Channel partnerships can be a highly effective way for B2B companies to scale their business, increase revenue, and reach new markets. Marketing only enhances your potential to succeed by reaching more prospective partners and supporting your program participants to draw more customers. 

However, not a single advertising dollar should be spent until you have a thorough channel marketing plan in place. Otherwise, your teams will lack a roadmap, potentially leading confused channel partners to misrepresent your brand or misspend marketing resources. You may also struggle to determine whether a campaign was successful in the first place.

This ebook will guide you through the steps of creating a channel marketing plan to attract more partners and use through-partner marketing to reach mutual sales goals.

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Steps to Starting Your Channel Marketing Plan

Identify your target audience – customers or partners

The target audience of your marketing efforts doesn’t always have to be new customers. It could be stakeholders, future employees, or current product users. In the case of your channel program, you may want to market directly to prospective partners.

Each marketing plan should make clear who you’re primarily trying to reach. Take this one step further by creating marketing personas that detail your ideal audience’s demographics, social media usage, goals and pain points, and information sources. These insights guide decisions in regard to both the messaging and medium.

Fine-tune your unique selling proposition as it relates to audiences

Chances are, your company isn’t one in a million. So why should prospects choose you over all other competitors? Make sure you know the answer to this and communicate it clearly; this messaging will act as your compass as you build out your channel marketing plan.

Keep in mind, what would make you stand out to a CTO looking to utilize your services will vastly differ from a potential partner wanting to sell your products in conjunction with their own. Therefore, pinpoint the unique selling proposition for each of the target audiences you’re trying to reach. What pain point of theirs can you solve? What individual goals can you help them achieve?

Pinpoint weaknesses and opportunities to shape your marketing plan’s objectives

Evaluate your sales funnel and business operations to identify specific aims for your campaigns and produced resources. For example, a channel marketing plan designed to raise brand awareness (and generate leads) will look different from one intended to raise the average lead value or upsell current customers.

Assess past marketing efforts to weigh which succeeded and, more importantly, why. Did a sponsored post in a particular publication prompt high-quality traffic? Do your paid social posts consistently generate low engagement? These insights should help set expectations, as well as influence future strategies.

However, steer clear of relying exclusively on the same few “winning” strategies. After all, if you repeatedly promote the same product with the same social influencer, you can expect diminishing returns as you hammer the same audience time and time again. Plus, without experimenting, you don’t open yourself to potentially better strategies or the industry’s natural evolution.

Get the right people involved and make sure they’re on the same page

Marketing and Sales work towards the shared objective of growing revenue and offer complementary insights. Yet a surprising number of B2B companies don’t encourage regular brainstorming between the two teams. Don’t make this mistake!

Opening ideation sessions should include members of both divisions. Sales can speak to the quality of the leads, which audiences convert best, any gaps in content marketing, and their general understanding of customer interests. On the other hand, Marketing can bring forth information about upper funnel KPIs, new promotional opportunities, and messaging best practices.

Your partners themselves should be represented within the decision-making in the following ways:

•  Engagement and conversion-assist data. A PRM like Allbound lets you track content marketing usage amongst different sects of partners. It also shows whether or not this usage indirectly leads to a final sale. Look into which promotional resources are most successful to elevate your channel marketing plan further.

•  Communicate directly with partners. You may be the all-knowing eye in the sky, but partners are your boots on the ground. They can share insights into common follow-up questions from prospects, why they utilize some content more than others, and marketing materials’ general reception from customers.

These viewpoints are valuable regardless, but particularly if coming from partners with a different background or audience than your own. They may be more qualified than your own team to offer marketing intelligence on unfamiliar regions or professional niches.

As a bonus, such conversations can boost partners’ morale and participation. They’re more likely to go above and beyond to promote a channel marketing plan they personally influenced.

Strategize about the messages, mediums, and promotion

Now that you’ve gathered the essential players and determined the general aims, it’s time to put on your thinking gaps!

Keep in mind, a marketing plan is rarely confined to one strategy. Instead, it will be many moving pieces that culminate to achieve a shared purpose. For example, let’s say the goal is to grow the number of channel partners based in the UK. The marketing plan would encapsulate multiple strategies, such as social outreach, web page creation, local PR, and in-person recruitment resources.

Consider the following when determining the individual strategies:

•  At what point of the user journey will individuals interact with which medium? For instance, will the paid social ads be upper-funnel while organic social posts target those who demonstrated preexisting interest? What’s more, how can you address the parts of the user journey in which you currently have no planned communication? Mapping each medium to a different stage of the user flow will help determine the ideal messaging for each. 

•  What are the uniting themes? While individual strategies should cater to the environment and users, it should be cohesive with the overall channel marketing plan. This commonly means shared visual branding, slogans, and primary selling points. 

