16 February – GAME ON: Marketers versus Partners

CMU

Imagine this.

 

You’re in a room with 60 technology vendor and partner representatives, with a no-holds-barred remit to make the deal of the century. What would you do?

 

It’s exactly what happened at our latest Channel Meet Up event, held in Google UK’s prestigious Town Hall.

 

Instead of the usual conference approach of presentations, we brought in Jim Wallman from Past Perspectives, a strategic gaming company, to create a scenario where our attendees could work together and explore possibilities that they don’t get the chance to in the real world.

 

The fun part? To make deals with competing teams in an environment where anything was possible.

 

The real deal? To create a platform for networking and conversation in a world where digital, mobile, and other technology advances – instead of connecting us – have in fact created a disconnect. Today it’s all too easy to hide behind social media, email and IM, but a lot of insight can get lost when we don’t get together in a room with our peers – and competitors – once in a while.

 

How our world is changing  

Kicking off the day was a talk by Yvonne Cheung, Industry Head for Business Technology at Google UK, titled ‘The New B2B Journey’.

 

Yvonne shared several startling facts. Among these were that 49% of IT buyers do their research outside of normal working hours. 41% do their research at the weekends, and 21% on their holidays.

 

Small insights that make a big difference to how and when we talk to our audience.

The days of marketing during 9-5 hours, Monday to Friday, may well be a thing of the past if you want to reach the B2B decision maker when purchasing decisions are on their mind.

It reflects on the importance of coming together as an industry and talking  – key to staying abreast of what’s working, and what’s not, in B2B marketing.

 

In addition to this, Yvonne made points about device preference, with 7/10 B2B decision makers using mobile devices to research their decisions. But actions, orders and purchases are predominantly made over desktop, so services need to be delivered appropriately.

With Yvonne’s insightful talk fresh in our minds and feeling inspired, it was time for the game.

 

Here’s how it went…

 

The purpose of the game

Gamesmaster Jim Wallman presented the structure and theme for the day: guests were put into teams, and given the task of creating a fictional company and strategy.

 

With this done, the teams had to go about setting up meetings and making (also fictional) deals with the other teams.

 

For the marketers in the room, it was about creating tempting offers to bring partners on board with. While for the partners, the objective was to get the most value from the vendors.

So, what’s possible in a room where anything is possible?

 

Amidst the laughter, joking and out-of-this world deals, some fundamental learnings became clear.

 

Remember the basics, reap the rewards

  • Trust | The importance of building an open and honest relationship between vendors and partners was clear. The scenarios where either party changed what they were asking for when the deal was near final, were those relationships that broke down.
  • Reliability | In close relation to the point above, reliability beyond the deal was also key. Staying fair and maintaining good levels of communications after the contract is signed is vital.
  • Strategic fit | In choosing the right partner, it was agreed that sharing strategic goals is key – with the same corporate vision and similar direction for growth.
  • Desired outcome | Deciding your goal before going into big deals is another critical step that can be overlooked. Do you want to go big with one company, or spread yourself wider and build lots of smaller relationships? This is where you can learn from your peers.

 

Strategies used on the day

  • Widen your view | Don’t just focus on the big fish in the partner world, or those established names. You could cut a more beneficial deal with the start-ups and smaller partner organisations which could reap dividends later as they grow. And because you helped them in the beginning, they’ll remember you later on (linking back to that important point of trust and reliability).
  • The right manpower | Make sure you have enough manpower to manage your relationships. Partners valued dedicated account managers, and the ability to keep face-to-face appointments – remember, communication is key.
  • Tiered benefits | It’s ok to offer bigger benefits and rewards to bring in new partners, and then reduce these in the second and third year of a relationship (as long as it’s not reduced to such an extent that the partner no longer gets anything from the relationship!). For example, a tiered MDF programme to kick-start new relationships (£50,000 in the first year for a key partner, £20,000 in the second year, and so forth).

 

Resources to offer

  • With a little upfront investment, you can create a platform of resources to help your partners get the most from their relationship with you.
  • Co-branded partner marketing portal to help partners sell your solutions, quickly
  • Marketing store for access to campaigns, assets and support
  • Deal registration tool to speed up the decision-making process when partners register opportunities
  • Marketing concierge service – bring in a third-party agency to deliver your partners’ marketing campaigns, funded by their MDF.

So, how did it go? Ok, so ultimately the game was a bit of fun. As Olivier Choron of purechannelapps said, “we wanted to create a platform for networking, where you could talk and set up meetings, but without the formalities of a traditional conference. This was a great icebreaker that’s truly served its purpose.”

Games master Jim Wallman commented, “these games are great at pushing boundaries, and allowing each side to play around with deals and scenarios that they don’t have the chance to in real situations. But in doing so, they can glean some insights that could be put to work in the real world.

