It’s no secret that a large percentage of marketing campaigns for solution integrators is co-marketing in partnership with manufacturers. This makes sense for all parties involved: solution providers drive more business which ends up including a manufacturer’s products. This investment makes sense for the manufacturer, and it is a great opportunity to include activity that might otherwise not fit in the marketing budget for a smaller solution provider.
This is easier said than done… there are many challenges that are often overlooked:
Challenges and Solutions with Vendor Programs:
Issue 1: Programs are usually vendor-led.
On paper, this makes a lot of sense. The manufacturer is footing the bill (or a large percentage of it), so they want the campaign to be focused around their solution. The problem here is non-enterprise customers many times care less about the product and more about the business outcome.
At this point, we have all likely heard of business outcome selling and services. It’s important now more than ever. A target persona has a problem they want a solution for – that’s it. They want it as fast and easy as possible at a cost that does not require their CEO’s signature. The problem here is co-marketing campaigns, for the most part, have not aligned with this model. The campaigns are often funded by specific product business units with KPIs on sales of that product.
Solution: Understand what business outcomes you serve. You should have repeatable service and manufacturer product packages that are tied to these outcomes. When this is the case, building a co-marketing campaign around that outcome becomes very clear where the manufacturer tie-in is, and how this impacts their sales numbers. It is a shift in how things are planned, but it’s critical in order for a campaign to be successful.
Issue 2: Funding is typically based on a short timeframe (such as quarterly).
Public companies plan and report on numbers quarterly and annually. Marketing budgets are aligned with this. Because most large manufacturers are public companies, this quarterly model typically occurs with partner marketing programs.
Short term campaigns focused on quick wins make sense here. The problem is, there rarely is a “quick win” model for marketing when done correctly. You can send an email out to a massive list, or dial down with a telemarketing team, and you might have a deal or two come in. The reality is anyone making an IT decision that quick was already in the process of making it. They either were price shopping and you were the lowest bidder, or they were possibly going to work with you anyway. From a manufacturer’s perspective, this is just share-shift from one partner to another.
Most vendors would love to commit to long-term programs, but they just can’t as they are required to report and plan quarterly. At the same time, most partners cannot make the financial long-term commitment for a 12-month-plus campaign without a vendor’s financial commitment.
Solution: Build out an annual plan with quarterly commitments. The goal here is to get a manufacturer to agree that if there is positive ROI, they will continue to fund. (Hint: Almost all vendors will fund as there is a huge gap in ROI reporting for co-marketing campaigns.) At the same time, this puts skin in the game on your side where you know there needs to be positive movement on marketing, otherwise the funding is pulled.
The catch here is to build a plan where you have some sort of “out” clause. The idea is to not use this, but have it there so financial commitments can be made. When we at Presh build plans with partners, we allow a 30-day cancellation term at any point. This gives them the ability to commit to a long-term plan, but also be able to pull out if a vendor cannot fund. We set up quarterly or six-month checkpoints (depending on the funding period) with vendors to report back on what has happened and to get continued investment.
This model allows you to build a long-term plan, and also for the vendor to have the flexibility to commit to something where the partner is incentivized to see a positive return.
Issue 3: Some solutions providers struggle to report quarterly and show ROI.
It’s easy on paper to say there will be quarterly checkpoints where progress must be shown. The reality is, you need tools and a system in place to progress opportunities and show campaign results.
Many partners still have not made the switch to a CRM platform. This has to happen. Marketing platforms require a CRM in place to see an opportunity to move from prospect to lead to customer. If you want to scale your business, you will need others driving sales at some point and a CRM puts a structured sales process in place. All marketing platforms are built around the idea that a CRM sits on the back end to progress and update leads.
Solution: Make the investment in a marketing platform and CRM if you don’t have one already.
It’s time to bite the bullet. Marketing platforms make life easier and give you line of site as to what is happening marketing-wise and how your customers and prospects are engaging with you digitally. There are many low-cost solutions out there at this point.
Next Steps in Vendor Partner Marketing Alignment
As you move forward in your business, be sure to develop an overall strategy for managing the integration of partner marketing efforts into your existing marketing strategy. Having the umbrella of a core strategy specifically for partner marketing helps you remain oriented and gives you a standard on which for the decisions you make about partner marketing integration.
At Presh Marketing Solutions, we offer the guidance you need to develop marketing strategies specific to the IT channel that help boost sales and ensure you develop solid relationships and have a consistent stream of leads for your growing business. Let’s have a conversation about the ways we can develop your marketing strategies.