Despite the critical role of partner marketers, this area of marketing often remains under-recognised, with limited formal training and advocacy – and shrouded in mystery.
Over the past year, my interactions with a diverse group of highly talented professionals in this field – from vendors, and systems integrators to service providers – have highlighted the unique challenges and opportunities they face, and how often they are misunderstood by other areas of the business.
The unseen challenges of partner marketers
Partner marketers face a dual challenge: managing internal organisational demands and addressing the needs of numerous partners. This dual allegiance, often referred to as ‘boundary spanning’ by academics like Professor Shona Bettany, adds complexity to their roles. Despite over three million individuals with similar titles on LinkedIn, there’s a noticeable gap in formal training and support, leading to feelings of isolation among these professionals.
Addressing the needs through community and training
Efforts are underway to support these marketers. Initiatives like CIM training courses and specialised books are being developed. Additionally, the rise of communities and mentoring programmes across the industry is a positive step towards supporting these professionals. However, change is gradual, akin to steering an oil tanker, and the current economic climate only amplifies the challenges in generating ROI.
At a time when growth is needed but cuts are also happening due to the economic climate – it appears short-sighted but many organisations are cutting their partner marketing resource. With organisations pushing more than 60% of sales through the indirect channel, this feels a bit off-kilter.
Partner marketing coming of age
So, what can we do to give partner marketing the recognition it deserves and help it evolve from a teenager to a driving force within marketing?
- Invest in the essential skills for success in partner & ecosystem marketing
Invest in the right people, with the right skills. To excel in this field, professionals must possess a blend of operational, impact-driven, and leadership skills. This includes budget management, data utilisation, understanding revenue models, and effective communication. The evolving landscape now demands strategic thinking, technical proficiency, and a customer-centric approach. Investing in these skills is critical.
- Take care of personal wellness in a demanding field
Given the demanding nature of partner and ecosystem marketing roles, personal well-being is paramount. Recommendations for maintaining wellness include establishing personal boundaries, practicing mindfulness, clear communication, seeking mentorship, and continuous learning. Ecosystem marketers need the support from the business to thrive versus survive.
- Attracting talent and overcoming hurdles
Attracting top talent is essential for thriving in partner and ecosystem marketing. Strategies like fostering evangelism, targeted recruiting, and cultivating a strong employer brand are effective. However, challenges such as job description mismatches and lack of career awareness need addressing.
Partner and ecosystem marketing is a vital, evolving discipline that requires recognition and investment. By nurturing talent and addressing the unique challenges in this field, organisations can leverage strategic collaborations for significant business growth and success.
As professionals in the partner world, it’s crucial to reflect on our approach to this key area. Do you value your partner marketing team? Do you actively support them in their unique challenges and growth? Your response could be pivotal in shaping the future of partner marketing.
Helen Curtis, is a founder of Coterie, and currently spearheads the Community within Coterie. This initiative is dedicated to enhancing channel and partner marketing by bringing together partner marketers from various sectors, including vendors, ISVs, systems integrators, and service providers. The community focuses on sharing experiences, establishing benchmark standards, offering learning tools, and organising exclusive networking events for partners and channel professionals.