B2B Articles - February 22, 2023
By Chantel Hall, Content Specialist, and Arielle Ru, Associate Director of Growth Strategy
In B2B marketing, where sales cycles are longer and more touchpoints are required for a successful sale, referrals can help companies shorten their sales cycle and generate more qualified leads. Referrals from partner companies are especially valuable; these leads are typically closer to a purchasing decision and more likely to convert, so many companies prioritize building relationships with partners who can refer their customers.
Partner marketing is the practice of marketing your company to business partners who provide referrals to your business. Partner marketing helps businesses stay top-of-mind for salespeople when they encounter a lead or customer who would benefit from a referral. It provides an opportunity to stand out from other partners. When you can build relationships with the salespeople working for your partners, you can differentiate your product with educational content and incentives.
Partner marketing is typically centered around:
Partner marketing is often utilized by companies that provide a product or service complementary to their partners' products. For example, imagine you’re a software salesperson trying to close a deal with a lead. As part of their purchase, the prospect wants onsite implementation and support in a part of the country your company doesn’t service.
However, there are a few IT services partners in the area that can handle the onsite part of the implementation. One of those companies invited you to a virtual event a few months ago where they announced their new incentive program, which you would be eligible for if you referred this potential client. You call them, talk through the situation, and find out they can provide the implementation and support your lead wants. You close the deal with your lead and get a bonus from the IT services partner in addition to your regular commission.
Because the IT services company invested in partner marketing, they were able to stay top of mind for the salesperson and get the salesperson to call them before reaching out to any other partners.
This example shows how partner marketing can deliver benefits to everyone involved:
Marketers can use many digital marketing strategies to connect with buyers in partner marketing. With the right messaging and strategy, you can stay top-of-mind and encourage salespeople to refer qualified, high-intent leads.
Incentives are often central to a partner marketing program. Whether you're competing with other companies your partners work with who provide a similar product or just trying to keep salespeople interested in working with you, incentives encourage your partners to direct their hard-earned customers to you. When developing a partner marketing program, communicate your incentives clearly and help salespeople understand why they should choose you.
Financial incentives are some of the most common incentives offered, and they can be highly attractive to salespeople, who often work on commission. You might offer them a percentage of any sale to a buyer they refer to you or a flat fee for any qualified referral. Financial incentives could also include free trips or gift cards for salespeople who refer a certain amount of business.
While financial incentives are standard in partner marketing, recognizing partners or individuals with awards can have the same effect and help you build closer relationships. Holding a special event and awarding partners or individual salespeople who refer their customers to you allows you to show appreciation and encourage them to continue referring their clients to you.
Finding a way to help partners or their salespeople can be just as incentivizing as a commission or an award. This type of incentive could include providing them access to training, courses, or events or even free or upgraded access to your product in exchange for referrals. Positioning yourself as a partner invested in their success can help you stand out from other partners they may have.
Account-based marketing (ABM) is a popular B2B marketing strategy where marketers target key leads from specific companies with ads, email nurtures, and other marketing assets. Marketers can also use ABM to target salespeople from your partner companies and encourage them to direct interested customers to you.
Advertising to partners on LinkedIn, Facebook, and even Twitter can help you stay top-of-mind. ABM ads should be highly customized to the partner you're targeting. Your ads might focus on the incentives you provide, how your product or service can help them improve their customer's experience, or educating them on your products. Similar to a buyer campaign, these ads can link to a page where they can learn more and contact your partner marketing team.
Search ads are another strong channel for targeting partners. You can place PPC ads at the top of relevant search engine results pages to engage partners and salespeople and encourage them to visit your website. Just like with your leads, you can target partner salespeople using search ads around specific keywords.
Banner ads, video ads, rich media ads, and interstitial ads can help you educate and engage your partners, helping you stay top-of-mind and encouraging partners to refer their clients to you. Display ads can be highly targeted, and because of Google's vast Display Network, you can easily place your ads on millions of sites. This combination of targeting and reach makes them an ideal channel for reaching partners.
Email marketing is a more direct, personal way to interact with partners and allows you to keep a direct line of communication open with salespeople.
A huge benefit of email is the ability to automate workflows for different situations. For example, if a new salesperson starts with one of your partners, you can drop them into an automated workflow that sends emails introducing your company, educating the new salesperson about your product or service, and telling them about the incentives you offer for referrals. Automated workflows will help you make your partner marketing efforts scalable and allow you to test different strategies over time.
One-on-one conversations with salespeople are also an excellent channel for developing relationships and ensuring you stay top-of-mind for them. Whether answering a question for them, thanking them for a recent referral, or just touching base with them to maintain contact, a one-on-one email can show a salesperson you value them as a partner.
Keeping your partners updated on new products or services, features, or incentives is another way to use email for connecting with partners and salespeople. In newsletters or update emails, you can tell partners about new products that might benefit their customers, highlight specific partners or salespeople who have provided exceptional referrals, or direct readers to new training or education resources for them or their customers.
Partner marketing events are what many marketers and salespeople think of when they talk about partner marketing: schmoozing with salespeople at a fancy restaurant or taking them out for a round of golf usually comes to mind. And while those events are still helpful, digital tools allow marketers to expand these events to include people nationwide and worldwide.
In-person events present an opportunity to talk with salespeople one-on-one, develop a personal relationship, and get to know them better. Whether you're having lunch, taking a group out for a fun activity, or holding a session at an industry conference, the power of meeting in person and developing that personal connection can help you get more referrals from those partners.
Many businesses have continued embracing digital events even as many people return to the office and in-person meetings. They're often cheaper, easier to organize, and allow you to extend invitations to more people in more places.
These benefits extend to partner marketing events, whether you're holding educational webinars, product demos, or Q&A sessions. You can also record digital events and reuse them as educational assets for future partner marketing efforts.
Like with buyers, educating and engaging partners with targeted, personalized content can help you push them toward taking the desired action. Content marketing for partners can help you achieve different goals.
Much of your partner marketing content will likely be educational for salespeople. You want to ensure they understand your product or services and your value proposition so that they can effectively and confidently recommend your product — and recommend it to the right customers.
You can also use educational content to demonstrate the difference between you and your competitors. Comparing incentives, benefits, and buyer outcomes can help you stand out to your partners and encourage them to refer customers to you instead of your competitors.
In addition to educating partners, your content marketing can also educate potential referrals. Providing content that briefs partners on your value proposition, positive outcomes, and technical information can help you ensure they use the correct messaging when referring your company to their leads. It can also help to ensure partner salespeople aren’t making promises your company can’t keep or referring unqualified leads.
Partner marketing can be a strong source of revenue. By repurposing some of the marketing strategies you likely already have in place, you can start building relationships with your partners and their salespeople and take advantage of the high-intent, qualified leads that partner referrals often net.
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