February 2011 Feature

Find the “Joint” in Joint Marketing Planning

JMP Approaches That Work

by Anna Johnson

Think about your marketing arsenal, tricks of the trade, your marketing mojo, and ask yourself three questions: What’s working? What needs improvement? What will give you an edge over the hundreds of other vendors/manufacturers vying to do joint marketing plans with your channel partners? The last question is probably the most important question but hardest to tackle. Joint marketing planning is intended to help partners and vendors work in smarter ways to find the right customer at the right time and to deliver the goods in the most efficient way possible. But how do you extend the benefits of JMP, focus your resources, and do so in a way that makes it rewarding for partners?

Avoid the JMP Graveyard
Joint Marketing Planning begins with a marketing plan but it doesn’t end there. Unfortunately, both parties sometimes lose sight that planning is a process, not a goal. Effective planning incorporates follow-up and refinement. Without it, plans run the risk of becoming static and lifeless resulting in an unpredictable–or worse–a lifeless sales pipeline. Here are a few reasons why this happens:

  • The manufacturer hasn’t standardized a JMP form or process
  • Lack of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time bound
  • Lack of commitment and follow through from both parties involved

Do any of these pitfalls sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Address these pitfalls one by one and you can bring a little life back into JMP.

Standardize. Standardize. Standardize.
A great way to tune up your strategy is to first standardize a JMP form and clearly communicate the process to your prospective and existing partners. The benefits of doing so are to:

  • Reduce a huge time suck. Let’s face it; JMP takes time that you and your partners may not have. By standardizing you can cut the planning and approval time in half
  • Provide pipeline visibility into partner sales and marketing activities
  • Mutually align sales and marketing initiatives
  • Optimize resource planning (MDF allocation, SE support, etc.)

Put some thought into the form or better yet, take your best partner and collaborate to create a standardized form that can best be used to facilitate segmentation between partners, and to allow you to roll-up the plan contents to provide a macro view of your channel program. For example, one partner plan can’t say, “Increase sales by 100 units,” and another, “Increase sales by 10%,” otherwise you won’t be able to forecast sales or other metrics. When you standardize the process and form across all partners, it will be much easier for you to go back on a quarterly and annual basis to see how everyone is doing at a micro and macro level.

Additionally, approach the creation of your forms from your partners’ perspective. If they don’t have a lot of time on their plate, do your best to minimize the effort it takes to complete the form.

Tip:
Include your GTM initiatives on the plan and correlate each partner strategy with at least one of your initiatives. This will clarify where your partner’s strategies overlap your own and act as a platform in which to discuss mutual opportunities during the planning process.

Take a cue from CCI’s Marketing Planning solution where you and your partners can collaborate and agree upon marketing activities and goals together. The planning information is collected in a standard format so it’s easy for both parties to track results of the marketing campaigns throughout the year. “Plans that are the most useful to marketers allow them to forecast sales across all partners who participate in the JMP process,” says Craig DeWolf, Vice President of Strategic Planning for CCI. “We strive to provide our clients with that pipeline visibility.”
You may be tempted to do some customization but avoid it. If you end up customizing, it becomes too hard to scale JMP and requires too much effort on your part to implement. Take the steps to standardize your plans and you and your partners will reap the benefits of shorter planning cycles and improved visibility into meeting your shared goals.

Set Goals Together
One of the biggest benefits of JMP is to help assure goal alignment between your own go-to-market (GTM) strategy and your partners’. Yet the planning process doesn’t automatically yield a clear alignment. For example, you may want a revenue spike in the first quarter of the year so your company plans for a huge marketing blitz in the fall to boost business. However, you have a few partners that are dedicated purely to the education market and their customers typically don’t buy the first quarter of the year, no matter how many marketing dollars you throw at them. Instead, school districts and universities buy during the summer months. With just a few targeted education marketing programs that capitalize on the buying and budgeting cycles of your partners’ customer base, you may find a larger return on investment and more partner loyalty than if you didn’t take the time to align goals.

Go to the Chapel and Get Married!
Ding dong! Ding dong! The white doves are released and the happy couple climbs into their horse drawn carriage and are carried off to a memorable honeymoon in Tahiti. If only we could celebrate our commitment to our partners and our partners’ commitment to us with a big fat Greek wedding, we’d all be happy newlyweds. So maybe a wedding is going overboard, but there are ways to cement the commitment so that everyone involved can find the time and energy to invest in the follow through that will make their JMP a long term success.

With over 15 years’ experience of building education and retail channels for high tech companies from scratch, Scott Markham says it best, “People like to do business with people they like.”  Really? That simple!

Not so fast. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into being “liked.” And what I mean by liked, I mean being trustworthy. At the end of every day if you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and say, “My partners can trust me. I am trustworthy,” then you don’t have jack, let alone a joint marketing plan. Here are Scott’s top four tips you can use to help cement the partnership so that when it comes time to do your annual joint marketing plan, everyone involved is excited to partake in the project.

  1. Approach the relationship as true equals.
  2. Get to know your partners business before pitching yours.
  3. It takes constant repetition and marketing commitment to make a sales difference and to gain the trust of the partner – do an annual plan instead of a quarterly plan and follow through on the commitment.
  4. Get to know something personal about your partner and share something personal about yourself.  It can be as simple as finding out their birthday and mailing a handwritten note in a hallmark card.
Tip:
Include your GTM initiatives on the plan and correlate each partner strategy with at least one of your initiatives. This will clarify where your partner’s strategies overlap your own and act as a platform in which to discuss mutual opportunities during the planning process.

Conclusion

A big part of a successful and lively joint marketing plan is laying down a foundation so that meaningful relationships can blossom and trust is maintained between partners and vendor. Establishing a standard JMP framework, creating achievable marketing and sales goals, as well as getting to know your partners as friends will help make the “joint” in joint marketing planning more fruitful to both parties. Executed effectively, the JMP process can enhance the relationship between you and your partners by making the relationship more rewarding for both parties.