From Strategy to Tactics: A Look at Partner Marketing Programs

Over the last few years many manufacturers have revamped their partner marketing programs – particularly co-op advertising and market development funds — to create more accountability. What are the

program objectives? Projected and realized results? Activity or utilization levels? Most importantly what was the return on investment? Some manufacturers have even replaced the traditional “entitlement” approach to funding these programs to one based on the merit of partner proposals.

Despite these efforts many partner marketing programs still fail to deliver on the strategic goals of the firm. The problem is one of translating strategy into tactics.

On the strategy side, planners may not have defined or properly communicated strategic targets to channel program managers. Strategic targets should include:

• Prioritized market segments – by size, growth rate, accessability, profitability, etc.
• Titles – who are the actual decision-makers, influencers, etc.
• Prioritized products including services, bundles, etc.
• Timing – relative to product introductions, marketing campaigns, etc.
• Partner types – what size or type of partner is the manufacturer betting on for the future? What type of partner is a best fit for targeted customer segments, titles, products, etc.
• Brand – what message does the company want to spread through partner-led campaigns

On the tactical side, channel program managers need to understand the strategic targets and make sure they are reflected in the partners’ marketing efforts. One way to do this is through the aforementioned proposal approach. This gives the manufacturer an advance look at the partners’ marketing initiatives and an opportunity to realign them, as needed, with strategic targets. A second, complementary way to do this is through the annual partner business plan process. The planning template should include a section on quarterly partner marketing initiatives. Channel account managers need to review their partners’ overall marketing approach (separately from specific proposals) to make sure it is aligned with the manufacturers strategic targets.

The final strategic component of a successful partner marketing programs is governance. Governance falls on the shoulders of the CMO or marketing director. They must take the lead in coordinating a diverse set of internal and external (resellers, alliance partners and marketing agencies) players to deliver on the firm’s strategic objectives.


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