 

“How do I know it was a success? When we came to a break, and nobody stopped what they were doing. They just stayed heads-down and working – it was great to see.”

 

One attendee commented on the day “The issue is, we all think our challenges are unique. It’s only when you come to a day like this and actually talk that you realise we all have the same challenges. We’re too isolated today, we need to meet more as an industry to work together on our challenges, share best practice, and move forward.”

 

For those that attended, we hope you enjoyed it and found it insightful. Our next event is planned for Friday, 6th October back at the Runnymede Hotel in Egham, so if you would like to attend, please register your interest here.

 

We also have a channelmeetup LinkedIn group, which I would like to welcome you to join. Here you can connect with other attendees and join in on the conversation.

13 December – Facebook for Work: Can this social network be utilized as a productivity and internal communication tool for channel partners?

131216-500x300

Not so long ago Facebook announced it was making a move for a slice of the productivity market pie with their ‘Facebook for Work’ platform, appropriately named ‘Workplace’, which aims to improve communication within organizations as well as connecting different organizations together. This enables users to stay connected wherever they are. But can this be used to connect with your channel partners to replace other traditional communication methods?

 

‘Workplace’ embodies all the traditional Facebook features such as a news feed, the creation of sharing in groups, Facebook live, reactions, search, trending posts, as well as being able to communicate with colleagues in real time. Users however won’t be allowed to use their personal account, meaning they will need to set up separate Workplace account. Is this a bold move too far or have they hit on something that’s quite genius?

 

Does it fit?

 

Traditionally, channel marketers mainly focus on Twitter and LinkedIn to promote their brands message to partners, with Facebook appearing less appropriate for B2B interactions and more for pleasure. And for communication purposes many companies will have either created a LinkedIn group for communicating with their colleagues/channel partners or alternatively and more likely will have access to a portal, forum or intranet to house all their communication needs. This I am sure you agree sounds the more secure, easier option. So with this in mind where is this tool expected to fit and can it improve communications to channel partners?

 

Integration potential

 

Is there an opportunity for organizations to replace existing internal messaging systems and integrate this platform into their communication stream? The need for portals to house tools, and other pivotal resources is steadily becoming more and more important. So, can ‘Workplace’ be integrated into existing portals to replace company forums or Intranets?

 

6 questions you should ask yourself

 

  1. Is it cost effective? – It’s no big secret that getting entire teams to sign-up to the latest productivity tool is no easy task. However, due to the familiarity of Facebook, the adoption rate could potentially be a lot higher, being very effective, when compared with Intranets or Portals.

 

  1. Are your channel partners of the social media generation? The interesting thing about channel marketers is that in my experience, their social media knowledge and footprint tends to be rather limited. For this reason, will this audience find workplace easier to use, over familiar intranets, forums or professional networking tools? In my opinion no.

 

  1. Will I need to invest in other products? – Workplace, other than forums will not really replace your current tool investments. Its single sign on ability means that it can be integrated within your portal, but you will still have to invest in a portal, intranet and any other communication methods you currently use. For this reason you probably won’t save any money from using this tool.

 

  1. Is it scalable? – The platform is hugely scalable; it can develop and grow as fast or as slow as your business. However, will it really be for global brands who sell indirectly to customers and have a multitude of partner tiers?

 

  1. Can users be synchronized with other data platforms? The main challenge I come across day after day is data! Tell me now, do you have the same number of partners signed up to your portals, forums, email newsletters and social media amplification tools? I bet the answer is no! So, unless data can be transferred straight into workplace how can you begin to know who to enable to use this tool? And how can you ensure they all sign up to use it? If they don’t, it will mean you’re not communicating with all your channel partners, requiring you to communicate your message elsewhere as well.  This is where it becomes a challenge to manage!

 

  1. Is communication functional? – One of Workplaces major benefits is the ability to communicate between organizations, so the potential for vendors to communicate to their channel partners is certainly a possibility. But once again with brands often having hundreds of partners globally, each with their own languages, they will all require their own silos/Facebook group. Imagine having to reply and send a message to every silo separately and knowing that because not every partner has signed up to workplace, a proportion will not even see your content. With this in mind, how can communication ever become consistent? And let’s not forget all your partners will have access to your new feed meaning it is highly likely half of the content won’t even be relevant to them.

 

So, does Workplace ‘work’ for you and your sales partners?

 

We can’t ignore what separates Facebook from the crowd is a familiarity that can’t be rivalled and the the user experience is tried and tested.

