Partner Channel Strategy in 2024

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A sales partner channel might just be the best way to build a B2B business in 2024.  In this article, we explore what a Sales Partner engagement strategy looks like in 2024 in the new era of circular marketing.

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2-Minute read

Ian C Tomlin

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The background

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Sales channels matter more in 2024 B2B brand marketing

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The effectiveness of traditional marketing methods adopted by suppliers to reach their audiences has weakened dramatically in the last 12-months.  What worked in 2022, did not work in 2023 and will not work in 2024.  What, then, does a sales channel marketing plan look like for 2024?   

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“The problem these days is people don’t know how to want the things we make.”  Bill Gates

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Marketing methods that don't work as well as used to

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These are just some of the marketing methods that are showing their age.  Even if they still work, they don't work as well as they used to!

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People used to go to websites and look around. Now, if they don’t get what they want in one hit, they’re gone.  

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If you happen to be a mature brand, you have a reasonable chance of being found online.  For new brands with weak authority, you stand little chance of breaking through to your audience, particularly when you offer leading-edge solutions buyers don't understand.

In April ’22, Google adapted their search engine to focus in on authority and on the essence of search intent. All this, rather than key phrases, etc. This change has killed opportunities for smaller companies that hoped to get visibility on Google. Sure, if you can close in on a long-tail key phrase, then you might score, but the days of not advertising on the web and still getting results from organic SEO are dying fast.

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LinkedIn is swamped with content, thanks to causal marketing and the gift of ChatGPT, making it easy to produce guides and articles – so much so that nobody reads them anymore!

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In the good old days, you could send out emails on mass with an automation tool and hope for a 1 in 10 hit rate. Not today.

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In 2023, hiring an inside salesperson was a sure way to spark interest in what you offer. This ability to ‘have a conversation’ remains a great way to persuade prospects to become buyers. Nevertheless, only 17% of online B2B buyers want to speak to a salesperson (and it’s getting worse). Making an unsolicited call to a mobile phone is no less inappropriate than turning up to your grandmother’s birthday party in nothing but a bow tie!

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Scaling your business success is easier when you have willing and engaged sales channel partners in every micro-market around the world

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What marketing methods to try in 2024

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Here is a list of marketing methods that are proving most successful, or at least are 'on the rise.'  B2B marketing is a forever-changing landscape.  As new technologies and methods emerge they either nurture or act against our humanity and the natural instincts of humans to want to learn and engage in society.

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The traditional face-to-face in all its forms still works!  that said, it's expensive to run face-to-face events... and it limits the geographical expansion of ideas.

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Yep, they still work.

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Brands are in a battle for community awareness and acceptance as an authority source. If you can build a community—or at least get a foot in the door into someone else’s community—it gives you authority to sell.

Community building means thinking about how to make connections, make conversation, build trust and authority, bring value to the community in such a way to encourage reciprocal altruism. Podcasts have become a useful tool for powering discussions in communities, but they aren’t an ending in themselves, and they don’t make a community.

Orchestrating brand equity value in communities is a non-trivial marketing activity that requires expertise and tools unfamiliar to most B2B marketers.

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Word-of-mouth marketing used to be about producing the occasional case study or white paper.

Nowadays, short and snappy reviews and testimonials (particularly video testimonials) have become highly effective ways to establish authority and peer endorsement.

Furthermore, they bring the personality of your business into the limelight online and early in the buying journey. This can result in major gains in the performance of your landing pages and sales outreach campaigns.

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Newsletters have grown up. Not the broadsheet ‘look how clever we are’ stuff, but specific SME and word-of-mouth evidencing slimline versions that inform, raise debate, and bring insights to bear... these are taking off.

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Creating a unique brand signature and then using tools like Dripify and Leaddelta creates a more targeted approach to sales outreach on LinkedIn. It means you can use LinkedIn as a CRM-powered and tag-segmented digital platform. Send permissions-based messages via LinkedIn 25 at a time and remove your email spraying habits to safeguard against GDPR non-compliance.

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Gamification apps are all the rage because they bring entertainment to your audience, although they need some creative marketing ideas to really make these posts work! With gamification, you can ‘make conversation’ with social media contacts, get feedback, and inject curiosity, interest and humour into your communications.

