Partner marketing is growing in popularity, but are the results matching its growing fame? The complexity of executing strategy through partners makes it increasingly difficult to prove success.
To help uncover some of the industry’s challenges specific to partner marketing, IDG hosted its first Partner Marketing Executive Dinner this fall in Silicon Valley. With a room full of incredibly talented and successful B2B tech marketers, it was a unique opportunity step back and talk about what’s working and not working in our industry, specific to technology partner marketing.
While the folks sitting around the table represented some of the largest technology companies on the planet, it was surprising to hear challenges that resembled those often shared by technology companies of all sizes and corners of the market.
If we can come together to identify the most common challenges, we can then start to address best practices and solutions to bring partner marketing to the next level. Below are the top challenges discussed at the IDG Partner Marketing Executive Dinner.
Challenge #1: Influencer Parties
Partner marketers are challenged to find influencer parties (alliances) that can help take their organization into new markets, industries, regions, accounts, and opportunities. The challenge is effectively identifying these influencer parties and then establishing a working alliance.
Once influencer parties are identified and alliances are formed, it can also be difficult to prove success based on the original objective. Proper success metrics need to be fully thought out as the alliance is being formed. KPI alignment, which is critical to success, can be tricky working through two separate marketing and corporate organizations.
Challenge #2: Speed to Market
No matter how big the budget or how sophisticated the marketing organization, speed to market seems to be a constant challenge we all encounter. The complexity of dealing with multiple stakeholders across two (or more) marketing organizations can create scope creep, lengthy delays, and constant revisions of the marketing strategy and execution plan.
As a result, the marketers at the dinner spoke of scalable and flexible approaches to planning. When working with 3rd party agencies like IDG, clients may want to see a full-scale multi-component marketing program during the proposal phase, but may only commit to the first part. This allows the marketer to understand the full scale of the program, but still have the flexibility to deal with the complexity of the partnership as it continues to evolve.
Challenge #3: Sales Sophistication
Sales skills seem to be a universal burden plaguing partnership sales teams, especially with those driving new alliance messages in the market. “Sales is not sophisticated enough to sell the partnership.” This phrase was spoken at dinner and is something often said by partner marketers across the country. These partner marketing execs depend on sales to drive results, but their partner marketing budget is not always part of sales enablement efforts.
At IDG we have seen partner marketers take a dual approach on content development to help educate sales without directly spending budget on it. These marketers will create solution guides and other assets that are marketed toward the buyers, but also designed in a way to help educate sales on the partnership message, services, and solutions.
Challenge #4: Customer Participation
Based on IDG Customer Engagement research, we see peer recommendations as the number one source for trusted content online. However, partner marketers are struggling to find customer case studies to feature in their content marketing efforts. It’s hard to tell a partnership success story in the eyes of the buyer without customers involved. This is especially true around newly formed partnerships where customers may not yet exist.
IDG has seen partner marketers utilize 3rd party experts and influencers in content to help circumnavigate the customer participation challenge. This helps add peer perspective and humanize the asset in order to increase credibility and gain trust. Influencer based content is a growing trend in B2B marketing and is something we’ll likely see more of in 2020.
Challenge #5: Event Attendees
Even the most well-known tech companies in the world struggle to get the right attendees to their events, especially at the exec level. However, IDG’s latest research shows that 90% of IT decision-makers (ITDMs) have attended an industry-related event in the past 12 months. Based on our research, their number one reason for attending an industry-related event is the opportunity to engage with the vendor. Still, many partner marketers are struggling to get ITDMs to their events. The challenge of attracting qualified event attendees is not due to the lack of interest, it’s the differentiated content, and targeting and messaging around why ITDMs should attend your event when there so many others to choose from.
Almost all IDG customers run events of their own, yet they still sponsor IDG produced events because we can deliver audience. How? It’s simple: our events are editorial-driven and deliver valuable content. ITDMs who go to events are attracted to quality content. They seek trusted experts and resourceful content that will help with their tactical, strategic, and transformative objectives. Partner marketers need to consider the value of the content delivered through their events and how well they market that value when promoting and recruiting for the event.
The IDG Partner Marketing Executive Dinner provided us with a quick pulse on the major challenges in the industry. However, data backing up the findings was required. To that end, IDG conducted a survey of over 300 partner marketers to identify the common challenges, successes and trends within B2B technology partner marketing. The dinner and survey are part of an ongoing approach by IDG to help bring technology partner marketers together to share insights, best practices, and avenues for success. We look forward to sharing the survey results with you all in the new year, and continuing to work towards greater success in our partner marketing efforts.
If you’d like to discuss further and learn more about IDG’s Global Partner Solutions, connect with me on LinkedIn.