Recently, we hosted a webinar called Building a Go-to-Market Strategy to Enable Both Your Cloud and Traditional Partners. Our presenters VP Channel Strategy William Gilsing and VP Client Services Dale Taormino received some really good questions from attendees and here are their answers.
Q: Why would vendors be responsible for a partner’s transformation challenges, such as cash flow? Isn’t that the partner’s responsibility?
This is a question we are often asked and it’s a good one. It comes down to a strategic decision on the part of the vendor. First of all, they may decide to support their partners selectively – only investing in the ones that are really vital to their business. Secondly, there is increasing competition among vendors for the best performing partners, and while some partners may have great potential, they are going to need a little bit of a jumpstart for the transition. From a strategic standpoint, vendors may decide it is important to provide partners with a way to avail themselves to cash during the transition period. This can be done in a number of ways, such as providing credit, or by changing payment terms. You may want to consider creating an “incubator” program where you invest in certain partners that have made a commitment to support you in the launch and servicing of your core cloud solutions.
Q: How do I maintain an ongoing partner value scoring and tiering model – where do I keep the data, and how often do I update my scoring model?
We have worked with a number of clients on this topic and have always advocated starting very simply. First of all, it’s important to determine the core partner attributes and how to measure them. You can do this by simply laying out a profile on a spreadsheet and identifying the core attributes and values, then weighing the values and assigning points to all attributes. Once you have that worked out, test it on different partners that you know pretty well. Rank their attributes compared to their current performance to make sure your value scoring system works well before formalizing it. We recommend that after completing the pilot, you begin integration with your CRM platform. This will make your CRM the single source of record for collecting and maintaining the partner data that populates your scoring system. It will be an ongoing system you should revisit every six months or year to re-populate your value scoring and tier and re-evaluate your partners.
Q: How do I effectively manage and reconcile “tops down” vs. “bottoms up” marketing plans with partners?
What’s being asked is how to reconcile the top-level marketing budgets set by your organization, against the plans that are being put together by partners. The answer is it’s great to do both at the same time, instead of having one drive the other.
But, it is important to have a joint marketing process so your partners go through the exercise of reviewing the year’s top initiatives and the level of investment they predict will be needed to achieve the financial or growth goals they are setting together. Secondarily, it’s really important to set a time period for it. This insures there’s a process from the top-down standpoint, based on what has been submitted for allocating the budget.
I think the way to make it all work effectively, especially as you grow your partner base, is to have an automated platform. There is a lot of back and forth and information being exchanged, so automating your joint marketing planning system is key. Another thing that often comes into play is the cutoff times for utilization of funds and when they expire. Additionally, how long do you let partners submit and update plans, and then at what point do you decide to reconcile it with your tops down marketing budgets. Make sure you communicate the cutoff date to submit final plans, make modifications and get approvals to your partners.
Q: I keep hearing there isn’t much uptake with regard to partners participating in vendors’ prepackaged marketing programs. How do I prevent a major investment in a marketing automation system from delivering a poor ROI?
It is important not to take a “we will build it and they will come” approach. A key part of your strategy should be communicating your program’s value with the partner. An effective way to do this is by answering questions they may have, such as, what are the benefits of the platform? Is it easy to use? Is the content targeted and flexible?
After you launch the program, you definitely need to monitor if it’s being used. We’ve noted that looking at logins and page views over the initial 4-6 weeks is effective. After this analysis, you should send an outbound education campaign, particularly to your top two tiers of partners, offering a 15-minute call to review the benefits. Communication and outreach is really vital for a successful launch, but so is driving ongoing engagement of the platform with concierge support, tying it to your rewards program, or even making use of MDF or Co-op funds.