Channel Data Management Channel Partner Marketing

Reflections as We Look Ahead to Channel Focus Live 2022

Channel Focus is a leading community providing information to key executives running channel programs in the largest and most innovative IT and Telecom companies. Channel Focus events are recognized throughout the industry by Channel Leaders, bringing together experts to share the latest best practices and “how-to” information – Ansira is proud to be a contributing member of the community.  

Leaders at Ansira gathered virtually to participate in Baptie Channel Focus in April, and we are sharing key takeaways as we begin to plan for the in-person gathering in September. Courtney Acuff (SVP of Marketing & Product Marketing), Laura Cooling-Braasch (AVP of Client Marketing), and Erin Bolton (SVP of Business Development Channel) have all reflected on their experience during April’s event to relay their most important takeaways from the sessions they participated in.  

Developing a State-of-the-Art Collaborative Marketing Program with Your Channel Partners 

This session covered a wide range of topics while continuing to reference the central theme of collaboration, but with a twist.   

Collaboration to you, as the vendor or enterprise client overseeing your distributed sales ecosystem, may be very different than what the word means for your partners. To future-proof a program, it’s crucial to recognize what has changed within the ecosystem over the last few years and to understand the reason for those changes.   

To start, the types of partners have evolved from just transactional to a mix of both transactional and non-transactional. A partner who is working with you to co-create a solution, or to move you into a new market or region based on their customer base or solution verticalization, isn’t going to benefit from a standard program construct. The value benefit of the program must allow for the collaboration needed to successfully partner together to drive growth. The truth is that often, partners are participating in multiple vendor programs at the same time. This is especially true in technology, retail, and CPG verticals. Why does this matter? The program(s) that partners will most engage with are those that align with their goals and objectives for growth of their brand, company, or service/implementation solutions.   

To drive growth, partners are very aware and focused on their own customer experience – an experience that starts with marketing to drive awareness, demand, and revenue for them. The funds, assets, and expert access provided within channel partner marketing programs must now ensure that eligible activities help to further the customer experience of the partner and their end customer. If not, they will co-create, co-market, and co-innovate with the vendors that will support their desired business outcomes.   

And, as these demand-generation marketing programs are running, let the partner own the process for lead qualifying and scoring. It’s a hard thing to let go of, but metrics that measure the bigger picture are more likely to be stronger indicators of success. If partners’ overall pipeline is increasing, if deal reg is on the rise, and if revenue is tending upwards, these are all great indications that your partner program and ecosystem is generating the distributed sales you need to achieve your own bottom-line growth and revenue targets.   

Partner performance metrics – identifying, gathering, and presenting data 

Viewers gained insights on the need for metrics to showcase partner performance, growth, and engagement. Without these metrics, neither you nor your partners will have a deep enough understanding of what is and isn’t working, and growth towards meeting goals will slow. 

The first step in successful partner performance metric monitoring is to identify what KPIs are most important for all parties. The key is to pick 5 KPIs and be consistent in tracking them. Don’t get consumed with presenting too much because you lose relevance. If you can’t defend it, don’t show it. If it’s grey, don’t show it.   

The question is, which KPIs are most important to track? This depends on your maturity curve status with partners. Pick KPIs that are going to show you the progression from marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads, to revenue. Think of a KPI as a dial which drives behavior. Map your journey on how you want to attract customers, and work back from there. This will be different for all companies depending on the business model, so take time to think through what drives behaviors specific to your organization, then stack rank KPIs by importance. Within your organization, all departments have different KPIs they want you to track, which can be overwhelming, so stack ranking is crucial here.  

But what is the best way to share these metrics with partners? Sharing data back out to partners creates a competitive environment between partners, so use data as a carrot to receive actionable data from them in return. You may try rolling data at a regional or sub-regional level, so partners can benchmark themselves and find ways to improve. Keep in mind when sharing that the goal is for this data to help drive partner behaviors. 

Many companies identify as being data-driven, but to be data-driven, you must actionably drive change and optimizations from insights. Dashboards are a great way to share data across internal stakeholders and partners, but do ensure that any dashboard serves as the single source of truth if utilized. Dashboards also provide KPIs that articulate the usage and therefore value of your technology stack, solving a common challenge for channel leads: proving ROI of the technology stack. 

Partner account managers are key to sharing and presenting data to partners, but you must ensure they’re empowered in the ways they share data. Providing partner account managers with a template on how to present data minimizes room for variation, despite data points being interpreted differently person-to-person. Different audiences and personas visualize the data based on their unique perspectives, so we must build out various views constructed for specific needs. 

In summary: 

  1. Map your partner journey and work backwards to identify the most important KPIs to track, housing them in a single source of truth 
  1. Listen – Be mindful of the audience and tailor the data to fit each point-of-view 
  1. Ensure you’re monitoring which internal stakeholders have access to data – partners will want to know if direct salesforce has access, so data protection is key  

 Increasing Engagement with Your Partner Portal   

Channel marketing teams understand that leveraging a partner portal is a critical tool to help support their channel partners and create pipeline growth. Increasing partner engagement on the platform is the primary driver of building a successful partner program and often tied to KPIs for channel teams.   

1. Make it Easy for Partners to Do Business with You  

Give your partners a one-stop shop for everything they need to effortlessly promote and sell your solutions. First, make it simple. Ensure the platform is an intuitive experience when partners navigate through it. Next, be sure to offer comprehensive toolkits and assets along with integrated, turn-key campaigns that include email, social, events-in-a-box, and digital media such as SEO and SEM. Lastly, be sure it seamlessly ties to your incentives – be it funds or rebates. Give your partners a frictionless experience on your platform and they will come back again and again.  

2. Give Your Partners Something of Value

 Partners sell a lot of solutions – not just yours. What are you providing that is uniquely relevant to them? Put the partner first. Bring the strategy that will help partners easily sell your solutions – essentially – do the heavy lifting for your partners. Help your partners connect the dots between your solution and the other solutions and services they sell. Help position your partners as the SME with their buyers and knowledge-sharing industry insights and vision. Help your partners better solution sell by giving them unique incentives that they value. These suggestions all tie directly to what’s most important to the partner.  

3. Self-Service Is Not an Actuality  

This theme, raised by attendees who’ve experienced it personally, was more about the channel teams and less about the partners – yet it still impacts partner engagement. We all know channel teams are notoriously small – very few people are responsible for a whole lot of work! Resources are taxed, and managing the partner platform becomes cumbersome and less of a priority. The promise of a self-service platform for internal teams and partners has not delivered. Instead, channel teams need a dedicated, outsourced team that acts as an extension of their channel resources. The extended team manages the platform and programs on behalf of your channel team and your partners. This fully managed solution is quickly becoming the new path to improved program execution and partner engagement.  

During the event, all areas of Channel Partner Marketing were discussed, yet these major themes resonated the most. Hopefully you find them helpful as you and your team evaluate and evolve your channel partner marketing strategy. We look forward to seeing you, live and in-person, later this year at Channel Focus in California.  


By Courtney Jane Acuff

Courtney is responsible for the go-to-market strategy and execution to support the Ansira brand across owned and paid activities including analyst relations, sponsorships, paid media, owned events, organic channels, and public relations. She's also the former Channel Partner Marketing Solution lead and has a passion for all brands with distributed sales networks.