind, not the partner user. When push comes to shove – you can bet most of the marketing execs are downloading something from Google or your website for the info they need. It’s quicker, better quality and often way more up to date. We have been offering PRM and portal management consultations to the channel for several years and partner with some of the world’s major platform software providers so trust us – we know! In fact – we wrote a blog all about it here in case you need more info.  

3. Pay peanuts…  

Vendors – please don’t tell your partner marketing teams you want a Ferrari then, after they spend hours putting a plan together that they are proud of and excited to start, tell them you only have the budget for a Punto at best. Always be up front about your MDF budget, no matter how big or small, it will save everyone time and face in the long run. This is about mutual management of expectations – it is always a two-way street. You’ll receive a plan you know is within budget and the partner will respect your transparency on the subject, it will save them time and build trust between you both for a better working relationship. You are competing against other vendors in your space remember and the marketing executive has a choice to work with someone else. If they feel you are consistently rejecting their plans or wasting time not being open about what activity you can support, they will start to view you as time wasters and put their energy into your competitors, those who are upfront and realistic about what can be achieved with the MDF they have to offer. This almost always can be satisfied with a single, simple conversation about your objectives. If you have clear objectives about what you want to achieve then the marketing exec can work with that. If you simple come with tactical activity that you ‘need’ there will almost always be disconnect on expectations. 

4. We will give you some money – but only if you…  

This links to the above point about managing expectations and objectives. Telling partner marketing teams they can have some cash (often quite a lot!) but the activity, campaign design, audience and market sector, have already been chosen for them. It has to be a collaborative approach in terms of what can be best achieved with your objectives, the funding available and the objectives of the partner. Not only does this show a distinct lack of understanding of the partners business on behalf of the vendor, but it also damages the relationship in the long run, thus negatively impacting PX – which should be at the core of everything you do, especially when funding is concerned. The partner will often say “yes of course!” to save face and show willing (and grab the cash!) when in fact, the potential lack of success from the campaign will test the trust of the relationship in the long run, branding the partner ‘unsuccessful’ or even ‘rubbish’ and less likely to get funds going forward. Oh, and then add on the pressure of “you are the only partner we are talking to” and BOOM – guilt and a sense of duty collide to make the partner feel there is no alternative to doing as they are told. Recipe for disaster.  

5. Yes sir, no sir… 

Tough internal targets force the hand of many internal marketing departments both in reseller and distribution. Whether the channel acknowledges this outwardly or not, the reality is they need to meet tough income or profit numbers as well as generate pipeline for their vendors. This essentially makes any money on the table irresistible and vital for them to look good to their boss and keep their job. However – what they are being asked to do with said cash, often isn’t going to work and so again, the marketing representative finds themselves stuck between another rock and a hard place – do they stay true to their employer who essentially pays their bills, or do they decline the MDF based on a perceived lack of potential ROI, miss their target and damage a business partnership? Channel marketing departments need to stop being the cash cow for large channel corporations and start feeling empowered to use their MDF to create leads, pipeline and actual tangible revenue for both parties.  

If only MDF was used for the things it should be intended for… or is that too much to ask? 

So next time you find any of these phrases or scenarios occurring in a QBR or marketing planning reviews – ask yourself “is this the best thing for me AND the partner?” If the answer is ‘No’ then think again. Put the power back into the hands of the partner. They can be creative, talented, dynamic and innovative thinkers who, given the chance and the right support from their vendor, can deliver successful and disruptive marketing campaigns that make the most of your MDF budget delivering tangible benefits for all.  

If you don’t think they can, or in your experience, they might be lacking in an area – why not offer support, training or refer them to a reputable agency who you know can deliver on MDF. Otherwise, it will lead to another well-known phase – “XYZ are a rubbish partner!” The point is, there are no rubbish partners, just those who’s needs aren’t being met. No partner gets up in the morning and says “I am going to be rubbish today. I am not going to sell anything; I am going to do rubbish marketing and I am going to do the worst job possible for my vendors.” They just don’t. This is more about the vendor than it is about the partner. One thing you can be sure of, if you think they are being a “rubbish partner” for you, they are being bloody brilliant for someone else.  

Daren Bach

Daren Bach (FCIM)

Chief Creative & Digital Officer
The Channel Agency: Purechannels
Helping Channel Marketing teams unleash indirect revenue through creativity, digital and storySelling.