•  What are competitors up to? Just because a rival company hops on TikTok doesn’t automatically mean you should do the same. But it certainly suggests that it’s an idea worth examining. Treat competitors’ marketing strategies like canaries in a coal mine; you can learn from their successes and steer clear of their pitfalls. 

•  Which strategies take priority in regards to budget and resourcesThis is where the previously mentioned steps can guide your channel marketing plan’s spending allocation. Look to your marketing personas to determine how audiences tend to receive information and what drives their decision-making process. Consider what tactics worked in the past and previous weaknesses that require you to either pivot or solve with improved resources. 

•  What are your plans for distribution and promotion? A common assumption amongst beginner marketers is that good content will automatically bring crowds. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your infographic or product videos may be, no one will see them if they don’t know they exist. 

Build out a detailed plan on how you will raise awareness. Are you writing a press release? Go one step further and create a media list. Will channel partners be the main advocates? Plan how you should draw their attention to the new channel marketing resource and motivate them to promote it.

To spur ideas for resource creation, read Channel Partner Marketing Activities: Tips + Example Strategies and Video Selling: The Newest Trend in B2B Sales Automation.

Set up SMART goals and appropriate tracking

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of SMART goals, a common business tactic designed to make aims quantifiable. In case you’re unfamiliar, know that SMART is short for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based. The following are examples of marketing SMART goals for your channel partners:

•  To grow our email list by 50 new contacts and schedule 10 demos by co-hosting a booth at East Meets West convention.

•  To generate at least 50 UK-based leads by endowing our top 3 UK-based partners with $5,000 to spend on targeted digital advertisements.

•  To lower PPC ads’ cost-per-click by 15% by improving landing pages’ quality score within the next 6 months.

SMART goals enable you to have an objective measurement of success to share with all stakeholders to motivate and lessen ambiguity.

Of course, SMART goals aren’t helpful if you are unable to document primary and secondary metrics. Make sure you have the right data tracking in place, whether through Google Analytics, social media tools, or your channel marketing software.

Don’t focus exclusively on your priority KPIs. If you fail to meet your goals, it’s essential to have access to supporting metrics that further illustrate issues.

Let’s revisit the example SMART goal of having your convention booth attract 50 new email contacts and schedule 10 demos. It would also be helpful to measure the number of people with whom your reps spoke, as well as the total number of convention guests. This data would help you figure out whether you missed the mark because:

a) not enough people attended the conference and your goals were unrealistic

b) your booth failed to draw the attention of casual onlookers

c) your marketing materials or reps’ interactions failed to resonate with people who stopped by

In turn, you will know how to best focus your marketing resources for future conventions (such as a fancier booth versus more training for your reps and partners).

Create a timeline and delegate responsibilities

In Marketing, timelines are too often regarded as loose suggestions rather than non-negotiable. However, this is a reason your team should strive to improve rather than toss timelines aside entirely.

With many projects, there’s a firm launch date. Examples could include a webpage going live to announce product features, a script needed for a scheduled webinar, a press release announcing a new partnership, or print materials for an upcoming convention. In such a case, plan your timeline backward, taking into consideration which milestones are contingent upon others.

Once your channel marketing plan’s timeline is in place, share it with all major and minor participants. This gives partners and teams the opportunity to provide feedback in advance, as well as for them to set aside the necessary time to meet the deadlines. Having everyone agree to the timeline before the kick-off makes them increasingly responsible for fulfilling their obligations, as well as creates a sense of urgency.

Finally, create a succinct system of tracking progress and assign a main point person to hold individual teams accountable (ideally a project manager). 

A Channel Marketing Plan Example to Inspire Your Own

Now, without further ado, we bring you an example of a successful channel marketing plan to spark your own ideas: Adobe’s Magento’s 2019 Journey of a Gift Campaign.

The purpose was to generate leads for eCommerce partners by creating a site optimization guide for digital marketers. Components of the accompanying channel marketing plan included an eBook, landing page, infographics, partner webinar presentation, social media promotion, and email blasts.

As noted by Total Product Marketing, the combined effect of the above marketing resources were 951 downloads and 36% net new names.

Key Takeaways for Creating Your Channel Marketing Plan

If you remember one thing and one thing alone from this eBook, it would be: the more specificity, the better. 

A channel marketing plan outlined with broad strokes leaves too much the different participant’s discretion. You risk misalignment of strategies and teams, as well as vague goals that may not reflect your target audience.

With well-thought-out marketing personas, SMART goals, and timelines, participating team members and partners will clearly understand the expectations and act accordingly.

For additional tips, check out our eBook Must-Have Marketing Strategies for Partner Relationship Management (PRM).