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Your Partnerships Team Should Report to Marketing

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This is the third and final installment of “Reporting Lines” — our series on where (and who) your partnerships team should report to. You can catch the others below: 

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When Garrett Helmer became PrinterLogic’s CMO he decided to do something that only 12.9% of partnership organizations do: he folded his channel team into the marketing org.

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Garrett Helmer“If you’re super cynical, you say the partners do nothing but help us transact business,” he says. Whether you agree with him likely depends on your own viewpoint on partnerships.

Partnership teams, by definition, have to interface with different teams within their own and their partner organizations. Co-selling requires the sales teams to be on board. Co-marketing, yes, requires the marketing team to be aligned. 

In the final installment of Reporting Lines, we explore the benefits of reporting to the marketing org.

Worry less about attribution

In theory, setting up channel sales is straightforward. Your channel partners refer customers to you and your team closes. Or, your channel partners sell to the customer and register the deal with you. Easy and transactional, right?

The real world doesn’t work so cleanly and determining where a new customer came from is often not so cut and dry. Don’t believe us? Ask your marketing coworkers about attribution. 

“[Our partners] will have an event or lunch and learn and mention us to a potential customer. That person gets home, Googles us, fills out a form on our website and we see that as an ‘organic’ lead,” says Helmer. “But we know a lot of that is driven by channel.”

As a result, arguments can develop between a marketing team and a channel sales team about where a new customer came from. 

“And then my channel manager would get disengaged because we’re getting pedantic about how we classify leads,” says Helmer. “In partnerships, there’s always conflict. What is the true source of the customer’s lightbulb going off? Did the channel partner do the education or did we? By merging channel and marketing together, all we care about is top-of-funnel leads and we’re not so precious about where they come from… The bias is gone.”

Additionally, the former VP of Channel had seen firsthand all of the ways his partner ecosystem contributed to the enterprise print management software’s marketing efforts — and wanted to find additional ways to encourage the channel partners to be more than just a sales mechanism.

Your resellers are marketing for you, so why not make that easier?

Tips for combining channel and marketing

Recalibrate your KPIs – Helmer suggests honing on two KPIs for your channel team: qualified leads and conversion rate. This keeps your channel managers maniacally focused on the top of the funnel, and thus gets them thinking like a marketer.

Train channel reps to be digital marketers – Once you get your channel reps thinking about the top of the funnel, you need to arm them with your marketing tech stack so they can scale. Train them on how to spin up their own webinars, landing pages, and collateral.

“Channel reps are used to hosting a lunch and learn and doing traditional face to face engagement,” says Helmer. “Especially in the COVID era, they need to take traditional digital marketing capabilities to drive leads.” 

It’s using sales tactics with marketing tools.

Brand consistency is important – If you’re going to empower your channel managers to create collateral, you’ll need to be clear about the expectations for brand consistency. Lean on pre-made templates and brand asset libraries to make it as easy as possible (your design team will thank you).

“The biggest violators of brand are sales people,” says Helmer. “My channel team is augmenting the marketing team. They are now armed with better tools, so they can be better brand ambassadors.”

Remember: you’ll need more marketing budget – When you add your channel team to your marketing org, your marketing budget needs to adjust accordingly. What used to be earmarked for channel now needs to go to marketing. Most SaaS companies don’t have their channel teams in their marketing org, so classic SaaS marketing budget benchmarks may not apply to you.

Want to know the latest best practices in reporting structures? Download our 2021 State of the Partner Ecosystem, and sign up for the 2022 edition below.

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