Documented Strategy – An Imperative for Partner Marketing Success
While documented strategy will continue to be an imperative for partner marketing success, tech marketing budgets devoted to partner marketing efforts are expected to increase, according to a 2020 Partner/Alliance Marketing Study, focused on partner marketing activities within the tech industry.
The good news is that partner marketing is recognized by organizations as a necessary marketing tactic providing great value by 62% of respondents. This increases to 67% among respondent who say they have a documented partner marketing strategy, compared with 33% at companies who do not. This translates into investment, with 37% of overall marketing budgets being allocated to partner marketing activities. Sixty-eight percent expect partner marketing spending to increase over the next two years, while 21% expect it to remain stable and only 8% expect to see this level of investment decline.
Budgets are fairly evenly split between in-house efforts (36%), outsourcing (29%), and partner funds (31%).Those who said their organization received no value or were negatively impacted by partner marketing efforts cited a lack of clarity on how to get funds, and poor communication and misaligned goals with partners.
“Partner marketing is certainly not for the faint of heart given the diverse role and responsibilities, and the number of partners and stakeholders this effort encompasses,” said Rick Currier, Sr. Director of Sales, Global Partner Solutions. “The research shows that on average marketers are working with 116 channel partner/resellers, 118 systems integrators, and 155 technology partners – which of course changes significantly by company size. This illustrates why the use of a documented strategy by 82% of respondents allows marketers to stay on track and achieve greater results.”
Goals of Partner Marketing Efforts
Revenue generation is an obvious top objective (38% overall) but interestingly it is much higher for those without a documented strategy – 63% compared to 32% of those who have a documented strategy and who have a broader set of objectives. Additional top objectives include, increased sales engagement/joint selling (32%), generating brand awareness (29%), attracting new customer segments (28%), increasing partner engagement (26%), and demand generation (25%). Tactics used to meet those goals include content development and demand generation (both 40%); followed by events and branding (tied at 32%), and social media and thought leadership (both 30%). Small- and medium-businesses (less than 1,000 employees) place greater emphasis on content development (47%) and social media presence (37%) than their enterprise (1,000+ employees) counterparts.
The top challenges to organizations’ partner marketing success are lack of partner commitment, and too many competing priorities (both 27%), lack of partner marketing expertise (26%), lack of resources, and managing/aligning with partner expectations regarding success measurement (both 22%). When looking at these challenges by title we can see that executive-level respondents are more concerned about partner relations and outcomes as 27% feel that their contact covers too many vendors to provide the focus needed, compared to 12% for their mid-management counterparts; 24% don’t think their partners fully understand their business, compared to 13% for mid-management; and 23% feel there is a lack of commercial success, compared with 12% for mid-management.
Measurement & Metrics
When asked what types of programs have yielded successful results, the top three are thought leadership (78%), branding (76%), and social media presence (73%). However, only 57% of partner marketing programs have ultimately yielded successful results. Looking at how results are being measured, the research shows that they are using an average of four success metrics which means they are looking at their programs holistically and understanding the variety of benefits these tactics can achieve. Topping the list is total revenue generated from programs (53%), followed by increase in number of actual customers (52%), and strong partner relationships (48%). Among those who have a documented strategy, 36% use pipeline as a success measure compared with 60% who do not, and conversely 41% of those with a documented strategy use growth of market share versus 20% who don’t.
Outsourcing partner marketing tactics
With limited resources and the opportunity for stronger results, it is not surprising that 94% will outsource some partner marketing tactics in the next 12 months. These external investments are worthwhile, as 86% agree that working with an outside partner yields better results than their in-house efforts. Areas where outside partners are being brought in are social media services, and campaign and program strategy (both 35%), development of messaging and creative, and events – planning and execution (both 32%), and demand generation (31%).