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Product Marketing is a Key Voice on Channel Strategy

Sridhar Ramanathan

By sridhar ramanathan
Posted on February 2013 in Product Marketing

We’re seeing more and more just how important it is that the VP of Marketing and her product marketing team speak up on their company’s channel strategy.  In fact, we’re getting asked a lot these days by the VP of Sales or Marketing to facilitate a channel strategy and operational planning session with senior management in order to ensure the product strategy fully takes into account what’s needed by the channel to move the product through and with channel partners.  Very often it’s the other way around.  Product folks nearly finish the product then toss it over the fence to sales and marketing to go sell it through the channel.  The risk of the latter is a product that is not remotely designed to be successful in the channel, and deeply lacking in investment in all the other areas essential to channel effectiveness.

Here’s a quick check list for Product Marketing folks to evaluate the comprehensiveness of your channel investments beyond product feature set necessary to drive significant revenue outside of your direct sales teams.

  • Business proposition & messaging
  • Goal setting
  • Margins
  • Sales incentives
  • Sales enablement tools & teams
  • Customer collateral
  • Partner portal
  • Software Developers Kit (SDK)
  • Market Development Funds (MDF)
  • Pre-sales support & mentorship
  • Pre-sales technical support
  • Post-sales support
  • Training and education
  • Certification
  • Lead gen events
  • Performance tracking & management
  • Promotions
  • Partner Advisory Board

In coming blog posts, I’ll go through these in more depth but let’s pick off the first one – Business Proposition and Messaging.

Product Marketing should provide input into the business proposition and messaging that are aimed are attracting new channel partners.  Here’s an example of a business proposition that’s working well for one of our clients:  “As a [xyz product] reseller, you can engage your customers in a whole new conversation about the emerging threats and risks of consumer-grade online file sharing. With product xyz, you can offer a professional-grade alternative that delivers the security, control, and visibility they need. This can open up new margin opportunities and a recurring revenue stream, while reinforcing your role as an IT cloud expert and trusted partner.”

Contrast that with other business proposition messaging that you might see from, say, IBM to its channel partners reselling Rational:  “IBM provides Rational benefits and resources to help you with all phases of product development and support.”  Which of these two statements do you think would be more compelling to a reseller that makes money by leveraging services to software licenses at a ratio of, say, 5:1 or 10:1?

So we recommend channel partner business propositions answer the question “why you should partner with us?”  And a good indicator of robust messaging is a proposition that covers these elements:

  • Market growth—unique market opportunity yielding new business via net new customers, upsells, new geographies, and new offerings
  • Financial attractiveness – margin/profitability, incremental revenue, low selling costs, leveraged marketing $, discounts
  • Differentiation—exclusive access to technology & expertise
  • Partnership backing—lifecycle support from marketing to sales to support
  • Ease of doing business – leads/referrals, short sales cycle, ordering, provisioning

We’d love to hear your own stories of what works well and not so well when it comes to attracting and motivating your channel partners.