 

So yes, the basic technological and theoretical foundations of this social network can be used as internal communication purposes, but at what scale? I can’t deny it doesn’t have some strong features which I’m sure are hugely beneficial for smaller scale, less complex brands with simple data systems. But in my opinion taking advantage of other more targeted tools specifically designed for improving and providing targeted communication for each partner is what should be invested in. After all, who wants to mix business with pleasure?

22 July – Proving the value of channel investment

2207161

Investing in channel partners has always had its fair share of challenges. Here’s a look at the top challenges channel leaders raised recently at The Channel Meet up event, as well as their solutions to these issues.

 

1. What support do channel partners need?

Understanding what support channel partners need is tough. Some require a lot of support to sell your offerings, whereas others prefer to get on with it themselves. So how can you tell which partner wants support, which ones don’t, and how much support they really need? Just because some channel partners do not respond to your emails does not mean they do not require your help every now and again. It could be that they are overloaded with work, and you could greatly ease this. So where to start?

 

The solution: Diane Paternoster, Director, Channel Marketing, EMEA Akamai Technologies, suggests simply asking channel partners if they require support is certainly the first step. You can ask them what areas they require assistance with and create a program around this. Some of your channel partners however may not recognise they need help at all, so it might not be the answer in every case. Conducting regular audits and measuring how well partners are performing is easier said than done, but well worth the effort!

 

2. Measuring how well partners are performing

But how do you measure how well your channel partners are really performing? And keep track of their activities?

 

The solution: Diane recommends segmenting your channel partners into two groups, focused and non-focused. Start with the focused group and from this, select 7 or 8 channel partners. This way you can dedicate your time to this group first.

 

Justin Turner, Director, Global Channel Marketing & EMEA Marketing Operations at Motorola Solutions, also recommends conducting a mystery shopper experience to measure how well your partners are performing. This involves phoning the partner, and acting as a customer to see if they are qualifying up. It also entails visiting their website to check functionality and if for example, your logo is displayed clearly. Details like this can make a huge difference to performance and how the business is perceived by the customer. From all the findings, Justin then runs a report to evaluate all aspects, and shares this with the channel partners, making recommendations.

 

As Justin says, if your channel partners are performing badly, such as their website, an activity like spending money on pay per click campaigns is pointless, as their bounce rate is likely to be extremely high. Your recommendations will enable them to understand the necessary changes required to improve their engagement potential, as well as stop them from spending their budget on activities they are currently not ready for.

 

 

 3. More than 10% of channel marketing activities are not delivered

After understanding which areas your channel partners need to work on, Diane recommends creating a plan of action, to devise a range of activities that will help improve their performance.

 

The main issue is that over 10% of your channel marketing activities are not even delivered. This will have a huge knock on effect with the channel partners’ performance. But how can this be rectified?

 

The solution: Diane recognises that creating a complete business plan, with the dates outlined of when activities can be carried out, is key.

 

Only by doing this will you be able to keep track of which activities were carried out, which ones were a success, and which ones were cancelled. If they were cancelled, it’s also important to keep a record of why. If it’s due to the channel partners lacking the necessary skills to partake in the activities, this could impact your future budget.

 

 4. Measuring marketing activities ROI

Identifying which activities to perform is tricky in itself. Especially if you are expecting to be able to measure the ROI from them. As Simon Fagan, Formerly Managing Director at Maverick Distribution says, you will not be able to track the ROI from every activity performed. Prime examples are face-to-face meetings which are key for communicating key messages, but rather difficult to track their true value. So what do you do when the budget holders want proof the activity is worth the expense? Stop face-to-face meetings? I think not!

 

The solution: Justin reveals that Motorola tries to correlate the MDF with their pipeline in order to establish their marketing activities effectiveness, but even still this is not always possible to track. Justin says, ‘We’ve not been able to prove a direct correlation between MDF/COOP spend on specific activities, or even overall, with partner revenue – there are too many other variables, including other marketing activities, long sales cycles, partner sales skills, and even bluebird opportunities, that prevent this.’

However Tony White, President & CEO of Birch Wordwide, believes that consistency in activities delivered is a great way of keeping in control of what is working and what isn’t. If you stop some activities and notice a decline in engagement, whether that be with your channel partners or even revenue, this could have a lot to do with some supportive activities not being performed.

 

Whatever we do, we cannot get away from the fact that there will always be challenges, so it’s about learning from others and discovering how they improve or even in some cases rectify the issue, which really makes all the difference.

And that is why we are 100% behind The Channel Meet Up event, to enable our customers to talk about their challenges and seek solutions. Want to know more? Visit the website: http://www.thechannelmeetup.com/

 

picture-12999

By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
Find me on LinkedIn

07 July – Socially enabling your channel partners

070716 500x300

One of the most common challenges channel marketers face is that channels all have such varying levels of marketing knowledge and resources. It is therefore not surprising that finding the time to do social media is way down their priority list.

