Recently I had the opportunity to talk with my friend and colleague Heather K. Margolis, founder and president of Channel Maven Consulting. Earlier in her career, Margolis managed channel programs and channel marketing for tech companies such as Egenera, EMC, EqualLogic, and Dell. Today, she and her team help channel organizations build effective channel enablement programs, market to partners in order to build stronger relationships, and enable vendors to help partners market to the end-customers.
CCI featured Heather in our August 2014 newsletter article (How Would Zagat Rate Your Partner Journey?), when she talked about how vendors need to think more like a restaurant or hotel and make sure they get good “reviews” from the channel. This time we talked about the importance of partners staying in step with where buyers are along the “new buyer’s journey” — whether to spend that extra five or ten grand on your website, and how vendors can help partners get better at digital marketing.
Looking at the current state of the channel and the fact that the way people are buying these days has changed, partners need to change the way they market. As I’ve mentioned before in other podcasts and webinars, the typical buyer today is doing so much of their own online research that they get anywhere from 50-80% of the way through the sales funnel before they ever reach out to a salesperson. As a result, partners need to make sure that buyers can find digital information that gets the partner on the buyer’s short list.
Heather made the analogy of someone shopping for a car. No one walks into a dealership and says, ‘I want a car. What do you have?’ By the time they get to the dealer, they have a very good idea of what they want — an SUV, a sedan, a truck; the make, the model, the year. Business buyers are the same way. They’ve done a lot of online research to make a short list of the products and services they want and where they want to get them.
Heather and I agree that partner marketing success these days revolves around getting buyers’ attention by providing them with digital content that is in the right form (a LinkedIn article, a Facebook post, a Tweet, website content), and that matches what they are searching for at that moment in time.
Heather gave a great bit of advice about how to make the gears of digital marketing work together. Let’s say a partner creates a white paper. Yes, of course, they need to post it to their website. But that’s just the start, she says. The idea is to get the word out about that piece of content and drive people to the website where they can learn more about the partner. To increase awareness of that white paper they can:
- Write a short piece about it and put it on LinkedIn (and ask their friends and colleagues to do the same) with a link to a landing page specific to that white paper.
- Write a post about it (and be sure to include that landing page link), put in on their blog, and again, ask friends and colleagues to do the same.
- If they post something that associates their white paper with a person or company with a large audience, the buyer may see the post and link to it.
- Tweet about the story a few times.
- Insert a “click to tweet” link in the white paper so when someone is reading it and wants to tell others about it, they can click on that link and immediately tweet it out.
- Post a summary of it on their company’s Facebook page.
- Use content from the white paper to create sales emails. Give people the message that 1) we talk to lots of people with the same pain point as you, 2) we have options to help you make it go away, and 3) here’s a link to more information (the white paper) about the pain point.
At one point in our discussion, I asked Heather what she would tell a partner who had $5,000 to spend on a website. That got us into a short debate about the importance of a partner website being “pretty.” Once we agreed that a pretty site is really a functional site, meaning a site that makes it instantly clear what the partner’s business value is and provides contact information.
That settled, we wrapped thing up with her “top three things vendors can do to help partners get better at digital marketing.” At a high level, those are: Education, Engagement, and Enablement. For all of the juicy details on Heather’s top three, and the other issues we raised, please listen to our Channel Wisdom podcast.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Kellam, President at CCI
As a growth specialist, Steven is responsible for driving CCI’s evolution to expand its offerings and grow across its product suite, utilizing marketing to position the organization for continued, long-term success. He is also responsible for developing the strategic alliances necessary for CCI to achieve its revenue and profit goals, including technical alliances, service partnerships and sales relationships. Steven has experience in both the VAR space, having run a successful managed services IT business, and a background in manufacturing where he built a channel of over 2,000 partners.