While there’s no denying that companies like Amazon, HubSpot, Salesforce, IBM, and so on have great products, even big tech companies need partners to scale globally and support their markets around the world.
You only have to look at Amazon’s AWS Partner Program or the HubSpot Partner Program to get a feel for the reverence with which technology vendors treat their partners. And for good reason. In the business-to-business (B2B) sector, partners represent one of the most — if not the most — valuable distribution channels.
Partner marketing plays a key role in building successful channel partner relationships. When managed and measured correctly, partner marketing programs can help you scale and quickly expand and grow your audience.
Partner Marketing is a Distinct Function
Partner marketing is a distinct function and should not be treated — or measured — in the same way as corporate marketing. Unfortunately, many vendors don’t recognize this distinction and end up delivering partner marketing programs that either miss the mark or never had a mark to begin with.
One of the biggest frustrations voiced by channel players is partnerships by handshake only, with no formal plan, and no methods in place to track success. Partners want (and need) insight into their return on investment and tangible results. Yet most B2B Partner Marketing programs are running blindly, spending money on partner marketing tools and campaigns without any sales goals or visibility into ROI.
Tracking the ROI in partner campaigns is not easy. With siloed customer relationship management (CRM) systems, vendors and partners struggle to track the attribution of pipeline and sales back to partner marketing activities. This is a tricky problem to solve — but it’s not impossible.
Unlike regular marketing campaigns where the top success factors might be customer engagement and conversion rates, the top success factors for measuring the ROI of B2B partner marketing programs are:
- Partner engagement and satisfaction
- Program effectiveness
- Partner relationship management
Three Factors for Measuring the ROI of Partner Marketing
1. Partner Engagement & Satisfaction
One of the biggest questions vendors ask is how to keep channel partners engaged and motivated. It’s not an easy question to answer since each channel partner might have many sales reps, marketing teams, and hundreds of vendors vying for their attention.
Measuring engagement is important. A big indicator of a partner’s future success is how engaged they are with your organization. As such, it’s important to understand how you’re engaging partners across various partner types, geography, and channel programs.
According to SiriusDecisions, fewer than 15% of partners engage in the marketing programs their vendors deliver. To determine whether your partners are engaged in your marketing programs, ask yourself questions like:
- How frequently do they use your partner portal?
- Are they downloading your marketing assets?
- Do they participate in your marketing campaigns?
- Are they attending your partner marketing update calls regularly?
- Do they use their allocated MDF?
- Do they use your partner enablement or training resources?
Few companies bother to collect this information and analyze it. However, by taking the time to do so, you can glean important insights into whether your partners (specifically their marketing teams) are engaged with your organization.
Today, there’s a wealth of data available to us if we look for it. Partner portals (as part of an overall partner relationship management strategy) and marketing automation tools provide usage and download data to help you analyze how your partners are engaging with your marketing programs. Companies can also use survey tools or direct communication to track partner satisfaction — and use this feedback to adapt and improve partner marketing programs.
If you’re struggling to connect the dots, your marketing agency may be able to help.
2. Program Effectiveness
Program effectiveness metrics focus on the ROI of specific partner marketing programs. They give granular insight into how well each program is meeting its objectives, and the impact it has on the ROI of partner marketing overall.
With plenty of tools out there promising to gather and parse information, it’s not too hard to define key performance indicators (KPIs) to quantify partner program success. Some of the basic KPIs include:
- How much end-user and partner engagement did the program receive?
- How many leads can be attributed to the program by each partner?
- How much pipeline was influenced by the program by each partner?
- What was the average deal size (pipeline and closed business) by each partner?
In order to track the influence of an individual partner marketing program, each tactical element and distribution channel must be tagged effectively.
To improve program effectiveness, it’s wise to invest time in delivering guidance on the distribution channels. This can be as simple as a PowerPoint or Google slide deck that offers instructions on various aspects, including:
- Campaign goals
- Themes / key messaging (including audience pain points, opportunity, solution)
- Description of assets
- Instructions on how to customize the assets
- Optimal times for email sends, social media posts, etc.
- Campaign timelines
This guidance can also give the vendor control over the asset tagging, which is critical to measuring campaign attribution. Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters help ensure partner leads are given the correct attribution and should be shared alongside the campaign assets and distribution channel guide.
Sample Link with UTM
UTM parameters are everything that comes after the question mark. This particular URL shows that the referral source was Google, the medium was a cost-per-click campaign, and the campaign was a summer promotion with the search term “digital trends.”
By using UTM parameters, you can gain detailed information about the success of campaigns and program effectiveness.
Google offers a free URL builder to help create UTM links, but UTMs can still be tricky and time consuming to manage. An agency partner can help with the initial program setup if your team is overwhelmed.
3. Partner Relationship Management
A study of the top 30 partner marketing programs found that the top indicator of success was a partner portal or partner relationship management tool (PRM).
A PRM can tell you how profitable your partners are with your solution, it’s impossible to know whether your marketing efforts are distributed fairly — or most effectively. Vendors can gain incredible insights on their partner programs and people by executing a detailed study of their partners’ profitability in their PRM.
A PRM helps bridge the gap between vendors and partners. Without it, vendors are vulnerable to human error as they attempt to gather their partner sales and marketing data manually. Some PRM systems have APIs that allow limited data flow from vendor customer relationship management tools to partner tools and vice versa.
Ask your IT team about API access and work with key partners to enable seamless data flow so you can share in the success of campaign pipeline generation and closed/won leads.
With UTMs in place and PRM/CRM systems connected, it is easy to prove the success of your channel partner marketing campaigns during your quarterly business reviews.
Measuring ROI of Partner Marketing programs can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. If your internal team is not equipped to manage the metrics, a partner marketing agency can support you and set you up for success.
Total Product Marketing (TPM) is a full-service marketing agency that’s completely focused on technology and partner marketing.
We work with amazing clients like PayPal, Adobe, HiConversion, Sierra Wireless, RapidScale, Cox Business, and Intelisys, helping them tell their stories to the right people, through the right channels, at the right stage in the buyer journey.
Interested in creating a winning B2B Partner Marketing strategy? Download our Partner Marketing Strategies Playbook or contact us today.