Top Five Marketing Challenges Independent Software Vendors Face Selling Through the Channel

Whether you’re a behemoth independent software vendor or a small start-up, you face the same marketing challenges in the channel

The art of selling through the channel is changing. There is a decline in traditional resale-style partners as more non-transacting partners enter the market. Selling now leans away from the individual and towards a collective, focusing on selling to and with partners.1

There are an estimated over 600,000 channel partners worldwide2. How do you rise above the white noise and stand out as the partner to partner with? To raise brand awareness and carve out the ideal partner profile to stand out in a crowded channel, you must meet the following challenges head-on.

Here are the top five challenges facing ISVs that want their channel to drive more sales

Challenge #1: Defining the great differentiator

What makes your company and solution unique? Many companies do cloud, data storage, or security – but what’s your secret sauce? And how are they going to make more money with you than with your competitors?

ISVs need to point out a clear path to profitable revenue for potential partners. Surprisingly, two important things are often left out of communications: how a partner can differentiate their services from their competitors by working with your ISV, and how they will make money from partnering with you. Money talks, and in the channel it’s a loud talker – a voice that can be heard over the din of white noise.

In addition to a clear road to more revenue, what else can you offer partners that they can’t get anywhere else? It may not be what you think.

Your great differentiator may not be your solution. It may be your ability to help them stand out. “Some partners rank visibility and community involvement highest on their criteria for partnership, even higher than product, pricing, or margin potential.”3

Challenge #2: Becoming an influencer

According to Jay McBain, Principal Analyst at Forrester, “Most vendors make the mistake of focusing too much on their own communication vehicles inside their domain. Partners continuously point this out to vendors in their advisory councils and repeatedly mark communication and collaboration as top inhibitors to selling more.”4

To effectively find and nourish your channel, you need to know where your perfect partners go online for industry information and thought leadership. What digital personalities do they follow? And what are they reading to stay informed? Then, start showing up with content in those places.

Challenge #3: Achieving total mental domination

The ability to stake a claim on a partner’s mental real estate is your endgame – because once you’re in, it’s easier to remain there. Then it becomes about maintaining and nurturing the relationship. But getting into their thoughts is a bit like climbing Everest.

At the bottom of the mountain, no one knows who your company is or what you do. You have to hike up through the process of developing recognition and then set base camp up at the point of recall. From there, ascension is laborious but worth it, gaining traction on the icy slope of top of mind until you get to the peak – dominant in mind.

After all, people remember the names of those who made it all the way to the top of Everest, not the ones who only made it halfway. Being visible every day will help make the ascent smoother, too.

Just like climbing a mountain peak, a reliance between the guide (Sherpa) and the climber is crucial. There are “gives and gets” for both parties which ties them to one another for mutual success. Make sure you have defined and communicated exactly what each of you are willing to do together. It will make challenge #4 so much easier to overcome.

Challenge #4: Hurdling commitment issues

You want to be in a committed relationship with your channel so that partners come to you with co-sell or partnership opportunities before your competitors. While it’s easy to show your commitment (because you are in control of your side), it isn’t always easy to motivate a partner to share that same level of dedication.

Partner programs, loyalty programs and portals that make their relationship with you better, easier and more rewarding are a significant first step. Ensure that your sales, marketing and technical enablement programs are easy to navigate and provide great value for getting quickly into the market. Build a committed relationship through an online community that gives them a voice.

And one last thing – provide awesome support. Technology rarely works perfectly, and customers and partners will identify new use cases that will stretch your tech in new directions. Ensure your partner is never left holding the bag. Nothing builds loyalty and commitment more than when a partner knows you’ve got their back.

Challenge #5: Getting them marketing for you

Amplify your partnering and co-sell abilities by getting your channel advocating and advertising for you. That’s the dream. But it can be a bit of a nightmare to make that happen. You can offer them marketing money to run campaigns, but how do you ensure those dollars are spent on materials that help your cause?

The primary inhibitor to successful channel marketing used to be money; “today, it is effective content and delivery.” 5 Many marketing avenues are free or cost little compared with traditional media (webinars, podcasts, vodcasts, blogs, tweets, and LinkedIn and Facebook groups). Now the focus must be on keeping content relevant and abundant to drive meaningful partnerships and build and nurture an ISV’s channel.

Reach out and book a 15 or 30-minute virtual coffee with us to talk through your channel challenges – we’d love to hear what you’re facing.

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