Communications Best Practices for To-Partner Marketing

By: ITA Group
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At their core, channel incentive programs are all about behavior modification. The programs reward partners for pre-determined efforts or desired behaviors aligned with achieving specific business goals, such as highlighting new products, liquidating old inventory, identifying new market opportunities and increasing sales.

However, there’s a catch.

Even the best designed channel programs fall flat if there isn’t an engagement strategy to reinforce program benefits and drive behaviors that impact partner success. To-partner marketing helps shape that engagement strategy. 

To ensure successful program engagement, channel leaders must develop a strategy for each of three to-partner marketing stages: attraction, activation and acceleration. Each phase should build upon the last to drive behaviors, create habits and develop advocates. Effectively communicating throughout the partner journey is the key to building engagement.

graph of channel partner engagement journey

Attract Channel Partners With Clear Program Purpose & Benefits

In the attraction stage, the most important message is the program’s value proposition. Partners need to be able to easily answer: 

  • “What is this program?” 
  • “What am I supposed to do with it?” 
  • “What’s in it for me?”

You need to take the time to understanding the ideal participant and reach them where they are. Marketers frequently state it takes multiple interactions with a brand before a person takes action. Digital marketing experts estimate the average American is exposed to about 6,000–10,000 marketing messages a day, based on past years’ statistics and current trends. 

So how do we reach partners and create meaningful interactions that drive action?

The key to capturing channel partners’ attention is understanding your audience—their work environment, how they engage with technology, how they’re motivated, etc.

Tailor the communications campaign to specific demographics of your target audience to drive results. Gone are the days of exclusive programs that are only available to a select few. Most programs now try to generate interest in key demographics to expand their participation and enrollment efforts, encouraging new partnerships throughout the channel. 

Be sure to keep program names and communications simple. Don’t overlook the importance of an informative name that isn’t overly clever or cute. In general, you don’t want participants to guess what you’re offering them.

While publicly showcasing your program benefits without requiring participants to register might feel risky, keeping benefits secret can be detrimental to growth and success.

We understand that the fear of competition can be paralyzing. You might worry: 

  • “What if my competitor finds out what I’m doing?” 
  • “What if they try to undercut the benefits I offer?”
  • “What if they take all of my ideas?” 

If you’re confident in your product, partners and program, there’s nothing to fear about your competition knowing the benefits you provide. Those not effectively and transparently promoting their channel partner programs are the ones who should be afraid.

Related: Discover 6 Strategies for Channel Partner Engagement & Onboarding Success throughout the partner journey.

Activate Channel Partners With Frequent & Consistent Communication

In the activation stage, consistent communication is critical. Participants need to understand what behaviors drive rewards and results. Take time to train them on how to be successful in your program and reinforce those desired behaviors every step of the way. By providing regular updates and resources, you help partners achieve their goals and grow their business with your products or services. 

Frequency is as important as consistency when communicating your channel program’s message. Brand and program messaging should be threaded through every touchpoint in a relevant, succinct, cohesive and timely way—especially early in the program.

Every touchpoint, no matter how simple or standard, should be intentional, tied to the brand’s tone and integrated with a comprehensive strategy.

Related: Are you missing valuable correlations between certain partner demographics’ behavior and activity? Learn how using the right data for segmentation can push more partners toward greater success.

Accelerate Channel Partner Engagement With Rewards & Recognition

In the acceleration stage, channel partner habits are built and long-term program effects are established. During this stage, ongoing communications should not only define the benefits channel partners receive, but also demonstrate the overall value.

It’s easy to become complacent as desired behaviors become habits, but continued program communications are still important for long-term growth.

At this point, participants likely already understand the benefits and have experienced the value of your channel program, so communications should change accordingly. Focus on elements such as progress-to-goal emails, program notifications and promotional announcements to reinforce audience engagement and performance.

You should also never assume participants are hooked and will never leave the program. Find ways to surprise and delight existing participants, with tactics like branded thank-you kits. Acknowledge their continual growth through marketing tools and resources that allow them to share their success with peers. Make sure they continue to see exceptional levels of support and service. Ideally, partners will experience so much long-lasting growth, and they’ll be so entwined in the program, that it will feel too great a barrier to leave the program. This will take them from just program participants to engaged brand advocates.

Clear Communication Is Key Throughout the Channel Partner Engagement Journey

It’s critically important that your partners know from the beginning what you want them to do and how they can most easily succeed with your products and services. Clear, segmented communications throughout the journey will help you do just that. It allows your brand to break through the noise to reach partners with the right message at the right time. 

Looking for even more actionable partner marketing best practices to implement? Read this article on Weaving Best Practices Into To-Partner, Through-Partner & With-Partner Marketing.

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