Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is not what it used to be. Organizations can no longer rely on high-budget, broadly targeted email campaigns; direct marketing; and telemarketing to generate leads. The focus on print advertisements and banners is diminishing. Internet technologies are influencing sales and marketing decisions with an emphasis on online marketing, inbound marketing, and social media marketing. A 2016 B2B Marketing Zone study reflects this trend.
Thanks to the rapid changes in Internet technologies, buyers' expectations are changing as well. More Millennials are occupying the decision-making positions in B2B enterprises. They are likely to complete the preliminary selection process online before even making first contact with a salesperson. If you don’t show up in their online search, you’ve missed a potential customer. Therefore, you have no option but to focus on your online presence and have strategies for online marketing, inbound marketing, and social media marketing.
However, online search is becoming highly location-specific, and if you are a national or a global company with distributors or partners spread across wide geographic regions, your centralized marketing initiatives may not be adequate. Your channel partners will have to support you in your marketing efforts.
You have to think beyond providing attractive billboards, in-store advertising, and point of sales displays. You will need to engage with your channel partners and support them to nurture online media to generate leads for their business. The profile of your channel partners may vary from region to region, state to state, and country to country. On one side, you may have zealous channel partners who have an independent online presence and are already doing something on their own; on the other, you may have those who have yet to make their foray into the online world.
If you want them to harness the potential of the Internet, you will need to guide them in using the medium for creating awareness within their markets and engaging with their prospects through online marketing strategies. How can this be done? You need to decide what you will share with your channel partners and how you will do it. First, let’s start with the content that is essential for enabling channel partners to generate more leads.
What Do Channel Partners Need to Know?
Channel partners need to understand the importance of online marketing and be willing to explore and take advantage of this new medium.
They’ll need to manage a website, Facebook page, LinkedIn page, or other online forums that may be relevant to your sector, as well as mobile and SMS marketing. They’ll need to understand the basics of search engine optimization, learn how to post online ads, use social media for campaigns, create the right resources for opt-ins, and convert online opt-ins to qualified leads. Online searches are often location based, so it’s important that channel partners have their own independent online presence.
Having the system and infrastructure in place is not adequate; they need to engage with their prospects too.
How Can You Train Your Channel Partners to Generate More Leads?
Alicia Fiorletta, senior editor for Channel Marketer Report, emphasizes the importance of partner-marketing enablement as a necessary first step for organizations to help channel partners adopt best practices for lead nurturing. There are many ways you can train your channel partners. If the numbers are small, you can have frequent or regular face-to-face interactions, hands-on workshops, and classroom training sessions.
However, if your channel partners are spread all over the country and the world, you can create resources to train your partners remotely, in the form of videos, online courses, or e-books. You could also consider live and on-demand webinars to introduce new concepts and dispel any reluctance or skepticism. New concepts can be introduced in phases, with one concept followed by another. For example, have an initial training session on starting a Facebook or LinkedIn page. Then, introduce other social media forums.
Investing time to get your channel partners on board digitally is a significant step toward generating leads. You need to provide channel partners with constant support and guidance so they can capitalize on online media to develop leads at different stages of the buying process and convert them to customers.