 

So with this in mind, how can you begin to build a social media programme that supports all your channel partners’ needs?

 

Well, at The Channel Meet Up event on the 16th June I asked a number of industry thought leaders to share their views on this specific issue:

 

  • Andy Hill, Head of Digital Mastery at Xerox
  • Louise Hunter, Senior Marketing Manager, EMEA Partners & Commercial, Juniper Networks
  • Neil Walker, Senior Channel Marketing Manager, EMEA PFU (EMEA) Limited – a Fujitsu company

 

The main challenges recognised

 

  1. Aging issue

Neil Walker believes the reason some channel partners show a lack of interest towards social media is because the decision makers in the company are over the age of 40, and do not recognise the impact that social media could have on their businesses success.

 

  1. Social media strategy

Louise Hunter recognises that even though some channel partners do not have a social media strategy, they and their employees are still posting to social media. They are trying to gain some exposure in the social media sphere, but unfortunately they are not always posting the right way, to really benefit their brand.

 

  1. Consistency

Encouraging channel partners to be socially active provokes other challenges too, namely consistency, as pointed out by Louise Hunter. The last thing you want is for your image to be affected or for false information to be shared.

 

  1. Language

Another common issue, which Louise Hunter raised, was the need for content to be created in a variety of languages to appeal to audiences across multiple markets. We can all see the importance of this for attracting a wider audience, but it’s easier said than done right?

 

Solutions from the experts

 

  1. Educate your partners

Andy Hill feels that educating channel partners on the power of social media and how to use it effectively is half the battle. Only then will they be driven to socially enable your brand. This can be executed through a carefully designed training program which suits all capabilities, ensuring channel partners are at the same level, and understand the power social media can bring to their business.

 

  1. Create a plan for channel partners to follow

Whilst instilling social media into your channel partners’ lives, Louise Hunter also recommends encouraging them to set up a social media calendar for sharing content daily. By doing this Louise has discovered that channel partners are more likely to share your content as they will rely on your content to fill up their social media calendar.

 

A plan also gives your channel partners a direction to follow, encouraging them to remain on board with your program. Without a plan they could quickly fall back into old habits of inconsistent and ineffective posting, which won’t benefit either party.

 

With regards to creating content, Andy Hill recommends posting 80% industry content and 20% brand content. As Andy says, “If you just talk about yourself no-one will be interested, that’s why you need to mix it with a reasonable amount of industry content.”

 

  1. Encouraging consistency

Brand guidelines as well as training go hand in hand for minimising consistency issues, as pointed out by Andy Hill. I personally also recommend deploying a social media advocacy platform, such as our own socialondemand where content created by you is sent to channel partners, who then in less than three clicks, share your content to their social media accounts, as if it came directly from themselves. This not only makes it easier for channel partners to maintain a social presence, but it also minimises the opportunity for inconsistency to occur.

 

When Neil Walker, Louise Hunter and Andy Hill first deployed socialondemand into their organisations they all ran a pilot test, whereby they only made this tool available to a small proportion of their audience. This way they could test the functionality and effectiveness for their brands requirements, whilst establishing whether they are likely to receive a return on investment.

 

  1. Language

When operating in a multitude of countries, each with their own language, Andy Hill who has successfully resolved this challenge recommends that you request, for example, the French team to create their own content to share with their French partners. This way they can provide targeted, engaging content specifically designed for the audience in that country, thus improving their appeal to a wider audience.

 

Hopefully these thoughts and tips will prove useful. That’s what makes The Channel Meet Up great. It gives us all the opportunity to share our wisdom, as well as hear other success stories. Want to attend the next one? Click here for more information. If you cannot wait and want to find out how to socially enable your channel partners now (or employees for that matter), just give me a ring!

picture-12999

By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
Find me on LinkedIn

10 June – Social media through the eyes of channel partners

Social media through the eyes of channel partners. 700x400
There is no denying that your channel partners see social media as extremely valuable for increasing their overall online presence. The questions we need to ask ourselves are multiple; Are your channel partners really equipped to manage it effectively? And are you, the vendor, providing enough social media support?


We interviewed a number of channel partners, namely Benjamin de Vries and Terry Knight from Professional Document Solutions, Toni Gibiino, Marketing Director at Office Solutions Ltd and Graham Compton, Director of Business Edge Technologies, to hear their views. Like to listen to their live discussion? Click here.


Social media – how critical is it?
Social media has become a fundamental activity for driving increased brand engagement, and unsurprisingly channel partners share the same view too, seeing it as a way to be easily found digitally.


Toni states: ‘It’s like having a shop front; you don’t necessarily need to have an attractive shopfront. As long as it looks attractive online they tend to validate your business based on this.’


