But how do businesses find that optimal channel partner? Channel partner programs are a lot of work, so businesses need to make sure they’re getting maximum value out of these relationships. (And of course the same is true for channel partners—they want to work with businesses that make sense to them.)
Enter account based marketing.
ABM works just as well for marketing to potential channel partners as it does for companies’ outbound marketing. (And we know it works really well for outbound marketing: 87 percent of marketers feel ABM provides greater ROI than traditional methods, according to the ITSMA and ABM Leadership Alliance Account-Based Marketing July 2017 Benchmarking Survey.)
The beauty in ABM for channel partner marketing is that companies of all sizes can use it whether they’re just starting their channel partner strategy or they already have a full-blown channel partner program running. In both scenarios—and everywhere in between—there’s a set of unfound partners that companies want in their networks. ABM will help identify and acquire those partners.
So how do companies use ABM to market to potential channel partners?
- Create a target account list
While this might not initially sound like a revolutionary piece of advice, the way companies approach a targeted account list for ABM could be revolutionary. There’s no short cut here—no buying of lists, no revival of lists from 1982, no copying and pasting of a different department’s list.
This list will take thought and research, and it starts with answering a few key questions: What are you looking for in a channel partner? How do you want to structure the relationship? What gap in your business strategy do you need filled? How do you want your partner to impact your own brand? Companies will likely identify other questions whose answers are crucial to identifying their ideal channel partners.
The key here is to winnow down potential targets to those that squarely hit the bull’s eye. Each company’s resulting list will vary in size and scope. But the end goal is not to create a big list just for the sake of size. The success of ABM does not hinge on list size.
- Identify your own value proposition
This step could also be known as “what’s fair is fair.” After companies identify what makes up their ideal channel partner, they need to explain why channel partners should want to do business with them. In other words, what’s in it for the partners?
There’s no one answer here. All companies will have their own unique value propositions. The ABM answer is: Tailor your value proposition to your target account list. One of the many advantages of creating a pared-down target account list that includes only perfect fits is that a company’s value proposition can speak almost directly to them. Language doesn’t have to be sweeping and vague to blanket a wide swath of “maybe” targets.
- Surround them with marketing.
At this point, companies have gotten through the tough work, identifying potential relationships with channel partners that would be both mutually beneficial and business smart. Now’s the time for companies to ask, “How do we get in front of them?”
Again, there’s no monolithic answer here. The marketing campaign will likely integrate a variety of tools, channels and tactics that marketers are familiar with – from digital ads to website personalization, direct mail, events and beyond. The difference here from an integrated marketing campaign that doesn’t use ABM is that companies are marketing to potential channel partners that, by every indication, will likely be interested in a partnership. Targets will probably still need to be warmed up—a cold call right off the bat might not be the way to go – but a productive interaction is just around the corner once a company gets in front of its targets.
Ideally this is the beginning of new and successful channel partner relationships. But guess what? The work is not yet done. It’d be a missed opportunity not to take this a step further to discuss how companies and their channel partners can use ABM together to meet their collective goals, and we’ll explore that in a future article.