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Pick Your Vendor Based On These Marketing Enablement and Co-Marketing Best Practices

Are your favorite vendors helping you to market successfully?  We just published a report for our clients where we highlight best practices in marketing enablement, based on a series of interviews with 10 channel partner marketing executives. Now, the majority of these were companies with over $10 billion in revenues, so they could afford their investments; but if you’re a channel partner wondering about the effectiveness of your partnerships, you should consider these points in your vendor scoring: Are they doing this for you? If not, consider switching to a vendor who does because the product alone will no longer make you successful.

As a summary, we found that events, incentives, and online advertising are the three most popular forms of co-marketing activities employed by partners today. The contemporary marketing mix is expanding with the adoption of emerging technologies (i.e., social media, webinars, video, online events). Innovative vendors are incentivizing partners to blog, tweet, produce video, and participate in communities to evangelize the vendor’s brand. Marketing certification — similar to sales or technical training certification — is becoming a key differentiator for vendor marketing-enablement programs.


Co-marketing best practices were …

  • Encouraging partners to incorporate webinars into marketing campaigns. This can increase partner campaign response rates by 17% to 20%, said one of the vendors.
  • Video is a key new marketing medium. “Video is the new white paper.” Animated videos are also a big hit.
  • Online events also resonate well with end users. But partners need help with this; some vendors are providing network coaching (i.e., assign them an event engineer).
  • Partner-featured video case studies work well. Successful vendors now include partners (and customers) in as many case studies as possible, aligned with corresponding video on YouTube
  • Vendors who provide a “virtual marketing director” for partners, as a self-service or as a custom offering.
  • Deploying vendor-sponsored location-based search advertisements to promote local channel partners. E.g., Sam in Wisconsin searches “networking equipment”, Cisco displays an ad for its “top Wisconsin VAR”

Vendors are quickly focusing on what works from the partner point of view with less and less “one-size fits all” campaigns. Some vendors even claimed that they tailor a marketing plan for each individually targeted partner. They also reported that they were diligent about only investing in partners that evidently invested in them (identified through certification training seats, MDF utilization, and quarterly business reviews). Some also commit to a 90-day partner onboarding incubation period, handholding new partners with a personalized 90-day fast track to provide best practices, program support, and tools. 

Social Media is increasingly important for marketing

This is especially true for social media marketing where many partners are afraid to get started and require a lot of support. Forrester estimates that just 55% to 65% of channel partners are already involved in social media. Some vendors now train and even incentivize (Canadian vendor Asigra has social media activities in its incentive metrics) partners to blog, tweet, produce video, and participate in relevant customer communities. Some also even incorporate partners into their social listening ecosystems and provide reports based on partner brands.  At Forrester, we know that this is important. In fact, our technology buyer research shows that customers value the input and participation of channel partners in online communities and discussion forums more highly than that of tech vendors directly. A good test of the vendor is to see if they practice what they preach — if they want you to conduct live Twitter feeds, etc., during their events, do they do the same during their partner conferences?  Other social media highlights include:

  • LinkedIn training — nearly all partners want training on how to launch a LinkedIn campaign.
  • Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the cornerstones of most channel partner social media strategies.
  • 56% of the channel partners doing social media are working with social media or marketing agencies.
  • 96% all companies report that they are growing their spend on social media over the next 12 months, with key priorities including hiring full-time social media employees; investing in services provided by partners; and creating more marketing content to be deployed in social media. 

So, ask these questions of your vendors - they are key indicators of a commitment to a marketing strategy that will include you, the channel partner. 

  • Do you have a customer life-cycle relationship certification and/or a marketing certification process?
  • What are your channel investment plans? 
  • Can you help us to improve our marketing skills and resources and how would you do that?
What do you think? Are there other shining examples of vendor channel marketing strategies we should know about? Please let me know. As always, I’d love to hear from you on this and other topics. Always keeping you informed! Peter
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