I’ve watched the partner ecosystem expand over my career, from a relatively small collection of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to more than 600,000 partners and at least 9,000 large ISVs who sell through the channel.1
While branded swag such as USBs and t-shirts will grab some initial attention from channel partners at a conference, they won’t hold long-term interest. Partners have a lot of choice when it comes to ISVs, and they want to know that you are an excellent bet for them, able to do more than give out branded baubles. They want to feel confident that your partnership will drive more (and bigger) sales.
You need to show that you bring innovation, capability, and a solid customer base. You must show them what differentiates you, your program, and your technology, so they can continue to see you as a trusted advisor and provider to their customers.
Here are five ways that ISVs can grab (and keep) the attention of the channel and increase their market share.
#1 Get out there and build those digital relationships
“One of the biggest mistakes vendors and distributors make is a ‘field of dreams’ approach where they will (over)invest in internal community tools, figuring that partners will come.”2 Instead, you need to get out there and become part of the communities your partners frequent and build relationships and trust where they already are.
Knowing what partners read, where they visit, and who they follow – and then actively participating in those spaces – improves channel recruitment, communications, and loyalty.
The pandemic increased the use of social media by 490 million users (13.2%), and it continues to grow as a means to build B2B relationships.3 That means the easiest place to start is to create a solid digital executive presence: one that is approachable, knowledgeable, and reliable. People want to do business with people they like and trust.
#2 Ask, listen and adapt
When posting on social media or in communities, don’t make it one-sided. Healthy relationships that grow and last are mutually beneficial. Give your potential partners a way to interact with you and provide a forum to hear what they need, so you can adapt to their changing needs. Consider these conversations a way to learn from them, not just as a means of promoting your company.
#3 Flaunt your niche
Jay McBain of Forrester says, “Channel partners know that to be successful, they need to carve out a niche – whether that be by line of business, by industry (and, increasingly, by subindustry), by size of customer, geographically, technologically, and by business model.”4
Your niche is where you need to focus your marketing efforts. Buyers are looking for a match across all six niches. Knowing where you fit and strategically highlighting your place is critical.
#4 Demonstrate thought leadership
It’s not bragging; it’s educating. It’s not direct brand promotion; it’s providing value to your audience. What do you know that your partners don’t, but should? How can you help them?
Thought leadership involves sharing what you know authentically. Over 80% of the C-suite in an organization say they believe the company seems more trustworthy if it regularly shares its expertise and advice. When searching for a product and solution, people are naturally drawn to established authority in their field.
#5 Ditch marketing speak for real talk
Content creation is king – when it’s valuable to the audience. It’s the era of information overload, and your potential partners’ time and patience are stretched – don’t test either with market-speak. Create assets that are clear, specific and to the point. Get rid of words that may sound cool but convey little meaning or value. A partner can tell if you are respecting their time or wasting it – and only respect builds trust.
The technology industry can easily get bogged down in technical detail and acronyms. If marketers aren’t careful, they can lose the story or the human element when discussing solutions and use cases. It’s important to talk about how people will benefit, since they’re the ones using the technology.
If you can keep it real and make them laugh in a creative, authentic and professional way, that’s a bonus and a terrific way to stick in someone’s memory.
We’d love to help you create a sticky thought leadership campaign. To learn more about creating a strategy that is sure to grab your partners’ attention, grab a virtual coffee with one of our marketing strategists.
1 – According to a conversation I had with Forrester