TechTarget: 6 sensible ideas for companion advertising from the Enterprise Technique Group

While an avant-garde of companies are now investing more in their affiliate programs, many affiliate marketing teams are still struggling with limited resources over ambitious goals.

To gain insight into how partner marketing organizations can improve their strategies, Michael Latchford, VP of Strategic Alliances and Partner Marketing Services, recently spoke to Kevin Rhone, Channel Acceleration Practice Lead at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). Here are a few lessons learned from their conversation.

# 1 – To define sensible milestones for success, make it clear where you are now

Ambitious goals make it especially difficult to show meaningful progress. However, attracting support usually depends on evidence of progress. So you need to have a full understanding of where your affiliate marketing program is today and communicate this to the stakeholders. ESG assists customer and partner marketing teams in this assessment by providing answers to a number of key questions including:

  • Are you winning and retaining the “right” partners?

  • How do you best coordinate ideal partner profiles with target customer segments?

  • How can you increase partner engagement and purse share?

  • Are your partners ready for success in high-growth segments?

  • Could your partners sell more effectively to get higher sales faster?

  • How do your programs compare to competitors (who are recruiting for the same partners)?

The aim of this assessment is to understand the progress made so far and potential areas for improvement. A useful benchmark can be derived from this.

# 2 – Strong and clear value proposition remains fundamental

This may seem obvious, but too many teams invest too little to formulate an affiliate program’s value proposition when they launch. To win the partnerships you need now and over the long term, a program’s value proposition must continue to resonate with potential partners. In ESG’s experience, this means that you focus on the key questions of potential partners. In practice, ESG uses a five-point methodology to help clients develop powerful value propositions, including a number of guiding questions to lay the groundwork:

  • Influence on sales growth – How big is the market opportunity and do our customers want this solution? Is it easy to articulate when selling?

  • Fit and synergy with the partner’s business – How does the solution fit into the business? Is it easy to get this working in our organization?

  • Financial Return – How will this partnership monetize our business? What does it cost to join the partnership and stay in the partnership? What ongoing investments need to be made?

  • Differentiation – How does this partnership differentiate us from other partners with similar competitive solutions?

  • Customer Relationship Extensibility – How can this partnership help support long-term relationships with our own customers?

# 3 – No matter how large your program is, focus on quality rather than quantity

As partnerships become increasingly competitive, building volume can be tempting. However, volume inevitably increases the risk of lower average success as it is difficult to manage consistent value creation on a large scale. Rather than prioritizing a volume target, Kevin recommends focusing on a smaller number of partnerships in program launch mode – even one to three partners. He sees this as a more strategic approach because it allows you to focus more on building a successful value creation model. By keeping the partner numbers manageable early on, you can optimize program elements before you face the additional challenges that come with a larger scope.

# 4 – Keep an eye on the partner landscape as it constantly evolves.

Markets can develop quickly, so it goes without saying that their partners’ preferences will also develop at a similar pace. This also means that a partner program must not remain static, but can adapt to the needs of its constituencies. In order to remain competitive for partners, it is therefore important that partner marketers always keep an eye on the landscape and adapt quickly to changes.

Kevin identified two areas where he is currently seeing notable changes in the partner landscape. The first is the increasing interdependence of providers. They interact more with each other and form alliances for the benefit of the partners. The second is a move away from reliance on the transactional resale model.

# 5 – Notify the customer with a focus on their needs.

While the supplier-partner relationship is similar to other supplier-customer relationships, it is important to remember that there are also major differences. These differences can be seen in the customer-centric message, which is most effective in the programs ESG helps deploy. Kevin strongly cautions against relying on messaging to lead with the solution as it is the responsibility of the customer to understand and differentiate between the offerings directly. This not only complicates the buying process, but also robs a partner of the potential to stand out. The better approach is to clearly address the true interests of customers in terms of the vendor and partner experience. To build customer trust in a particular supplier-partner pairing, you need to show that you understand customers’ problems and that your solution addresses what is important to them. The combined supplier / partner value proposition captured in your message must provide both a business justification and an emotional justification for making a purchase now and making it with you.

# 6 – Preferred content formats are evolving.

Go-to-market teams across all sales models recognize both the importance of good content and the difficulty of producing it. Regardless of the format, the content of your partner marketing program is critical to expediting value realization for partners. In the past, ESG content creation efforts have focused heavily on investing in long-form materials such as white papers. Now there is a growing susceptibility to “snackable content” formats that can be quickly displayed and understood. Formats such as three-minute videos, infographics, and two-sided business justification letters are very effective at attracting potential customers. This is good news for teams with limited resources, as short pieces of content can be easier to create and update.

For more insights from partner marketing experts, check out TechTarget’s Partner Marketing Visionaries webinar series. Contact Michael Latchford to learn more about products and services to support your partner marketing efforts.

Alliance Marketing, Channel and Alliance Partnerships, Channel Marketing, Channel Marketing Strategies, Enterprise Strategy Group, Partner Marketing, Partner Marketing Ecosystems

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