Many enterprise IT software vendors have a multi-tier go-to-market model and strongly depend on their alliances and partners for demand generation and solution delivery. Most companies have a strong seperation between ‘marketing to’ partners to elevate the marketing position within existing partners and ‘marketing through’ activities to enable partners to create awareness and generate demand.
Another appoach is to build a Community of partners who have a strong professional interest in your solutions to:
- Facilitate company-to-partner and partner-to-partner communications
- Help partners expand their market coverage and discover new routes-to-market
- Connect partners to improve customer alignment in vertical markets
- Facilitate the sharing of best practices, solutions and knowledge among partners
- Incorporate other business and marketing programs of value to your partners
The aim of any partner community should be to utilize the ‘network effect’ by empowering the members with relevant information and tools to communicate. Active management and facilitation is essential to increase the value of participation and build adoption to a point where the network becomes self-sustaining.
The advantages of using community marketing over traditional one-to-many marketing is that your partner community has the potential to deliver your message to a larger audience, an audience that would otherwise be hard to address.
Four key elements in building an effective partner community are:
- Try to understand what your partners really need (use surveys, focus groups or simply ask them)
- Develop a trusted environment (make sure your partners know that they can participate without directly bringing business to you)
- Provide compelling content (partners are not customers, don’t talk them them like they are customers)
- Allow them to collaborate and work together (your partners are likely to benefit from what peer in the industry do as much as learning from your content
A community run well can be your most important engagement with your partners.