Partner Marketing: Weaving Best Practices Into To-Partner, Through-Partner & With-Partner Marketing

By: Ellen Linkenhoker
partner marketing communications on desk

Partner marketing is the broad category that includes to-partner marketing, through-partner marketing and with-partner marketing. It’s sometimes executed through the use of Through Channel Marketing Automation (TCMA) technology and services, as well as channel marketers or agencies.

There are plenty of resources on the merits and uses of TCMA technology as well as marketing services, so instead let’s focus on the best practices of using partner marketing effectively. As a quick baseline:

Definition of Partner Marketing

Partner marketing is a specialization within the overall discipline of marketing, focused on communicating value to, through, with and for partners.

Definition of TCMA

Through Channel Marketing Automation is technology that allows vendors to make branded assets and messaging available through readily available on-demand packages sometimes funded by MDF and co-op funds. Sometimes also known as distributed marketing or distributed marketing management (DMM).

1. To-Partner Marketing

When your channel partners are the target audience of your marketing and materials, you’re usually looking to do a few different things:

  • Recruit
  • Onboard
  • Encourage action
  • Explain something
  • Recognize and celebrate
  • Surprise and delight

Crafting the right message for each of these elements in the partner journey takes finesse, clarity, and proper choice of medium. This is traditionally the area that gets the least attention from channel marketing teams—but is usually the area where you can see the biggest and more rewarding impact of your efforts.

To-partner marketing is one of the best ways to increase program participation and has proven time and time again to be the component that will make or break the effort partners put into achieving program outcomes.

Best Practices for To-Partner Marketing

  • Always answer your partners’ WIIFM—what’s in it for me?
  • Be relevant and personalized
  • Don’t add noise—be targeted in what you send
  • Get creative to capture attention
  • Don’t rely on digital mediums alone
  • Amplify and activate your partner influencers
  • Be clear in the goal of the message
  • Solicit feedback regularly

Another great way to break through the noise, stand apart from the crowd, and even garner a little extra attention is through the use of channel partner welcome kits.

Channel Partner Welcome Kits

There are no second chances when making first impressions, so set the tone with a warm welcome for your new partner. Try using a professional partner welcome kit to be proactive in your communication and drive engagement.

What to Include:

Contents of your channel partner welcome kit will vary depending on your solutions and business model. However, it typically includes:

  • Branded box or large envelope
  • Welcome note
  • Celebration gift
  • Onboarding checklist or next steps
  • Partner program overview and benefits by role in program if applicable
  • Instructions for accessing and using your partner portal
  • Engagement element to post or share digitally
  • Thoughtful gifting element that correlates to brand message
examples of channel partner marketing campaign items

Delivering all of this will help you break through the noise and put you at the top of the list for partners. It’s a to-partner engagement element that will be remembered and used long after the arrival. Think of it as one more way to create differentiation for your brand with partners who have choices in who they work with, and an incredible touchpoint in the partner journey.

Other Great Uses for Channel Partner Engagement Kits:

  • Large announcements
  • Win-back efforts
  • Milestone achievements
  • Product launches
  • Influencer strategies
  • Recruitment strategies
  • Training and development
examples of communications for announcements

2. With-Partner Marketing

Channel partner marketing happens when your organization works together with your channel partners to expand marketing reach, boost brand awareness and increase demand. When done right, channel partner marketing enables your organization to build mutually-beneficial partner ecosystems where you can jointly develop effective and powerful marketing campaigns.

Traditional Forms of With-Partner Marketing

  1. Downloadable assets
    Fully branded and tailored to the products and services you work with partners to sell, these assets enable partners to have stronger client and prospect conversations.
  2. Co-branded assets
    Often facilitated by the TCMA technology you’re using, this is a lightly customized version of materials used for prospecting, account maintenance, implementation, etc. Reference your partner journey and customer journey to determine the best places for materials that showcase both your brands.

Best Practice for With-Partner Marketing

Consider offering an area where partners can add more than just a logo; a place they can reference a value prop, current project or special service. 

Concierge Marketing

Concierge marketing is usually reserved for focus or prioritized partners based on market opportunity, growth potential, current benefits within a program, or market entry efforts.

An excellent opportunity to do fully custom or niche campaigns jointly between a vendor and partner organization, concierge marketing can take many forms and is usually executed through an agency who specializes in building campaigns for multiple stakeholders that reach customers with a compelling message.

Concierge marketing is also a great way to spend MDF or co-op funds. Think outside the box and ensure you’re helping with the areas of greatest need.

3. Through-Partner Marketing

This style involves tactics that help vendors communicate their brand message to end customers “through” their channel partners. Essentially, this type of marketing focuses on making it easier for your partners to sell your product or services. Usually you’re helping partners with point-and-click type campaigns that are ready to go with messages and cadences. Think email nurturing campaigns, social media posts and schedules, syndicated content, splash pages, etc.

Best Practices for Through-Partner Marketing:

  • Know what your audiences need
  • Understand if you need to provide the technology or if partner is using theirs
  • Track results and adjust messaging, cadence and inclusions
  • Ensure it sounds like a partner’s message—infused with yours
  • Regularly refresh it
  • Remind partners it’s available to be used
  • Solicit feedback regularly

Now that you understand the types of channel partner marketing and audiences for each, download this white paper to learn about a few of the best practices you can implement to increase partner engagement and foster community

Ellen Linkenhoker
Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen Linkenhoker is the Channel Partner Solutions Lead for ITA Group. She drives the insights, strategy and evolution of the organization’s channel solution while offering advisement for client engagement and incentive programs. She’s worked as a practitioner in technology, software and service companies as part of the channel and as a vendor. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, marketing, incentives and engagement, including pioneering thought leadership on channel partner ecosystems and the partner experience.