Research by Sirius decisions backs this up perfectly, showing 67% of the buyers’ journey is spent online and on social media. So without an active social media account or online presence, buyers could look elsewhere, even to your dreaded competitors!


Benjamin and Terry have seen the benefit in using social media as a way to drive traffic to their own website, generating interest this way, and being seen as industry thought leaders. They also have another very interesting tactic, as Terry explains: ‘Anyone that lands on our website we can re-market to. Our goal is to try and get them back to our website.’


This is a fantastic method for keeping potential buyers aware of your brand offerings, hoping to sway their purchasing behaviour.


What social network(s) to focus on?
Obviously this is highly dependent on the industry you are in, and whether you are in the B2B or B2C space. But for these channel partners, who are all in the B2B space, the social network they favour is LinkedIn, although Twitter generates a lot of clicks!


LinkedIn is our biggest means of generating opportunity, and we focus on training our staff to interact socially with people on LinkedIn’, says Toni.


When determining the type of content to focus on, video creation is recognised to be the best method for receiving high engagement, with Terry reporting ‘Videos have been the best, with over 100,000 views.’ Toni further goes on to say ‘People do not want to read huge great articles, when they can watch a 30 second video, and get the crux of it very quickly.’ For this reason, Toni will be focussing a lot of his marketing budget on this.


Our challenges?
As you can imagine, time, content and resources are all limited, with many channel partners not having a dedicated team or even person to manage their social media accounts. Graham can relate to this, ‘Trying to find the right person to post the right piece of media is really time consuming and difficult to achieve, that’s why we love socialondemand because it does a lot of the work for us.
Having a platform to support your channel partners’ limitations, such as their online exposure, is a great way to not only become their preferred supplier of choice, but also to increase your own reach and revenue potential.


Ben further goes on to say, ‘Xerox socialondemand produce some really great content and it’s really easy to share.’ For Ben, socialondemand minimises the challenge they face of finding and creating great content to share on social media, enabling them to maintain and build their online presence.


For me, this webinar was extremely insightful and I would highly recommend tuning in to discover just how you can better support your channel partners, to achieve the exposure you and your channel partners’ desire, via social media.
picture-12999
By Olivier Choron
CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
Find me on LinkedIn

03 June – Channel Marketers: Is marketing automation the right approach for your channel comms?

marketing automation- channel partners 500x300
Email marketing automation, in my opinion, is largely over-played, certainly as a means to communicate to channel partners. Here I am going to uncover the cracks that will make you question its worth to your brand.


Issues:

  • Only for the nurturing process
    Marketing automation is great for prospect nurturing processes. It’s fantastic for targeting those users that are thinking of buying as it can track which customers have visited your site, what they’ve looked at, and send these individuals a series of messages solely targeted to their needs and behaviours.


    Anything to help influence their buying decision further is critical.
    This works well for prospective channel partners too, i.e. for those that are currently not yet working with you but are thinking about it. It could also work for your inactive partners that seldom purchase and resell your products.

  • But what about ongoing channel communication?
    What about after the purchase decision is made and after your partners have bought from you? This is where marketing automation software fails. Your buyers have now left your buying cycle, so the nurturing approach is no longer relevant.


    The requirement now is to keep them engaged and loyal to your brand, by ensuring they are kept informed about your new products, promotions, offers and tools. The issue is, if your targeting approach consists of creating and sending content based on website traffic but they are no longer visiting your website, how are you going to target them? This is the loop hole. Marketing automation software is not designed for this form of communication. It is also very cumbersome and time-consuming to create ‘nurturing campaigns’ for every piece of partner news.

  • Marketing automation limitations
    Marketing automation software, whilst great for the nurturing process, cannot support you in sending targeted channel communications. You will need to send emails and newsletters based upon who your audiences are; by product interest, by industry sector, by partner type, by partner tier, by country, by language. But what if an individual is interested in more than one product and let’s say speaks Spanish? How are you going to specifically appeal to this individual? The answer is you can’t; well not unless you’re planning on creating a multitude of different versions, and updating this every time your product/ service offerings changes. It sounds like a lot of hard work to me! And what for? Will it ever be as targeted as required to truly engage every audience?


    The solution
    If you are looking to achieve ongoing communication to retain brand loyalty and keep your partners up-to-date, you need to look for a different solution, such as newsondemand, our own revolutionary software designed precisely to cater for this issue.


    With newsondemand you can target every recipient with specifically tailored emails and newsletters based on their accreditation and partner levels, industry focus, language, topic interest, frequency they wish to receive your email newsletters etc.


    With newsondemand, you can make this happen easily: you, the sender, only need to input content into the system, categorise it as you go and the software will do the rest. It’s that simple to use and will save you a lot of time and budget, whilst ensuring your partner audience receives the news they want and need, when they desire.


