Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek /
For many channel partners, their entire marketing strategy is based on hosting events. Steakhouse dinners, golf outings, and sporting events account for the majority of their "marketing" activity. There are at least two ways to evaluate this approach. From an optimistic point of view, the events can be looked as a fun way to engage prospects. From a more pessimistic point of view, these events can be seen as a huge waste of money and time on an unqualified audience.
Whichever side you sit on, these events don't support scalable growth because of several fundamental flaws:
- COST - The cost per attendee for a single event is at least $50 but often $100 or greater. For a well-qualified attendee who has already demonstrated interest and commitment to your proposed solution, the cost may be well worth it because the event may be the final step in a lengthy sales process. But quite often, these events are being used as the first step in the sales process. Would you take a blind date to Ruth's Chris Steak House? That's effectively what partners are doing. And the conversion rate - the percentage of attendees who turn into opportunities, is very low.
- QUALIFICATIONS - If no marketing activity precedes the event invitation, then you have no indication of whether or not the invitee is a serious buyer or not. Most people would endure whatever pitch the channel partner will subject them to in order to enjoy a nice steak or to see a sporting event from a luxury suite. By using an Inbound Marketing approach that attracts leads with compelling content that is delivered through a system that tracks their responses, a prospect's Digital Body Language can be recorded. Channel partners can put the right next steps in front of a prospect when they notice they are ready. Once qualified, a face to face event can be a very compelling step forward for the prospect.
- LEARNING vs ENTERTAINMENT - A fundamental premise of taking an Inbound Sales approach is that "those who teach earn the right to sell". When channel partners host a dinner, golf, or sporting event, there's very little learning taking place. It's almost 100% entertainment, which is fine, once it's been earned. Even if the host tries to make a pitch at a steakhouse or sporting event, the audience will usually tune them out as they anticipate the delicious and fun activities to come. Events that follow a "tips and tricks" format or a "lunch and learn" format are much more conducive to learning because there are fewer distractions and the attendees have come to learn. Learning events are a great activity to support the Learning or Shopping stages of the Buyer's Journey. Fun events belong in the Buying or Delight stages of the Buyer's Journey when they can be used as a tool to affirm decisions and build relationships.
So if events shouldn't be the only marketing activity a channel partner delivers, what's the recommended marketing mix?
A Complete Marketing Mix
An always-on approach to marketing that presents content in a variety of formats for buyers is the best practice that many companies find successful. The goal with this plan is to reach as many potential buyers as possible. In-person events only reach local people. A scalable digital marketing approach can reach buyers wherever they are in the world.
Each and every month, every channel partner should:
- Publish one content offer, like an eBook, whitepaper, or some other learning-oriented content.
- Write a 400-500 word blog article about the content offer, talking about the types of problems or questions people have that the content offer will help with. This approach builds interest in the offer and will compel readers to fill out a form and submit their information to receive the offer.
- Email either the full house database or the appropriate roles and personas in the database to promote the blog article and offer.
- Schedule and publish social media messages throughout the month to promote the offer and the blog article. One post when content is published isn't enough. Repetition is key to driving engagement.
Once this marketing mix has been established and a list of interested leads has been developed, then events may make sense, starting with learning-oriented events. See the image here for a visual representation of the recommended marketing mix.
For channel partners to achieve this marketing mix and for them to maintain the recommended consistency, they typically need help from their brand partners in two key areas:
- CONTENT - Channel partners don't typically create enough of their own content so this need can typically be filled by re-purposing content you already have. You can also consider third-party content like industry reports or content you create specifically for through-partner use.
- AUTOMATION - To publish this volume of content, automated tools make life easier and help channel partners achieve consistency by spending about thirty minutes a month on marketing. Channel marketing automation tools can be used to reduce the friction typically associated with producing landing pages, emails, and social posts.
By using this approach, you and your channel partners can drive down the cost of leads by leveraging low-cost, highly scalable digital marketing tactics to attract leads. As leads engage with more and more content, their Digital Body Language will indicate when they're ready for the next step, thus helping to address the need for better qualification of leads in the sales process. And by leading with learning, partners will pave the way for a sales process that is helpful and in line with the expectations of modern buyers.
The hardest part of making this change with your channel partners is that the events they hold today are pretty fun and everything else I've recommended is less fun. But the fun will come back into the mix, when the time is right.
Want to learn more about what content we recommend for through-partner marketing campaigns? Check out our eBook, "What's in a Channel Marketing Bill of Materials?".