If you’ve had the chance to enjoy our ongoing series on MSP digital marketing, then you know that marketing doesn’t need to be scary and you can create a winning MSP marketing plan by addressing a few straightforward considerations.
Consider this: channel partners want “faster than market growth.” According to the 2112 Group, a significant number of partners (nearly 50% and the number one response) stated that in terms of their five-year ambition, they want to grow faster than the market. It’s an admirable ambition, but how will you get there?
Because we’re marketers, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear us say that it’s in the best interest of channel partners to invest in marketing — that is, don’t just try to be self-sufficient and assume that leads will make themselves known; but rather take an active stance when it comes to your channel partner marketing scheme and you will sell with confidence and win every time.
What may surprise you is that the purpose of investing in marketing is twofold: to get customers (no surprise) AND to attract vendors (surprise!).
Channel partners need to attract and maintain the attention (and trust) of vendors that are desperate to find the right partners; but with so many partners out there, vendors want to know which of the partners are ‘in it for real.’ So partners investing in marketing need to have a message for vendors, one that makes vendors realize: “Hey! This partner is serious. Let’s invest in them. Let’s work with them!”
Vendors Need to Notice You
It pays to remember the words of the great one, Wayne Gretzky: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” When it comes to marketing, the problem with most businesspeople — and businesses in general — is that people are too consumed in their daily activities to anticipate where the puck will be. So they skate to where it is right now — the bulk of incoming business.
There’s an inherent danger in that paradigm. Partners want to spread their marketing dollars where the puck (the money) is. But we have a shocking revelation for you: channel partners should be marketing to customers AND vendors equally!
When It comes to Channel Partner Marketing, Think 80/20
In business, the Pareto Principle — also known as the 80/20 rule — states that, in general, 80% of your sales is the result of 20% of customers — or for the purposes of vendors, partners. In fact, in the modern vendor/partner world, the spread is closer to 90/10, that is, 90% of vendors’ sales are constituted by 10% of their partners.
There’s a preponderance of partners in the marketplace, and vendors don’t have the time or will to find the right ones to work with. So it’s not surprising that vendors take the path of least resistance, favoring the 10-20% and paying little attention to the remaining 80-90%.
Do you see why partners need to focus their marketing efforts on vendors?
Growth isn’t easy; nothing in life worth having is. But it should never be impossible, and we know that it’s not impossible. With that being said, partners say that they have several growth challenges they need to overcome, and of the top five, three are of particular interest to us:
- Finding clients
- Adopting new business models
- Closing sales
It’s not surprising that finding clients is the number one challenge for partners. As a result of an overcrowded space and the lack of time and resources to find the ‘right one,’ vendors simply choose not to invest in any particular partner unless that partner has a proven track record of delivering business.
They focus on the 10-20% and that leaves a gaping hole — 80-90% — of the revenue base that’s largely benign, in the sense that it doesn’t change much because partners aren’t doing anything to change the minds of vendors.
So what’s the answer?
Selling to Both Customers and Vendors
Channel partner marketing isn’t complicated, but it can be to someone who doesn’t understand how to navigate the landscape.
Partners are by nature relationship-focused, so they are good at building what they have (not at finding new opportunities). And there’s a preponderance of partners in the marketplace — that makes it difficult for vendors, who can’t find the right ones to work with.
How to Do It
Channel partner marketing is fraught with challenges, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Quite the opposite. It’s simply a matter of understanding your business, your message, and your target. Again, you can refer to our article on developing an MSP marketing plan to put the pieces together.
Once you’ve mastered the message, you can put together a robust channel partner marketing strategy. A good digital marketing campaign includes:
The content is key. You can present yourself as a thought leader if you offer white papers, blogs, best practices documents, and more. Identifying yourself as a thought leader is going to have a huge impact on vendors, too. Remember, they need to know that you’re ‘for real.’ By demonstrating that you bring something to the party, it will engender confidence and legitimacy to you, your company, and your brand.
Tips and Reminders
There are also some important tips and reminders that you can use when developing your channel partner marketing campaign:
- Accept that traditionally, partners are considered to be terrible marketers, so you need to better define the value proposition
- It’s critical that partners be active and build on leads
- Partners rely too much on vendor support, and this bothers vendors, so partners need to be more self-sufficient
- Customers don’t know the partners; customers know the vendors, so partners need to define themselves and their brand
- Vendors focus on the best-performing partners, and they will always choose in favor of committed partners
- Partners must get the attraction of vendors who want to ‘find the right’ partners — once the right message has been found, it can cause a snowball effect of growth
- Partners can find greater success by investing in marketing
Where to Start?
Where do you start? Well, you can try to do it on your own, but be careful, because if you don’t understand the costs and scope of an effective marketing campaign, you can land in the weeds pretty quickly. You can try ‘baby steps,’ and you may want to consider a firm that specializes in digital marketing, such as ours. At very least, we can explain to you all the moving parts, costs, headaches, landmines to avoid, best practices, and rules for success. At very most, we can provide a quality, customized marketing solution, positioning you as a thought leader. Contact us today to discuss your channel partner marketing campaign!