    So before you extend the use of your marketing automation software to your channel communications, ensure you perform extensive research, weigh up your end goals and establish exactly what you will be using it for. If it’s to retain and build relationships with channel partners, I believe this is not the system for you and you should definitely look elsewhere.


    picture-12999
    By Olivier Choron
    CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
    Find me on LinkedIn

  • 08 February – Communicating with Channel Partners: Considerations and Tips

    080216 700x400 LinkedIn
    I often see my customers struggling to write good content on their partner newsletters, e-shots and portals. Having done it myself for many years, I must admit it’s a tough job and it’s so easy to get it all wrong. I would like to highlight just 3 issues to consider together with a few tips on how to make sure partners really get the ‘right stuff’.


    Consideration #1: the 80-20 rule
    Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but only 20% of your partners will truly be interested in what you say. Whatever your channel strategy, whatever programs you put in place, whatever tools you provide, I have seen it time and time again: only 20% of your partners will be engaged with your brand. These are the few for whom you are important and for whom you represent a nice chunky part of their business. And within these 20%, only a further 20% will actually read your news consistently and with the care it deserves.


    Consideration #2: you are one of many
    For all partners, even your top 20%, you must remember that you are not the only vendor they work with at any given time. They have other hardware and software suppliers they also have to deal with on a daily basis. Some research firms indicate that a ‘typical partner’ can deal with 18 vendors regularly. You are only part of one solution and they may have multiple customer propositions. So, for them, your news is not THAT critical; it is part of everything else they do, and often what they do themselves is more critical to their business…


    Consideration #3: partners cannot be bundled as ‘one group’
    A typical mistake we marketers are guilty of, is assuming that our ‘typical partners’ speak the same language. We conveniently assume, for the sake of making our programs and emails easy and cost-effective, that they are all very technical and care about our technical news. We forget that many are in sales or marketing or procurement functions. So, typically, we don’t tailor our messages to each of these audiences, and instead create one news-for-all.


    There are several other considerations to take in account – if you have different product lines or if you serve very different vertical/ horizontal markets, then not all your partners will want to ‘follow’ these or be informed about these. If you are working globally, you will also need to tailor your news to your local markets – yes, people don’t react to the same content tone/ approach.


    You get the gist…communicating with channel partners isn’t a job for the faint hearted! So, let me help you; here are a few things you can do to drive partner engagement.


    Tip #1: really smart tools
    I will start with something which no one wants to talk about. There are partner portals and communications platforms that can really help. I will blow my own trumpet by saying that our own newsondemand newsletter platform and our own portal capabilities (especially our smart resource library) can give your partners the ability to select what they want to follow/ hear about. By giving them the choice to opt in or out of certain content (especially if you organise this by product line, vertical and/or horizontal segments), you will guarantee better engagement/ readership levels.


    Tip #2: there is only ONE story
    All I hear about these days is ‘content stories’. People believe they have to create stories to sell the content. It is quite true, of course, but when you are dealing with channel partners, there really should only be one story – how your organization will make their organization more profitable! Everything else should support this story. So, don’t try and be too creative, stick to the one story and make sure everything you do and communicate is about that! Changing stories would be like changing value propositions… it will bring confusion!


    Tip #3: simple writing
    Because most of us don’t have the resources, budgets or tools to send different copy (of the same announcement) to different audiences, whether they are in management, sales, technical or marketing functions, we are left with having to create ‘one style fits all’ content. If this is the case, make sure it is clear, concise, and can be read and understood in 30 seconds, by everyone. Most partners don’t have the time to read lengthy content.


    Tip #4: catch their attention
    Make your email title meaningful – it’s for 100% of your partners; make your news articles very brief (and clear) – and I mean 3 lines, maximum. If we can do it in 140 characters on Twitter, let’s try to do it in our newsletters too! Make sure however your 20% of partners also get what they want– the full news by adding a link to ‘read more’ to enable those who are interested. Don’t try to squeeze all the news in your newsletters.


    Tip #5: make your newsletters news-worthy
    There is no point in communicating about old news, simply because you missed your last deadline or because you need ‘space-fillers’. Keep to current items. Sadly because most of us still rely on ‘monthly newsletter schedules’, we tend to spend a lot of time collecting news, organising, translating and sending it. By the time the newsletters are sent out, they are old and it’s very likely your partners have seen or heard of the news elsewhere. This will not help you achieve great results!


    Tip #6: illustrate your news
    Images should not be used to lighten the newsletters or make them pretty. Space in an email or newsletter is worth gold. Use images to add to your copy. Make them tell the story. Your partners will see them first. Images should grab their attention much faster than the text you write beneath or around it. So, don’t include one image/ icon for each news item, but focus on key news and develop your few images around them.


