Ah, the channel recruitment strategy — it is no different from a demand generation or marketing strategy and no matter how big or small a channel is, it has been the answer to gaining competitive advantages that ultimately lead to revenue and company growth. More and more service-based businesses are looking for new ways to strengthen and expand their business and revenue and some clients are realizing that a lot of new partners are not performing as well as they anticipated — raising awareness to find out how to recruit the right type of partners.

According to SiriusDecisions, if a partner doesn’t start to market and sell your offering within the first 90 days of recruitment, it’s highly likely that they never will. As marketers, we see that channel program messaging and strategy is changing and just “selling” to existing and potential partners isn’t working anymore — it’s about being supportive and catering to the specific needs and goals of each partner just as you would a customer while staying true to strategic initiatives. And the secret lies within building a foundational channel partner ecosystem and having a clear vision of what winning looks like.

Here are five tips for recruiting the right partners for your organization to transform your channel management and sales and more importantly, channel partner relationships.

Tip 1: Understand who your perfect partner is

This starts with revisiting your ideal partner profile (IPP). Channel managers should always ensure that potential and existing partners are meeting pre-determined high-level standards — cultural fit, strategic fit, and operational fit — and that they’re able to grow with you and help expand your product or services. To successfully compare current and potential partners to your existing IPP to see where they match up or fall short, use a quantitative methodology and an objective profiling team to score key attributes:

  • Growth rate and business size
  • Sales and financial alignment
  • Operational style
  • Vertical market expertise
  • Specializations and certifications
  • Service capabilities
  • Demand generation processes

Tip 2: Create a strong reputation for your partner-facing content

The process for finding the right partners is no different than the process for finding the right customers — content still reigns king in both demand generation and channel recruitment. And account-based marketing (ABM) strategies are working for really targeted campaigns while traditional demand generation strategies are working for broad-based campaigns. Take a look at what your current campaigns look like and understand how each comes into play with messaging and audience and if it addresses the needs and goals of your current or ideal partners. Nurture existing and potential partners to keep them engaged and enabled:

  • Use overarching themes to address “burning” pain points and needs and focus on common goals
  • Create a more diverse environment of solutions — offerings should be personalized to particular partner audiences
  • Enforce a customer-centric approach to the partner experience
  • Communicate a foundation for partner and business growth

Tip 3: Simplify partner onboarding and tiers

Poor onboarding and uninspiring program tiers can leave your partners questioning your relationship before it even begins. Maximize ongoing engagement and productivity by employing a structured, simple yet comprehensive onboarding process that starts shortly after an agreement is signed. It’s all about being supportive to your partners, maintaining and leveraging the partnership momentum, and incentivizing and rewarding high-performing partners:

  • Automate and create mobile-friendly application processes, current contracts, and program documents
  • Assign onboarding process ownership
  • Establish best practices for partner management and classification
  • Tier partner networks based on performance, product or service, industry, market share, or geography

Tip 4: Take a long-term approach to the partner recruitment journey

Much like a buyer’s journey, the partner’s journey is also made up of three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision; however, while customers and prospects have access to content and company information that’s readily available on a website, partner-facing content, and vendor information may be more restricted for exclusive access. In order to ensure that potential partners have all the information needed to decide whether they should reach out to your company or not, content, contact information, and online interactions should be relevant and helpful, not interruptive or salesy, and inform potential partners throughout their recruitment journey. As a well-suited vendor and partner, think about the partner recruitment process as an inbound sales process:

  • Drive awareness through digital channels such as social media and blogs
  • Impact the consideration phase by using gated content such as ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, and more on partner-facing landing pages
  • Create a strategy for after the “close” by moving them through a nurture that not only educates but keeps them engaged and enabled to act on your partnership
  • Highlight specific verticals or horizontal use cases that potential partners would benefit from
  • Go after your partners’ white space — leverage your company’s high-value offerings that can help strengthen and complement a partner’s offerings

Tip 5: Build a partner program that enables your partners to succeed

Increase partner satisfaction, retention, and performance levels by creating strategic and meaningful partner experiences. Define partner and sales initiatives that are scalable and will align across your organization as a whole to provide visibility and accountability. Although a high performing partner program does require an investment of time and resources, implementing these best practices will fully pay for itself in the long run through future sales:

  • Enact outcome planning and stakeholder outreach
  • Streamlined community resource center and dashboard
  • Real-time reports and support
  • Easily accessible MDF
  • Benefits and incentives programs; requirements for training
  • Useful and actionable marketing assets

A strong partner recruitment strategy will ultimately contribute to your organization’s revenue growth. The key is knowing your budget inside and out such as cost-per-acquisition and identifying where your digital watering holes are. Find where existing and potential partners are spending their time online and plan to implement a strong nurture to keep partners engaged and motivated. Successful organizations understand that partners are much like clients — they respond well to long-term relationship building that caters to their needs and goals. High performing channel marketing strategies are progressing, and Unreal Digital Group can help your company stay competitive in an ever-changing market.

Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more about channel marketing, trends, and other ways to connect with and grow your partner network. And, be sure to follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook so you don’t miss out on additional strategies and insights.