Why content is king in the indirect channel

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘content is king’ thrown around a lot, but it’s more than just a cliché.

Interestingly, Bill Gates originally coined the term in 1996 when he wrote an essay of the same name. In that essay, Gates predicted that content is where most of the real money would be made on the internet. And he was right.

However, as the indirect channel has expanded and the competition to attract partners has grown fiercer, more vendors are producing content than ever before. Therefore, in today’s saturated market, it’s crucial to ensure that your content stands out and offers real value if you are to maintain your status as a vendor of choice. As Gates said himself, “if people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will.”

Wondering where to begin? In this article, we’ll share what types of content you should consider including as part of your strategy. We’ll also take a deeper dive into the importance of high-quality content for modern vendors.

3 reasons why you should be creating content

As we mentioned earlier, quality content has the potential to yield an impressive return on investment within the indirect channel. But did you know that a strong content strategy can also bring you many other benefits? Here are just a few of the reasons you should make sure content plays a key part in your partner attraction and retention efforts:

Partners hold more power than they used to

There has been a dramatic transformation in the indirect channel over the last few decades, and the linear structure that put vendors at the top of the chain has given way to the ecosystem model. As a result, the majority (69%) of partners say they believe that the power has shifted from vendors selecting partners to partners selecting vendors.

So, when you consider that there’s so much choice for partners, they’re only going to want to work with the vendors that offer additional value. For example, content is a great way to equip your partners with the materials and knowledge they need to sell more effectively to customers. If your only content offering is a PowerPoint presentation, there’s a good chance partners will be looking elsewhere.

Content builds trust

Sales is a tricky game and partners want to know that you’re on their side. As such, you’ll need to provide some reassurance that you’re the ideal vendor for them — regardless of what stage of the buyer journey they’re at. One of the best ways you can build a sense of trust is through content; whether that’s through regular communication, in-depth training and sales materials, or cultivating an authoritative social media presence.

You’ll solidify every touchpoint of the buyer journey

Much like the channel model, the buyer journey has shifted over time and there are many more touchpoints you need to cover before a prospect even gets to the consideration stage. As a matter of fact, 44% of B2B buyers report that they consume three to five pieces of content before they first get in touch with a sales representative. Now, content is the new sales pitch.

Once you’ve moved past the awareness stage, you can continue using content at various intervals to back up your sales activity, guiding prospective customers through the consideration and decision stages. Consistency is paramount during these stages as it will keep you at the top of partners’ minds, even when they’re not interacting directly with a sales representative.

Finally, after you’ve onboarded a new partner, you can retain them by providing regular communication and sharing materials that help them to get the most out of their partnership with you. Essentially, the same principle applies to the content your existing partners share with their customers. By providing the necessary content for partners to lead end-customers through the buyer journey, you’re empowering them to make speedier and more frequent sales.

To ensure you’ve covered all the bases, ask yourself:

  • Have we built enough brand awareness for prospective partners to want to engage with us?
  • If those prospective partners aren’t yet ready to reach out, will our content keep us at the top of their minds for the future?
  • Do we have the necessary materials to nurture current partners and support their sales activities?
  • Are there enough materials available for partners with various capabilities and levels of knowledge?

If the answer to any of the above is “no”, then it’s time to revisit your content strategy so you don’t get left behind.

What content should vendors and distributors create?

So, you know that content is key to success in the indirect channel, but what should you create? It’s easy to get carried away. For example, you may have already conducted a competitor analysis and found that other companies are producing eBooks, infographics, blog posts, video content, and more. At that point, it could be tempting to head over to an AI platform in the hope that it can churn out lots of content quickly.

The good news is you don’t have to panic. To get the results you want from your content, you should prioritize quality over quantity. Insightful materials that make your partners’ lives easier don’t just build your reputation as a market leader; they can also have a positive impact on sales figures. Your competition may be producing lots of content on multiple platforms, but that doesn’t guarantee that they’re seeing results.

Therefore, it’s important to begin by thinking about the following:

  • Your target audience — what kind of content will resonate with them? What will motivate them?
  • Your buyer journey — have you covered every touchpoint?
  • Your existing content — can it be repurposed? Does it need updating? Are there any gaps?

For any vendor, it’s worth determining what your goals are before deciding on what content you’ll put at the top of the list, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Thought leadership

Historically, B2B content has fallen into the trap of being too corporate. In fact, there are over 800,000 Google Search results for the term ‘B2B marketing is boring’. Clearly, many organizations overlook one crucial fact when it comes to creating content for B2B buyers: they’re still human.

Of course, any time someone reads your content, they’re going to want to find answers, discover a solution to their problems, or learn something new. But that content doesn’t need to be overly formal or dry to be taken seriously. That’s why thought leadership articles are a great method of showcasing your expertise and building brand awareness without sending your readers to sleep.

Think of it like this, thought leadership pieces usually:

  • Comment on a current industry topic/trend
  • Offer unique insights
  • Break down complex subjects
  • Provide advice directly from a subject expert
  • Use relatable language

In other words, thought leadership brings the human element into your content marketing strategy that your competitors may be missing.

Partner sales toolkits

Successfully onboarding new partners doesn’t mean you can take your foot off the gas. Without offering the right support, it’s going to be challenging to maintain your partnerships long term. As we explained earlier, sales enablement content ensures your partners have everything they need to effectively sell your products and/or services, so a well thought out toolkit is critical to success.

Again, you should consider the needs of your target audience and your organization to determine exactly what to include, but here are some examples of materials your partners might find valuable:

  • Infographics
  • Sales enablement guides/playbooks
  • Training materials
  • Social media assets
  • Pre-built marketing campaigns
  • Pre-written emails
  • Buyer personas
  • One-pagers about products and/or services
  • Sales presentations

Producing content for a partner sales toolkit can be a daunting prospect as it can make or break a partnership. For some vendors, it may be beneficial to work with a team of indirect channel experts like The Channel Agency as they have extensive knowledge on creating engaging, user-friendly partner portals packed full of useful content that’s tailored to the needs of your organization and your partners.

Video content

Video content

There’s no denying that the popularity of video content is on the rise. According to HubSpot, an impressive 92% of B2B marketers say they get a good ROI with video content, which is up from 87% in 2022. Aside from being a powerful way to build brand awareness, video content can also be used to help your partners generate more sales by covering:

  • Training
  • Product demonstrations
  • ‘How to’ demonstrations
  • Marketing campaigns

Great content reigns supreme

It was true in the 90s and it’s true today — content truly is king. However, we’ve come a long way since online content was in its infancy, so creating content for content’s sake isn’t going to cut it anymore. In the modern (hypothetical) royal family, engagement is queen. Consequently, vendors must focus on developing a library of insightful and invaluable content that supports their partners through the sales process if they are to stay ahead in the indirect channel.

Start building your library of quality content with The Channel Agency

Don’t have the time or resources in-house to create content that will make you stand out? The Channel Agency is here to help.

Our expert team takes a strategic approach to content creation, capturing your unique tone of voice, understanding your audience, and learning about your requirements before advising on the best content types to achieve optimum results.

So, whether you just need a one-off piece of content or an entire campaign, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch today and discover how you can harness the power of high-quality content.

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.