    Tip #7: CTAs that work
    Some news articles will not require an action, but these should be few. Most news items should require your partners to do something – check more details, register for an event, view a file or research report. Make sure your Call to Actions (CTAs) are clear and obvious. You don’t want to lose your partners through their journey.


    Tip #8: think about responsive designs
    We can no longer ignore mobile devices; in fact we need to assume that your news is likely to be read on some mobile device of some sort. Your email or newsletter design must be constructed to render best on these devices, as the first priority!


    Finally, an email or newsletter should be 600pixel wide; that’s the norm! Don’t use bullet points; they are likely to break your HTML. Don’t use multiple fonts or font sizes; it will be confusing and messy.


    So, that’s it…just a few tips from me. I hope they help. If you would like to discuss these or bounce around some ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


    picture-12999
    By Olivier Choron
    CEO and Founder of purechannelapps
    Find me on LinkedIn

    03 September – Has email been overlooked for communicating to channel partners?

    email symbol on row of colourful envelopes

    Email marketing, well, where to start? For many companies this is a method which has slowly but surely become less and less effective, with the unsubscribe rate steadily increasing. On the consumer side, this is not surprising, as consumers who have already bought from yourselves require no further interaction… for now that is. And let’s face it, who else is fed up of receiving hundreds of ‘junk’ or ‘spam’ emails every day? Engagement rate unsurprisingly is low.

    But for brands that operate within the channel, that’s right I am talking about B2B marketing, this is an exciting communication method which I will prove to you still works.

    That said, the main issue with email marketing relates to brands’ inability to target their audience effectively in a cost effective way.

    The good news – You don’t need to spend so much time and effort anymore!


    Typically, you used to require several communications managers to manage the process, graphic designers to come with nice designs and HTML developers to code your emails. You also relied on finding, and segmenting your partner data, for each newsletter you sent. This was especially true if you attempted to ‘lightly’ target each partner type, such as by grouping partners by their membership level – Gold, Silver and Bronze, or perhaps by the products they sell.

    You previously spent vast sums of money to export info from one source and load it on your email system, as each newsletter would need to be different, to embody content specifically designed for certain partners.

    But even this still left some gaps: what happens when you have a gold partner that sells many of your product ranges? You either risked sending them five copies of duplicate information, or you create a newsletter specifically for them, an unrealistic and very costly task.

    I’m sure some of you probably are still doing all of this. Don’t worry, we can stop this headache once and for all!

    Take it from me, it is no longer necessary to spend this much valuable time and resources to run your email marketing program.

    Use best-of-breed software to send 100%-targeted newsletters to your partners
    I’m not sure if you have yet come across newsondemand, you’d know it if you had. It has been a life changer for many brands. Take SAP for example, they used to send up to three newsletters a day to their partners, each containing duplicate information. Their targeting strategy consisted of breaking newsletters down by product focus, so if their partners unfortunately fell into more than one of their product focusses, they would be sent more than one copy.

    Not only was this time consuming for SAP, with content needing to be approved and translated into multiple languages, but by the time all content had gone through this vigorous process it was out of date. It’s not surprising partners were unengaged.

    How it worked for SAP
    newsondemand has enabled SAP to create 100%-targeted newsletters for all partners, without the need for any HTML coding. All SAP have to do is insert articles into the platform, decide on their priorities (high priority articles will appear at the top), and a beautiful magazine-like newsletter will be produced. What’s also great is that partners can choose what topics they would like to receive information about, and even how often, e.g. weekly, daily or monthly. This guarantees they are receiving precisely what they want to read, when they want to read it. Are you doing this today?

    The transformation
    SAP’s email open rates are now up by 49%, with some emails receiving a click to open rate of 17%. Very impressive! The reason? Content is targeted and provided as/ when required by partners!

    More importantly for SAP, the turnaround of content being approved is now considerably faster as no HTML coding is required; so sending outdated content is no longer an issue. It also takes them much less effort to produce fantastic-looking newsletters, with each article targeted to their recipients.

    If you would like to find out more about this how this worked for SAP, I suggest you read this blog post or watch this webinar.

    So if you have overlooked email marketing, it’s about time you re-visited it, but that’s only if you use email marketing software. Not only will this make the task easier for your brand, but it is also cost-effective. After all, a targeted approach is the best strategy and you will certainly receive it here.

    26 August – How to stop your channel partners switching off from your brand

    260815111 900x600
    This is an ongoing concern many companies have. The fact is, when you rely on resellers to sell your products/ services, it is highly important they are kept fully aware of your offerings. You want resellers to shout about your brand, to end users and favour you over competitors.

