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Partnerships & channel marketing –do I need a B2B SaaS partner strategy?
In my experience, I’ve never seen a B2B company ever consider a channel marketing strategy. While in theory it’s always talked about, in practice it’s almost never focused on. Especially when there is a direct side to the business. It’s often the forgotten GTM strategy that gets the least resources, time, and energy.
Do not overlook this. Channel Marketing is a great way to build trust, access a market that is hard to penetrate, or complement your solution so you can appeal to more customers –or the customer you were hoping to get. And when you’re ready to take the dive into it, consider balancing between to-partner marketing, and through-partner marketing.
This strategy is all about acquiring new partners. And just like your direct side, you can leverage all your existing channels to find new partners. Think search, social, ABM, etc. Often, it’s equally as important to create the right messaging here, and treat your prospective partners like acquiring a new customer. They have pains, fears, and dreams too. So speak to it. Do they possibly have a financial incentive to sell? Maybe it's about making selling their solution easier with a complimentary product. All to say that it’s not enough to just put up a sign-up page and call it a day.
The best channel marketing strategies often involve a sub-brand just for the partner side. And a well-thought-out “ideal partner profile” (IPP) and personas. When you put and show the right level of focus into the partnership, it creates a sense of focus and attention towards the channel –and your partners will appreciate it. Making your prospective partners understand that channel marketing is important to your business, it’s official and not something that is just done on the side, will of course make them feel valued –leading them to want to work with your company.
As a side note: when developing your ideal partner profile, and relevant personas –It’s important to not rely solely on this as a determining factor of fit. If the partner manager is a jerk, well, it really doesn’t matter then how well they fit your IPP or the persona.
Finally, an important thing to consider is how partners think. When choosing your channels, or considering leveraging a paid search one –put yourself in the shoes of the partner and ask “what would my customer search”. Partners often behave just like customers. They want to find solutions that get their customers excited, so they search like them.
Of course, be careful with this and work with your direct team as oftentimes, you may be competing with yourself. This is where negative keywords come to play, and find ways to leverage very focused targeting. Otherwise, you will confuse both your prospective partners and your prospective customers.
This strategy is about improving the content available to your ideal customers, through the partner. Ask your partners if they have the right amount of sales enablement today to help them do the selling? Do they have the right messaging? Are there the right brand elements in place to uphold the integrity of your brand’s perception? Do they even know if and where the content exists? (You will be surprised how many partners I've spoken with who have no idea).
This is more than just creating a partner portal. It’s a conscious effort to invest in the relationship with your partner’s marketing team to collectively increase sales. Consider joint campaigns, webinars, content, and much more. Many partners often create assets of their own that are poor quality –so next time you’re wondering why deals aren’t coming through, it’s time to take a second look. This perfectly leads me to my next topic…
How do I measure my Partner marketing efforts?
Pioneered at Microsoft –“Reach. Frequency. Yield” as an effective, yet simple measure to gauge the efficacy of your partners. Imagine your company’s website. You will want to measure how many people visit the site monthly (reach), how many times does an individual visits a month (frequency), and how long do they stay on the site (yield).
Similar to the above, with partners –what you’re really looking for is:
- Reach –how many partners do I currently have transacting at least one deal this month?
- Frequency –how many deals did each partner bring in this month?
- Yield –what is the average deal size that each partner brought in this month?
When you have your baseline, you’ll now be able to individually dissect where your channel marketing strategy should focus on.
For example –If you notice that your deal size from partners is trending down, consider focusing on your through-partner marketing strategy; building up the relevant content that the partner needs to help them sell, and perhaps more training.
Another example could be a decrease in frequency. As a result, try focusing on developing better financial incentives, bettering your product, or partner program so that your partner gets excited about bringing in more leads.
Of course, there are many other strategies to consider, but this should serve as a high-level overview of where you can start with Channel Marketing. More on RFY here.
Bonus: Third-party review sites
While not my first choice in channel, it still bakes into the larger picture of both demand generation and brand perception. Third-party review sites create FOMO, build social credibility, and when done correctly can act as a steady flowing channel of leads.
Consumers often want to learn from their peers, and trusted guides. Consider leveling up your presence on Capterra, G2, Software Advice, etc. with high-quality content, conversion-inducing messaging, and a limited-time offer that forces you to act now.
Sound familiar? That’s because it effectively acts as a landing page for your company that piggy-backs off the ranking of others, and serves to position your solution in the right category.
Leveraging paid media in your GTM strategy
Paid media plays an important part in your overall go-to-market strategy. To learn more, download my eBook on how to create a solid GTM strategy for SaaS start-ups.