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Many IT hardware and software manufacturers make funds available to their channel partners for the purpose of supporting their marketing activities. In many cases, these marketing activities require approval from the vendor, or materials may be furnished by the vendor.

To provide these materials, many vendors furnish a password-protected marketing portal that partners may use to access these materials.

One such vendor found itself confused and frustrated. The company considered its funding for partner marketing to be generous and had invested heavily in the development of a marketing portal to make tools readily available for their partners.

“Why aren’t our partners using the marketing portal?” they asked. “And why are they leaving so much of their marketing funds on the table. They’re barely using them at all.”

After interviewing several of their partners, a few all-too-simple answers emerged. Partners said they wouldn’t use the materials for a few reasons:

–All the materials were about the vendor—their products, their company, etc.

–Opportunities to customize the materials to feature the partner were limited, at best. In most cases, they couldn’t do much more than add a logo, company name and contact information.

–All of their local competitors were sending out the same materials to the same potential customers.

Taking Charge of the Marketing, Blending Messages

Many channel partners have discovered that vendors are quite open to suggestion. A good partner proposal for a customized campaign is often welcomed. The program guidelines are often provided for the partners who have little or no marketing acumen. Those willing to take charge of the process often find they can obtain funds to offset part or all of the cost of any marketing activity that holds the promise of delivering a reasonable return on investment.

It’s important to remember, and to remind vendors, that these programs are often referred to as “cooperative marketing,” suggesting that one of the goals is to cooperate for both parties’ benefit.

To make the message work, simply focus on why you became partners with the vendor to begin with. What exactly do you do with their products? How do you best serve your customers with their technologies?  Most important, what services involving those products can customers expect to enjoy from you?

This last question is most important for the most fundamental reason: It’s where you produce the most profit for yourself. Channel partners profit most from the services they render, so the most effective blend of your message with your vendors is to highlight what services you provide surrounding and involving their products. How do you create a highly differentiated customer value proposition based on those products?

Remember that vendors know that customers don’t enjoy any value unless their products are deployed properly, implemented effectively and users adopt them enthusiastically.

Focus your messaging on why companies and their users will want to adopt your vendors’ products when you provide the planning, deployment, training and support. This will not only improve the odds of your selling the vendor’s products, it will also assure the vendor that you are a partner who creates the kind of extraordinary customer experiences that bring them back for more, time after time.

Howard M. Cohen is a 30-plus-year IT industry veteran who continues his commitment to the channel as a columnist and consultant.