Carriers: These 3 Major Marketing Mistakes Are Alienating Your Partners

You invested thousands in through-channel collateral that's gathering dust in your portal?

December 3, 2018

7 Min Read
Angry Businessman


Angela Leavitt

By Angela Leavitt, Mojo Marketing

Channel-Partners-Insights-logo-300x109.pngYour marketing department works hard to create through-channel marketing campaigns and materials for your partners, who badly need the help. In most cases, partners lack the budget, skill set and/or time to create their own marketing campaigns. You also recognize that you must engage your partners – and market through them to their end-user base – for everyone to be successful.

And yet, the materials you’re creating are sitting on your portal untouched, collecting dust. Most companies I speak with see about a 5 percent engagement rate. Frustrating, right?

What’s even more frustrating? Your partners are asking for marketing help. They want and need these materials, so why aren’t they using them?

I feel your pain, as well as theirs.

On the bright side, in 2018 we saw more carriers offering marketing support to their partners, which is awesome and so desperately needed. You are definitely on the right track. The bad news is, in too many cases, the help you’re offering isn’t exactly what they want or need. I know this because they have told me so – over and over again – in a “what are these carriers thinking” kind of tone. I have a unique position to speak on this subject since I work on both sides of the partner-carrier fence, many times acting as the bridge that connects the two sides. I’ve heard what both parties have to say.

With that insight, here are three reasons why your partners aren’t engaging with your marketing campaigns along with solid suggestions for course corrections that can pave a solid pathway to more successful through-channel marketing campaigns.

Problem 1: Your through-channel marketing campaigns are too branded to your companyYour partners present themselves as carrier-neutral consultants. When you create an email campaign, ebook or flyer with a six-inch version of your logo in the header and your brand colors from top to bottom, this feels disingenuous to the partner. It doesn’t feel like them. They don’t want to send it to their prospects because it removes them from a neutral, carrier-agnostic position. Instead, it makes them look like a shill for your brand.

Yes, we know partners have their favorite carriers and that they aren’t 100 percent neutral at all times. But they still want to come across that way to their customers.

Solution: Downplay your brand while highlighting your partner’s brand. I know this is hard because you’re doing the work to create the materials, so you want the results. You’re worried the partner will generate leads using your resources and then sell them another solution. News flash: This will happen regardless. The partner is always going to sell (in theory) the best solution for the customer, and that might not always be you. But I encourage you to let go of this fear and look at the bigger picture. If you’re the one creating campaigns that work, you will get more sales. You will also get more partners because word will spread that you have marketing campaigns that deliver results. And that will build loyalty.

Will you get all the sales? Probably not. But you will get a vast majority while also building a highly engaged partner base that looks to you for help. To me, that’s well worth the effort and potential risk of losing a handful of opportunities.

Here’s how to downplay your brand and highlight your partners:

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  • Remove your logo from headers. Place them subtly in footers or, better yet, remove them entirely to let the partner’s brand shine.

  • When creating graphics, use a grayscale/neutral color palette so each partner can add their branding, and it will match.

  • Lose the “boardroom speak” and instead write copy that sounds more like a channel partner. If it seems like something they would say, they are much more likely to engage.

  • Consider removing all graphics from email campaigns. Instead, write short, text-based emails that sound like a partner actually typed them out.

Problem 2: Your partners lack the skill set and/or desire to implement marketing campaigns. Most partners do not have a full-time or even a part-time marketing person in-house. So what happens the first time they hit a snag trying to work with your materials? They get frustrated. They disengage, and your campaign goes to the bottom of their priority list, never to be seen again.

To you and me, things like managing email platforms, uploading lists and creating landing pages may be second nature. But these activities force your partners into a totally foreign world. So even if you provide a simple, step-by-step process on how to do it, they feel overwhelmed.

Solution: Provide implementation help. This can be from your internal team, or you can refer partners to a preferred provider list of agencies or contractors that you’ve vetted, because there are some bad marketers out there angling for your partners’ business.

Some companies offer concierge marketing services based on reaching various achievement levels, which I think is an excellent idea. You can also allow partners to apply MDF to campaign execution. Tired of market development funds (MDF) going to alcohol-laden events with little ROI? Add “marketing campaign execution” to the list of pre-approved MDF activities. Take it one step further, and give preference to this option.

No matter what the solution, make sure you have a done-for-you plan available. This will vastly reduce the friction of getting your marketing campaigns executed.

Problem 3: Your portals are clunky and difficult to navigate. As you know, most channel partners are sales people at heart, which usually means they have exactly zero patience. This is especially true when it comes to learning new platforms or systems. If your portal isn’t super user friendly and easy to navigate, your partners will immediately disengage. You have to make this process as simple and frictionless as possible.

Solution: Invest in through-channel marketing software. Platforms like MindMatrix, SproutLoud and Aprimo are changing the execution of through-channel marketing campaigns. When using a platform like this, the carrier uploads all the content, and even creates a cadence for the campaigns.

The partner simply creates a profile – including logo and social media accounts – and uploads a target list. The platform then:

  • Automatically co-brands all the campaign materials

  • Executes the campaigns

  • Tracks the activity and alerts the partner to potential opportunities

  • And much more.

There are some downsides to these platforms. They can be costly, and sometimes partners don’t want to upload their prospect lists for fear customers will be poached. But I think these platforms represent the future of through-channel marketing because they make it so easy for the partner to engage.

Your Mission For 2019 and Beyond

I do want to applaud the many carriers who have embraced the idea of providing through-channel marketing support to partners. You are on the forefront of this industry, and your vision is spot on.

Those companies who take these ideas to heart and implement truly frictionless, hands-free, through-channel marketing campaigns will build the most loyal partner bases, and in turn, enjoy the most robust sales results in the channel.

Angela Leavitt is the CEO of Mojo Marketing. Follow her on Twitter.

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