Written by Dan Konstantinovsky
Strategic Marketing, RH Blake
Many B2B manufacturing firms traditionally segment their marketing programs by targeted vertical industries (e.g., Oil/Gas, Automotive, Medical Device, etc.). Of course, this makes sense, as the unique value a particular offering provides to one industry or application typically differs from another.
However, too many manufacturers stop there and overlook one important audience segment – Key Strategic Partner(s).
By not placing enough of a marketing focus on strategic partners, manufacturing companies may be missing out on effectively growing these relationships. While your company may only have one or two of these partners, they can have a profound impact on the trajectory of your business.
For example, suppose you’re a company that provides offerings that are a part of a broader automation solution, and you rely on one key automation provider to incorporate your offerings and help uncover new opportunities for you.
The default mode of many manufacturers is communicating with partners in an ad-hoc manner, e.g., sending materials they may have borrowed from a different vertical they serve – instead of considering what positioning, timing, cadence and communication method works best for this particular partner.
Treating a strategic partner as an afterthought is a trap that manufacturers can fall into – but it can be avoided. Instead, developing a customized marketing program for that particular partner is a wise move that can give you a competitive advantage, helping you deepen – and grow – that relationship.
How to Design a Dedicated B2B Manufacturing Marketing Program for Key Partners
A dedicated marketing program can pay off – 58% of manufacturers say channel partners add value to their products – yet one study showed that . This underscores the need to design a program that appeals to that partner, which may involve starting from the ground up to determine their needs and how best to meet them.
If you want to delve into this idea and develop a dedicated marketing program for a strategic partner, here are the steps to consider following:
1) Identify critical points of contact: Once you’ve determined the strategic partner you want to focus on, identify main functions, influencers and decision-makers within that organization. You may want to map out the relationships and interdependencies, i.e., who reports to who, who has what level of influence, and so forth.
2) Uncover insights with research: Next, you’ll want to perform customer research to better understand critical insights, such as:
- What challenges they face
- How the challenge you help them solve ranks and aligns within that set of challenges
- How they perceive you
- How they perceive the competitive alternatives to your solution
- Where they go to find information
- What risks they may face by choosing the wrong partner
- What types of content they engage with
Asking these questions can help you build a clear profile of this partner. The clearer you can be in defining this piece, the more aligned and effective the program and content you develop will be.
3) Develop a comprehensive and intentional marketing program: Once you’ve done this, you’ll be better able to develop a comprehensive marketing program to target these decision-makers. You’ll want to consider the following:
For example, if you want to differentiate your offerings and value because they’re more reliable – or you want to highlight the ease of partnering with you – consider creating educational webinars, case studies, use case videos, thought leadership content and other marketing activities highlighting this expertise.
- Develop key performance indicators (KPIs) Identify and communicate KPIs before you begin so that you can measure the results of your efforts.
A few examples of KPIs to consider include content engagement, new opportunities generated, and level of awareness. Be sure to measure the before and after results.
- Make it easy for your partner to engage. 73% of partners say channel programs are too complex, which can be a deterrent to engagement. Having a dedicated contact(s) for your partner can help.
- For partnerships with larger organizations, consider leveraging paid channels such as LinkedIn to complement your outreach. LinkedIn allows you to choose the company, geography, title, role changes, level of experience, and many other variables when developing your campaign. This helps ensure your message is going to the right audience, maximizing your investment.
- Consistency is essential. To be effective, this approach can’t be a one-and-done type of effort. It needs to be planned and ongoing.
- Develop a regular cadence for meetings. Meet consistently to ask the partner about their vision for where they see their business and industry going – and sharing where your business is headed. What trends do they see? Then, use this to help identify ways you can support them.
- Assign internal parallel resources to develop and nurture relationships. Look for those who can help extend your story internally. For example, if one of the functions you’re targeting is the supply chain, consider asking your internal supply chain team to develop meaningful relationships with the team on the client’s side. Or, if your champion is in the finance department, foster a connection between that contact and a finance contact at your business.
4) Measure and refine: As with any marketing program, you’ll want to measure progress as you go and refine your approach. Make any needed adjustments. Continue to measure and refine the program as you move forward and as the relationship evolves.
Develop Marketing Content and Programs Specifically For Your Closest Partners
Don’t treat your key strategic suppliers as a marketing afterthought.
Thinking of your closest partners as their own marketing audience can help you grow your business and minimize the chances of competitors winning their mindshare – and market share.
Try these tips to develop dedicated marketing content and programs specifically for them so you can build an even stronger relationship with those companies.