Partner marketing is not just a valuable strategy; it is critical for success in the ever-evolving world of B2B business, and more so in the APJ/APAC region, known for its complexity and diversity. Drawing from my experience of over 20 years in running marketing across this region, I have personally witnessed the transformative power that comes from leveraging partnerships. From hosting events that attracted an impressive turnout of 100 CxO attendees in China to establishing thriving CxO communities across various parts of the region, and even generating a substantial pipeline and net new in new territories or accounts, all these achievements were made possible through the active involvement of partners.
Partners to me are more than just collaborators; they are an extension of the team, enabling us to reach unprecedented levels of success together. It is not uncommon to see partnerships contributing 40-60% of the overall revenue for global tech players in this region.
Partner marketing serves as a catalyst for boosting brand awareness and scaling businesses. By uniting forces, two companies can create compelling, high-value content and assets that resonates holistically with today’s discerning customers. (delivering value to customers should always be the focus!).
Partner marketing can also help deepen engagement within target accounts. By combining respective strengths, we uncover new opportunities and deliver added value that surpasses what either party could achieve alone. This collaborative synergy expands our reach, and scale thereby tapping into new opportunities for growth.
Let’s explore the key strategies to optimize your partner programs:
Start Small with a Focused Approach:
Instead of solely considering partners based on their tier, size, or revenue contribution, it’s important to include enthusiastic partners who are eager to grow and collaborate with your business. These partners often exhibit a dedicated focus that aligns closely with your goals, making them valuable contributors to your business.
Considering your available bandwidth, begin by selecting 1-2 partners who share aligned priorities. For instance, if your objective is to build a pipeline for a specific industry or solution, seek out partners who have the same strategic alignment. By collaborating with partners who share similar goals, you increase the likelihood of success and mutual benefit.
Once you have identified your key partners, it’s crucial to execute a successful campaign. Document the success and share them with your partner communities, creating a buzz and generating interest among other partners – existing or potential. You’ll soon find other partners knocking at your door, eager to collaborate and contribute to your shared success.
Choose Events (or Webinars) as Your Main Tactic
When it comes to partner marketing initiatives, few tactics can match the impact of targeted events or webinars. Events and webinar campaigns contain in them other digital tactics, such as PPC ads, email marketing, social media campaigns, and surveys, that seamlessly integrate into the event.
By leveraging the combined power of both partners’ databases, you can effectively double attendance and significantly enhance engagement rates, expanding the reach and impact.
Beyond the tangible benefits, hosting an event or webinar presents an excellent opportunity to reinforce the partner relationship and establish credibility in the market. It allows you to solidify your expertise and showcase the collaborative efforts between you and your partners to prospects and customers.
Set Mutual Goals and Define Measurable KPIs
To ensure the success of your partner marketing initiative, it is essential to establish mutual goals and define key performance indicators (KPIs) that will guide your progress. Setting clear goals and aligning expectations with your partners is so important for effective collaboration. When defining your goals, ensure they are SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
In the context of events, the primary goal is to drive attendees and attendee engagement. Collaborate with your partners to create a target account list and share the responsibilities based on the respective level of account penetration. Establish an agreement regarding important details such as drop-off rates, prioritized job titles, registration deadlines, and reminder communications. Additionally, clear guidelines should be established regarding account distribution. If an account is already being worked on by another partner, it is important to determine how to handle such situations, for example.
One aspect that is often overlooked but detrimental to success is the follow-up. Develop a robust follow-up structure, which includes a clear distribution of accounts and a strict timeline for engagement. This ensures that no opportunities fall through the cracks and that all leads are properly nurtured and progressed.
My Perspective on Cost-Sharing
In terms of cost-sharing, I believe it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. While it is ideal for partners to contribute a portion of the costs, there is no strict rule that dictates the principal cannot cover the entire expense. It ultimately depends on the specific circumstances and potential benefits of the partnership.
For instance, if a partner can commit to bringing in a significant number of key contacts and accounts to the event, or if they can provide a key speaker or thought leader to present, it may be justifiable for the principal to cover the entire cost. In such cases, the partner’s contribution in terms of audience reach or content expertise can greatly enhance the overall value and success of the event.
However, it is important to assess the feasibility and impact of cost-sharing arrangements on a partnership-by-partnership basis. Open discussions and negotiations can help determine the most appropriate cost-sharing model that aligns with the interests and objectives of both parties involved.
In the end, the key is to establish transparent communication and a mutual understanding of the value each partner brings to the table. This approach ensures that cost-sharing decisions are made in a fair and mutually beneficial manner, fostering a strong and collaborative working relationship.
Establish Effective Reporting Processes
Another crucial aspect of building successful B2B partner programs is setting up clear reporting processes. Agree on reporting format and frequency and jointly commit to them. If possible, have systems in place that allow you to track the performance of your campaigns and measure the outcomes fairly and accurately.
With the advent of digital marketing and its reliance on Internet-based channels, leveraging tracking tools can simplify this process significantly, e.g. incorporating UTM parameters into your URLs, giving you visibility into the leads generated by your partners but also the ability to track the effectiveness of different channels and campaigns.
Create co-Branded Content
Use this opportunity of running a joint event to build co-branded content. You can create valuable assets like e-books, white papers, infographics, and case studies for the event.
Co-creating content with your partners allows you to engage both of your ideal customer segments.
Record the event or parts of it, creating valuable assets for the long term which can take the form of recorded webinars, shorts, blogs, or infographics to get the most out of your event investment.
Recognize and Inspire Partner Marketing Excellence
Celebrate outstanding partner marketing achievements by offering awards or recognition for exceptional performance. Consider acknowledging partners with the best or highest number of marketing initiatives, or those who have delivered the most pipeline in a quarter or year.
By publicly recognizing these accomplishments, you can generate excitement and motivate other partners to strive for similar success. Make sure to create a buzz around the recognition, amplifying it through various channels to inspire others to follow suit and raise the bar in partner marketing.
Let us embrace the potential of partner marketing and harness its power to drive our businesses forward!
P.S. I’d like to end the article with a PRO TIP on this question I get a lot from my peers: “What strategies can we employ to build a strong working relationship with a prominent partner who is more focused on other larger vendors?”
My answer is to take the initiative and proactively demonstrate your value to the partner. Deliver a key account with a sizable pipeline, for example, and work together for deal close. This act of giving sets the foundation for a reciprocal relationship based on mutual benefits and can benefit you greatly in the long term.