The biggest problem in channel and partner marketing that I see at the moment is not a lack of activity. It’s an overwhelming amount of activity! Who has time to actually read all the emails we get? I know I am constantly saving things that look interesting ‘to read later’. But later never comes! We are all so busy, that having time to spend on learning about new stuff, even if it’s interesting, is increasingly hard. And on that note, if you haven’t got time to read this whole article, you can just cut to the bullet points at the bottom 😉
The recent-ish rise of marketing automation platforms I think means that as marketers, sometimes we rely on the actions of marketing, rather than the intent. It’s very easy to create marketing workflows, connect different pieces of content, look at engagement, lead scoring and produce reports…but sometimes I think we lose sight of the *why*.
Marketing has a lesson to learn from sales here. And that’s one of the reasons I enjoy working in the channel so much. Because I think of any part of B2B marketing, the channel is where sales and marketing are most closely aligned. I know the best campaigns I’ve ever worked on are ones I’ve created with the sales teams. The sales guys and girls are at the coal face in a way that most marketers are not. They’re not reviewing engagement stats – they are actually talking to their customers, day in, day out. They’re building proper relationships. In the real world and in real time. So, their input is invaluable when you’re building a campaign, a programme or an event.
The other thing that salespeople know about is delivering the right message, at the right time. And keep delivering it! I’ve had discussions with people where they’ve worried that because they’ve given a particular message a month ago in a newsletter, you can’t repeat it in an email. Now, let’s be honest – even *if* your target or prospect actually read the first message, even *if* they intended to do something about it (which, if it was the first time they’ve seen it, they probably didn’t)…life gets in the way! So, telling them again later on is a good thing. It gives them another chance to react, another chance for that message to sink in. In fact, an oft-quoted stat beloved of marketers is that it often takes 7-9 ‘touches’ before a message lands. So we shouldn’t be so worried about repeating ourselves a bit.
I’ve done quite a lot of waffling here and you might think I haven’t given any tips about how to create channel marketing that cuts through. But actually, everything I’ve said above relates to one more point I want to make. Then I’ll give you the bullet points you’ve been waiting for 😉
I recently interviewed Stephen Kelly, Chair of Tech Nation, ex COO of the Civil Service, and ex CEO of Sage, which is where I met him. I interviewed Stephen for my series called Tech Giants, where I’m profiling some of the great people I’ve met in the channel through the years. He talked about a magic word – empathy. He said that in order to create an atmosphere for growth and success, you have to have empathy with whoever you are talking to. You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes.
And it’s such a good point. As marketers, how often do we think about the person receiving our carefully crafted comms or campaign? Do we actually know what they want? If you’re talking to a partner, I can tell you they probably don’t care that you’ve won a new piece of business. Or that you’ve taken on more staff, or moved, or produced a new software update. They care about their business. It’s on their mind 24/7. What they care about is how can you make their lives easier. Can your new product help them win more customers? How? Can it help them make better margins? How? Will it build more loyalty in their customer base? How? Going back to another sales adage – it’s about selling the benefits, not the features.
So, if you want channel marketing that creates more cut through, try these tips:
- Talk to your sales team. What’s happening at the coal face? What are they hearing from customers about their concerns? What’s top of mind for people and what’s keeping them awake at night? How can your product or service deliver against these issues and worries?
- Don’t rely just on fancy marketing automation to do your job for you. It’s ok to repeat a message and give people another chance to read it. But make it engaging. Don’t just regurgitate the same stuff – make it human, make it real, make it interesting.
- Have empathy for the people you are trying to reach. Put yourself in their shoes. Spend more time finding out about your audience and market to getter better insights and less time on the busyness of the day job.
- Marketing isn’t an island. It’s part of the process of sales. It’s building your brand, helping people to trust you. It reflects the values of your company. It’s not just about stats and response rates. Marketing should be a holistic part of your business. Done well, it adds value not just in more revenue, but in more loyalty and goodwill from customers, partners and staff alike. And I think it’s still the best job in the world.