With so many of us counting on Alexa, Siri and Google Home to listen vigilantly to everything we say, it’s interesting that many marketers don’t make an extra effort to hear what their business partners or customers need or want.
In a rush to go to market with new programs, marketers are often quick to go with their gut on new programs or campaigns. But when they don’t make the extra effort to truly listen to their customers or partners, the chances that their messages won’t really resonate in the marketplace are significant.
The benefits of making listening a more crucial component of how you communicate are dramatic. In conversations with a number of channel professionals, we’ve heard that listening is the first step in fostering greater engagement with partners.
ESET, an IT security company, is a great example. Even as the company announced a record 40% year-over-year increase in channel partner growth, it heralded the launch of its new Partner Council.
The advisory group will initially include 10 active partners who will participate in quarterly calls and get a first-look at new products and technologies, the company said. ESET will use the feedback to refine product roadmaps, help shape the supporting content and, ultimately, better enable its partners’ sales teams.
“We are always looking to improve our programs and offerings, and the Partner Council allows us to hear first-hand what our partners want and what their customers need,” said Hope McCluskey, Director of Partner Marketing and Events.
“As a forward-thinking and acting company, ESET wanted to ensure our partners are continually heard and consulted regularly.”
Ear To The Ground
At Gemalto, also a digital security firm, listening was at the top of the to-do list when Colleen McMillan, VP of Global Channel Sales Strategy and Program, kicked off a program to provide the company’s partners with more support.
“We heard from more than 1,000 partners globally and they shared with us some consistent feedback,” said McMillan. “The partners said they felt confident in selling and positioning our technology, as they considered it best-of-breed and it just worked!”
On the other hand, partners were not shy about commenting on things Gemalto could do better. Partners wanted the company to make a greater commitment supporting them with field alignment, as well as sales and technical enablement tools to help them identify, qualify and sell deals.
“The partners also wanted us to be easier to work with,” said McMillan. “We, like many companies, get in our own way sometimes and need to make it easier for partners to get information and access our resources and field teams to better support them.”
Listening paid off. Partner logins to the portal jumped 55% year over year. And new learning paths for sales professionals and technical sales professions were well-received. “We have had over 300 partner individuals successfully complete these new certifications within the last six months,” McMillan noted.
At a recent roundtable hosted by Channel Marketer Report, listening better to partners was mentioned as a top priority for the panelists.
“We're delivering surveys to find out exactly what (our partners’) challenges are,” said Lisa Penn, Senior Director at Global Channel Marketing Strategic Initiatives at SAP. Her company is listening to partners “to find out what their challenges are and what they're working with to get that firsthand information. Once we have that, then it enables us to address the challenge.”
Talking about the growing number of partner types selling technology products, Jacqueline Woods, Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Global Business Partners, said, “It's incumbent upon all of us to understand how you reach those ‘new companies’ and really understand how to help them develop and commercialize the opportunities that they can drive themselves.
“It has certainly expanded our responsibilities as marketers,” she added. “And it's really stretching us. We still have a lot of our traditional partners that we've always had, but the broader set of new types of companies that are out there, that you're going to be partnering with and extending your technology in different ways becomes very important.”
Tell Us More
SAP Concur is in the process of launching a channel marketing automation platform, said Brian Gilbert, the company’s Global Director of Channel Marketing. As part of the process, the company is “getting engagement and feedback from our most highly engaged and excited partners, in regards to who is excited to leverage the tools and the technology that we're enabling.”
SAP Concur is striving to create a “one-stop shop for all of the content, whether that be thought leadership assets or social media content,” according to Gilbert. The goal is to provide larger partners with content that is most relevant for their target audience and can be plugged into their own existing infrastructure and their own go-to-market strategies.
Addressing the needs of more resource challenged or smaller partners is a top priority as well, said Gilbert. The company is attentively listening to “make it as easy and accessible as possible for those partners to engage.”
Are you listening to the voice of your business partners or customers? To make sure you’re saying the things that resonate with them, first listen to what’s on their minds.
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