The effective communication of the value proposition and the partner program requires a sound communications plan. Communications should be tailored to recognize and appreciate what the partner is contributing today. Partners rarely respond to boilerplate communications marketing that does not recognize their sales histories or map to their future buying intentions. A communications plan typically covers a 12-month period, and the design is usually a team effort led by marketing communications with input from channel management, channel marketing, and product marketing. Recognizing your most valuable partners in your communications is one of the most cost-effective retention activities you can undertake.
As you do your planning, remember the Rule of Seven, which says that a prospective buyer should hear or see your marketing message at least seven times before they buy something from you. While we aren’t talking about customers the concept still applies. It is essential that vendors communicate to their target audiences throughout the lifecycle of the partner program.
Here are the four phases to building an effective partner communications plan. They are:
- Program planning. Work through all of the details of the value proposition and the partner program, gain agreement from your key stakeholders, agree on the key metrics, and keep the team updated on your progress.
- Program pre-launch. To announce the launch of your partner program, consider either a one-time notification or a drip campaign, giving information in small pieces and approaching a “big finish.” While you will want to include information about the upcoming program in your standard partner communications, you may also want to consider a standalone notice to ensure that your information is not missed. Make sure you understand how many of your partners opt out of your standard communications as you make decisions about how to best communicate. Supplement email communications with postings to the most relevant social media sites or even direct mail.
- Program launch. Send communications to both targeted partner managers/business owners and channel sales participants to clearly inform them of the actions and timelines required from all stakeholders. Tailor content to the different audiences—channel account manager, sales representative, and management—to ensure that the messages resonate with what these audiences care most about. The more specific the messaging and call-to-action, the better click-through rates you will achieve.
- Program communications. Your communications plan should detail both system-generated and ad-hoc communications. System-generated communications address items such as updates to users and administrators about status changes and required actions. Ad-hoc communications provide more promotional information about key opportunities within the program (e.g., “time to act”, “grow your business potential”, or “did you know”), as well as team statuses, dates to remember, and other non-system-generated communications.
The following are best communications practices from a “tools” perspective:
- Customizable homepage for access to partner-selected tools
- Improved mobile and tablet portal experience
- Access to the portal via a single, global URL
- Dynamic content, delivering the right content to the right user
- Intuitive navigation
So remember to start communicating early and don’t stop! Provide proactive updates and give your CAMs and partners a reason to stay involved. Incentive programs are about engagement and understanding the What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) concept. Incorporate elements that include social, direct mail, email, company meetings, break room posters, etc.
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