As we start a brand-new decade, we explore some of the partner marketing topics we saw growing in importance in 2019 and that we predict will continue to maintain traction in 2020.
1. Are you working with the right partners?
This is pretty fundamental. The vendor ecosystem is exploding. Today there are 100,000 software companies and it is predicted that there will be 1 million by 20271. With 75%2 of world trade flowing indirectly, there is now a massive market to play in. The risk however is that you spread yourself too thinly and fail to get the results you need.
Having line of sight and a clear focus on those partners where you have the best engagement and strategic fit will be critical to your success in 2020. This also means thinking about which end-customers you are targeting and making sure you have the right partners, carrying out the right activity to reach those segments.
2. Have you got the right partner marketing programme in place to maximise your partnerships?
It’s safe to say that the one-size-fits-all approach to partner marketing programmes has been over for some time. It’s also widely recognised that you can’t bespoke every element of your programme for every single partner. What will be key in 2020 is creating a programme that enables you to recognise the individual needs of particular partners and create custom-fit support for them that can easily scale. As Forrester states, “There are so many new line-of-business (LOB) buyers, sub-industry transformations, geographic nuances, sectors, segments, customer sizes, tech stack layers, and new business models that a gold/silver/bronze pyramid just doesn’t address the permutations.” 3
3. Are you able to provide the right level of personalisation?
Being more targeted will also be essential for success. As partners go out to end customers, think about the use cases of that partner and who specifically the end customer is. For example, if you are a security vendor developing use cases with a partner targeting the health sector, how the technology and joint value proposition addresses the needs of a patient and a clinician is much more compelling than talking high level about security threats. Use cases bring subjects to life in a simple way and capture imagination, and can easily scale in the right way.
4. Have you got the right ecosystem in place?
In 2019, the number of channel firms that partnered frequently with newer entrants to the ecosystem increased from 20% to 30% compared to 20184
The market is booming. There is so much different technology out there, much of which is designed to integrate and work together. Service providers and systems integrators have a massive opportunity to work with all vendors to provide true end-to-end solutions for customers. Likewise, for vendor marketeers, they can get more ‘bang for their buck’ working with their peers in adjacent technology. For example integrating their software with a public cloud offering to reach a wider audience and fulfil specific customer needs. Being able to create this ecosystem approach and joined up story for end customers will become increasingly compelling in 2020.
5. Have you got the right digital engagement?
Traditional ways of engaging your partners through portals, roadshows and 1-1 account management will still be relevant in 2020 but digital will play an increasingly important role as customer journeys evolve and get more complex. The way B2B buyers are engaging is changing – 62% of B2B buyers say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list based solely on digital content and 60% prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information5.
Digital can help you do some really smart things to change the way you engage with partners. For example using Twitter to target partners and link them to portals (and CRM systems such as Salesforce)6. Digital can also be used to increase awareness and most importantly, engagement, with the target partner buyers and influencers. For example using more organic SEO for keywords and creating partner related content, focussed on “How do I…?” searches. Remarketing, for example of Google can also be used to target key personas in the target partners.
6. The role of influencers in partner marketing
Reach out to the 10% who tell the 90% what to buy.
Influencers drive word of mouth (WOM). WOM is the most productive influence in online conversations between consumers and E-Wom (Electronic word of mouth) can deliver 10x ROI (Buhalis and Mamalakis, 2015). In fact, the importance of positive word of mouth supports the fact that 90% of consumers trust other buyers more than advertisers. To design and manage a successful partner influencer program, it’s important to define goals and desired outcomes. Are we trying to fill gaps in content, credibility or connections? Chose the right influencers based on reach, relevance and resonance. Use tools such as Onalytica to map out the partner influencer community, which can then be personalised further using personas.
With all these factors considered, we wish the very best for a prosperous and enjoyable 2020.
4. CompTIA, 8th State of the Channel Research, November 2019