Let’s talk about technology co-marketing
The sales cycle for an enterprise technology sale is one of the most unique sales cycles in the world. It’s often (always) a big ticket purchase, requiring multiple levels of signoff, complex decision making, and a long time to get through procurement.
What’s more, the way enterprise technology is implemented is often different to other big ticket enterprise purchases. A significant reason for this is that the technology is only part of the solution for the business problem – not the whole shebang. A new machine for a factory solves a problem the business has identified as soon as it’s installed and the team have been trained – technology is often different.
This has required enterprise technology to be sold alongside consulting services for decades – and has created an interesting ecosystem of vendors, partners and consultants.
From a technology vendor perspective, this has meant that a significant portion of their sales are conducted by third parties – leaving the vendor’s sales targets in these consultancies’ hands.
This has been a strong driver for the enterprise technology vendors’ investment in partnership programmes, a key component of which is co-marketing.
What is co-marketing, and how can partners use it successfully to drive results for their business (and their technology vendor partner)?
What is co-marketing?
The definition of co-marketing is pretty simple: it’s multiple organisations with different distribution channels collaborating on marketing efforts for the greater good of all involved.
Let’s break this down from a technology co-marketing perspective:
- Multiple organisations: generally the technology vendor, working with the partner – either a reseller, consultancy, or business adding value to existing IP
- Different distribution channels:the partner often has a value proposition that is specific to a very defined part of the market – a specific vertical, or a specific skillset. In many cases, the vendor has a pretty weak direct distribution function
- Collaborating on marketing efforts:the co-marketing campaign needs to support the strategic and tactical focuses of everyone participating
- For the greater good:let’s face it, this is about revenue – the vendor invests in this activity to drive sales which they don’t have the capability to drive themselves (not to give everyone a nice little brand cuddle)
This last point is really important – vendors who run these co-marketing programmes are really only interested in generating demand ($$$) to hit their targets, so if you’re using co-marketing funds, you always have to remember what is at the top of mind.
How does co-marketing work?
There are a number of ways co-marketing programmes work, all with the same purpose – driving demand. Often, the type of co-marketing depends on the level of partnership the partner and the vendor have – a lower tier generally equals less access.
Here are a few ways that co-marketing can work:
Often the most popular way of managing co-marketing programmes, especially from the partner point of view. This enables the partner to invest in activites that suit them, and provide evidence of performance to the vendor. Co-marketing funds can be used for a wide range of activity, from telemarketing to events to digital campaigns.
This money is often available at 50:50 funding, meaning the vendor and the partner each contribute half, with the vendor’s funding rebated at the conclusion of the activity.
Vendor driven activity
Some vendors will run campaigns on behalf of their smaller partners – driving economies of scale for popular, higher volume products. These campaigns are often delivered by the vendor’s agency, and can be highly beneficial to smaller partners participating. However, for partners with a defined message, they can dilute their core proposition.
Pre-built, co-branded campaigns
Many vendors make existing digital assets available to their partners, giving them a “campaign-in-a-box” that can be deployed relatively quickly and easily. While these are often a great starting point for a high-performing campaign, they often need a bit of finessing to get them into go-live shape.
Co-sponsored events & conferences
Conferences and events can be great sources of leads for partners, so vendors are often willing to jump in and help fund attendance. While they can be great, they need an effective action plan – especially post event, to ensure the conversations become opportunities.
There are plenty of other co-marketing options out there – talk to your vendors to understand what options they offer.
There’s one more thing to be aware of:
Co-marketing campaigns are great, but there is a beast lurking – the administration of the budgets and the opportunities. This can be an organisation’s biggest roadblock in getting a claim paid, and unpaid claims can have a disastrous and unplanned effect on cashflow.
Often, this lack of confidence in the administration can hold an organization back from using any co-marketing funds, so it makes sense to engage a marketing specialist that has the systems, knowledge and experience to make this admin a breeze.
What do I need to do to begin co-marketing?
Running co-marketing campaigns is often closer than you think – it just requires a couple of boxes to be ticked, and a clear plan. Here are the four things you need to get started:
1. A partnership relationship
This one’s pretty obvious – you need a partnership relationship with a vendor that offers co-marketing support. If you don’t have one now, you may find that there’s one out there that fits your needs and is relatively accessible.
2. A growth strategy
Successful co-marketing is always part of a wider growth strategy. This strategy pulls together your organisation’s overall growth objectives and identifies where you’re going to invest to drive consistent, profitable growth. Without a growth strategy, your co-marketing efforts will be disjointed, and far less effective than they might be.
3. A co-marketing budget
For many partners, cashflow is really important. That’s why you need a co-marketing plan. If you’re working on 50:50 funded activity, you’ll be funding all the activity up-front, realizing the co-marketing funds via rebate on completion, and experiencing the cashflow a while later (especially if you have a long sales cycle). It’s essential to have tight budgets that you stick to, and manage your cashflow with the same watchfulness as your campaign.
4. Execution capability
If you can’t deliver the campaign you promised, there’s no point in planning it out. Often, partners lack the in-house capability to manage these campaigns themselves, and need to work with outsource partners who understand the partner ecosystem, the business problem, and the way co-marketing works to implement them. Make sure you have this arranged before you get started.
At Proposition, we’re specialists in helping partners get the most out of their co-marketing arrangements with technology vendors. We’ll work with you to maximise co-marketing funding and campaign performance, delivering strong Return on Investment to your business.
July 18, 2019