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Generally, website visitors are anonymous and want to stay that way. Given the low use of call-to-action buttons, this has been a problem for marketers. Closed loop marketing is a tactic whereby outreach messages contain a unique URL created for the recipient target, so their interests, content usage, page movements and other habits can be tracked. This can result in a targeted alert for salespeople to follow up promptly allowing them to pick up on prospect curiosity.

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To motivate website visitors to act, you need to gift them some of your customer value. While this is a clever tactic to expose your product, knowledge and authority, there is always a risk that they will take this gift and run! The solution is to construct a conversational path that includes a gift of value followed by another incentive that rewards the website visitor to offer up their contact details to you.

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Your audience wants ‘paying’ for doing something good for you; like returning to your app or referring a friend. Micro rewards bring motivational value to online campaigns and have become increasingly easier to implement.

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You can gain a first-mover advantage if you are prepared to gift some value in the form of agreeing to do some pre-sales exploratory work before you sell your product or service. Tomlin & Co’s Keiretsu co-creation network is an example of a go-to-market initiative to create co-creation opportunities for businesses that see a win-win from working on co- ideation and co-creation projects.

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Believe it or not, your customers do look for innovation, but it must be on their terms. One opportunity is to work through a third-party service provider able to provide a turnkey SME presentation service. This allows you to pick your topics and have a third party organise curated intimate SME led event programs. The sorting out the SMEs from their networks. This is what Tomlin & Co.’s Co.Event service is all about.

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Building a community of sales partners requires a circular marketing approach that grows goodwill in your brand over time

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Top tips for making your partner channel a more powerful marketing weapon in 2024

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These are some of the initiatives we are currently working on with our clients:

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Focus on a scorecard-styled sales channel performance system

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Create a scorecard of partner performance to drive your sales channel development.  This should include automation of Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) and offer collaborative tools and self-service scorecards so that account management overheads are minimized and partners are encouraged to drive more sales by understanding their opportunity every month.  Most QBR systems today offer up report data to partners 'after the event' which means it's too late for them to do anything about it!  This approach is useless if you want to sign-post opportunity.

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Adopt a community hub for channel partners

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Implement a focus group oriented digital community platform.  This should be profession and specialty focused, and segmented into topic areas so that participants find content and educational materials most relevant to their own interests.  Designing and running a community-of-interest is a full time job and requires a deep understanding of (a) how communities work and (b) how to bring value to participants.

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Run Subject Matter Led Events 

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Work with a third-party (like Newton Day!) to run subject-matter expert led events that drive value and interest in your capability.   Running events is (also) a full-time job for someone... better it to be an expert outside agency rather than distract your own marketing and sales team!  We always recommend you run events in groups of three.  This means your audience sees a progression of activities, not just a single event on the roster.  We see more positive engagement from audiences when businesses adopt a 'program series' rather than 'one off' approach.

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Build a Micro-Rewards Program 

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If you want to engage an external community of partners, you will need to give some thought to how you reward positive habits and behaviors.  There are a number of options you can consider, from Starbucks cards to points-based reward systems, corporate cards, gift cards and personal white-label debit cards!

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Run Virtual Conferences  

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Solutions like remo.co are revolutionizing the potential of online virtual conferencing ... with floor-plans, breakout rooms, sponsorship opportunities and many other tools that bring engagement, participation and conversation into running events.  While these solutions are not cheap, they are more cost effective than face-to-face meetings, and more impactful than 'chalk and talk' webinars.

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Ian Tomlin is a marketer, entrepreneur, business leader and management consultant. His passion is to help make great ideas happen. Relentlessly optimistic about the potential of technology for good, Ian’s 30+ year career has focused around the intersect of strategy, technology and marketing. He writes on subjects including enterprise computing and organizational design. He also works as a consultant and advisor to the executive teams of PrinSIX Technologies, Answer Pay and INTNT.AI, helping to rethink their marketing in order to tell their brand story.

Ian has founded a series of successful businesses including NDMC Ltd (2003), Encanvas (2006), and Newton Day Ltd (2019). He has written books, articles and guides on brand, digital transformation, enterprise applications, data science, workforce management, and organizational design. He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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(Click the little red button to get started)

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Discover why Newton Day is one of the fastest growing B2B marketing companies

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