    Easier said than done when they have a number of resellers each fighting for their attention, all wanting to be top dog. So what’s the solution?

    Keep it easy! When communicating to your partners, simplicity is the best policy. First of all only provide information that is solely relevant to the receiver. Yes, I know you offer a number of products, and you probably have different levels of partners, so at first glance this can be perceived as difficult to achieve, but it’s not.

    >> For email marketing
    The best way to ONLY send content that is solely for each partner is to use software, such as newsondemand®. This software allows you to create a single email template, which then automatically alters the content depending on the preference of the receiver. This saves you time creating many different email newsletter variations, and no HTML coding is required. It’s a very cost effective method.

    Obviously there are other email marketing software solutions available to you such as mailchimp or Marketo, but it all depends on your requirements and the overall results you are expecting to achieve.

    In my opinion the highest targeted approach is always the best.

    >>Amplifying your voice on social media
    Many brands would like to use their partners’ social media channels to increase their own potential reach. But with reports from Microsoft’s partners suggesting that finding the time to post content is an issue for 80%, this is also easier said than done. Especially if you are looking to achieve a consistent brand message.

    Using a social media syndication software such as our very own socialondemand makes the process easier for your partners. It takes away the complexity and time required for them to share your content. By either clicking share or if they choose to edit the post title before hand, your content will appear on all of their desired social networks. Easy. And what’s more it will increase their exposure, maintain a consistent brand message, and increase your potential reach. Let the social selling commence!

    >> Gamification
    Everyone likes an incentive, and like I said if you are really fighting for your partners’ attention, perhaps a stronger reason to interact with your brand will make all the difference. Gartner believes that by 2015, innovation processes will be gamified by at least 50% of organisations that manage innovation processes. So don’t be left behind. Gamification examples include:

    A leader board- showing partners how socially active they are compared to their competitors (who are also your partners). They obviously want to win against their competitors
    Reward- perhaps the partner that promotes your brand the best/ or the partner that has created the highest level of revenue. The reward you provide is up to you, but it has to be worth it to them. Free iPad’s just don’t cut the mustard anymore.
    Status- enlisting names such as gold partners creates a superior mentality, making partners feel privileged. A small change like this could make a huge difference.
    Recognition- Have you thought about giving your partners recognition for their efforts? This could be as simple as promoting their brand on your website, or perhaps praising them for their efforts. Everybody likes to feel appreciated, and it will encourage further commitment in the future.

    >> Regular contact
    My last point I would like to raise with you is reinforcing the importance of regular contact with all of your partners. I’m not just talking about your top partners, but I am talking about them all. This can be achieved either by scheduling regular face to face meetings or even conversations over the phone. A balance of both of these methods would be ideal. Keeping everyone up to date will make such a difference.

    It’s about understanding your partners’ capabilities, listening to their queries and making yourself readily available to their needs. Nobody likes to be ignored. It’s a two way rule, if you make your brand readily available to their needs, by making processes easy and worthwhile, you’ve won!

    03 August – Understanding and resolving your channel partners social media capabilities- Part 2 of 3

    03081511

     

    So let’s recap from my last blog post on the problems channel partners face with social media, just to get you up to speed.

     

    Problems:

    1. Partners take too long to post content - Once your partners finally find the time to post your content onto social media, is it sometimes out of date, or not relevant? Frustrating I know!

     

    1. The post title does not sound like your brand - So your partners create a post title for your content, but do they miss a vital piece of information, or the title is worded in a way that does not represent your brand at all?

     

    1. Your partners aren’t all socially savvy - Not all of your partners are the same size, each with different capabilities and strengths, with some highly equipped to deal with social media, and others not really understanding its worth. It would be great if all partners were on the same page.

     

    So what is the solution?

     

    They need assistance

     

    Your partners need your help, they need to be educated into the BIG online, social media world. And it’s your job to do this, because no-one else will. You expect results and this is the best way to ensure it is achieved.

     

    A social media content syndication program is a must

     

    It’s easy, make it simple for your partners, and use a social media management program. All they then need to do is click share, and your posts will appear on all of their chosen social networks. Obviously I will be biased and say socialondemand is the best for this, but there are other social media programs you could test. These include, Buffer, Hootsuite, Falcon Social just to name a few.

     

    Training

     

    At purechannelapps, when we deploy our software to clients, who operate within a channel, to ensure our software is effectively utilised, we conduct extensive training. This is to get everyone up to speed not only with the software, but also to explain why social media is such an effective way to increase their exposure. I would highly recommend this.

     

    But what sort of training should you conduct? Stay tuned for our blog post next week where I will be outlining a full training program you should implement to your partners. We use this training program for our customers and trust me it works.