Extending your brand into far reaching corners of the global, domestic – or even local – marketplace is an interesting game. You create a brand identity, then go into market using tried-and true traditional methods, like advertising, and begin making impressions. Nowadays you’ll likely employ a host of social media tactics too—possibly blazing a viral marketing trail the reaches “gangnam style” proportions with record numbers of eyeballs and ears gravitating your way.
When that happens, you may sigh with relief – but don’t hold your breath. How do you continue to grow that awareness among a larger audience, on a sustainable level? Face(book) it: marketing budgets aren’t roaring back with a vengeance this year. So how do you scale to a mass audience when your marketing team is strapped and your budget is more in line with Soccer Mom dinners instead than Super Bowl Sunday ads?
In one word: PARTNERS.
Technology companies that work with their network of reselling, service, consulting and implementation partners to extend their brand awareness have much to gain—and little, if anything, to lose. Co-branding with a trusted partner can extend your reach exponentially, and can be relatively easy to do.
At SAP, we see our network of partners as an extension of our brand—an asset so valuable that we’ll do everything we can to nurture and advance the relationship. Similarly, partners consistently tell us how much they need our SAP Brand to help drive their business. In a majority of cases, our brand is stronger, so our partners prefer to use it to gain more traction and response.
So we’ve made it a priority to leverage this valuable alliance with partners to further our brand and business. How? For one, we provide our partners the opportunity to co-brand advertisements with us to gain awareness and consideration of their SAP-based solutions. We provide a variety of effective demand generation campaign templates they can customize and execute to drive sales leads. And we see results.
But admittedly, it hasn’t been all roses. In years past when the opportunity was offered – we didn’t always see partner uptake in the numbers we anticipated. We quickly learned why, and how to fix it.
Looking at past experiences, here’s what we learned:
- Partners will leverage the templates that we develop, as long as we keep them clean and straight to the point.
- Partners are willing to pay for media placement if we provide them an easy process and a clean and flexible template that enables them to differentiate themselves from your other partners.
- The co-brand opportunity must have clear rules, but also be easy to execute at reasonable costs. It can’t be expensive; they simply will not do it.
- You need to be “in market” with your partners. They’re happy to co-brand, but not if you don’t have your own skin in the game. Lead by example. Run your own ads too, providing critical “air cover” so the market is primed to hear from your partners.
- If you create a powerful, easy to leverage co-branding advertising template, and offer it to a large number of partners, your brand awareness will go farther than isolated efforts ever will.
Following these guidelines for both awareness advertising and demand generation activities, the number of campaigns we do annually with partners has increased sizably in the last several years. We now focus on easy, online ordering and customizable templates, with generous MDF reimbursement. In 2012 we saw a 73% cumulative annualized growth in self-service demand gen campaign execution by our reselling partners, leveraging templates co-branded with SAP.
We recently offered partners the opportunity to co-brand and run a version of our corporate “Run Like Never Before with SAP” advertising campaign. It’s tailored to specifically address the needs of smaller businesses, so that partners can benefit from our overall campaign look and feel, and a a comingled message that supports our respective and mutual objectives. They score by running with us. Partners who picked up these packages have noted that cost savings and ease of execution are crucial advantages.
You may be out of your comfort zone, putting the power of your brand in the hands of others. But if you properly recruit, train and assist, the rewards far outweigh the downsides. It all comes down to effective planning and execution, with partners treated more as teammates than outsiders. So take a shot. Your business partners just might be some of your brand’s most valuable players, scoring big with customers, and with you too.
What’s your take on partners carrying your brand forward? To be or not to be? Maybe that’s not the question from your perspective, but it would be great to hear other lessons learned on the B2B marketing front.