Contrary to the saying, one size does not fit all when it comes to partner marketing programs with service providers.  The “traditional” ways of simply co-marketing and providing content or prepackaged programs on a portal will no longer suffice.

These days, service provider partner marketing efforts need to be one part detailed planning and one part create-on-the-go.  Yes, every service provider is concerned about their brand and driving leads so it’s more important than ever that our vendors take a leading role to support those efforts.

Ultimately, how well a vendor does this will be a significant differentiator for them in the market.

So what do service providers care about?  Inherently, they are concerned about building their brand and generating demand for it.  They need access to subject matter expertise and industry research.  They need various types of thought-provoking content.  They also will need to develop skills they might not have in-house.  And guess what?  They will look to their vendors for help with all of the above.  So here are some of the best practices of partner marketing programs for service providers:

Building their Brand Service providers are very concerned about building their brand.  But a brand for them is less about a logo and more about the swagger and reputation they have in a highly vertical and specialized market and specific solution segments.

Technology service providers build their brand by providing subject matter expertise and compelling content and solutions for real business problems to their customers and prospects.  The more value an service provider can bring to a specific market, that hones their customer value proposition and aligns the service provider with thought leadership, the better for the service provider’s business.

Content, Content, Content  Service providers need help to produce the hard-hitting content they need to make an impact in their market and they will look to their vendors for help with this.  Vendors need to dig into their arsenal of content and package it for a service provider to easily consume and customize for use.

Gone are the days when vendors could post collateral on a portal and expect partners to go find it and use it.  Vendors need to do the heavy lifting; make it easy for the service provider to benefit from the content and help the service provider integrate value propositions to really differentiate that service provider in the market.

Everything a vendor produces is potential content for a service provider.  For example:

Whitepapers Any thought leadership topic written by the vendor or even co-authored with the service provider is great for the service provider to co-brand and use in sales and marketing campaigns.  Thought leadership topics can include:  technology or industry trends to capitalize on or understand; vertical market opportunities, challenges and solutions; multi-vendor solutions to business challenges; business and market opportunities or status.

Blog Posts Service providers need this crisp, topical content to engage their audience.  Having the vendor provide some of this for them to use, or to guest blog for the service provider drives engagement and adds credibility to the service provider.

Social Media  As part of a larger campaign, to bolster a vendor’s (nonproduct specific) message, or to comment on a larger topic, packaged (or even syndicated) social media content is an excellent way to support the service provider.

Webinars  Any topic of significant market interest would be good for a service provider to repurpose.  Success stories and co-delivered webinars are a great way to integrate into an service provider’s larger marketing campaign.

Web Content  Syndication of web content is usually the preferred method to provide web content to service providers, but a page template with content can also work.

Marketing Campaigns Successful 360°campaigns done by the vendor can work repackaged for the service provider with branding and solution flexibility embedded into them.

Lead Generation Service providers will require the vendor to help in this area.  The preferred method would be for the vendor to find the lead, nurture the lead, and then turn over a warm, qualified prospect to the service provider.  That’s not always possible, but nonetheless, the service provider will look to the vendor to provide some form of lead generation assistance. Skipping this step or not prioritizing this arena with service providers  can often spell disaster for a partner/vendor relationship.

Creative demand generation programs that the service provider can deploy through a vendor are also a very good option to help service providers identify new opportunities.  This lead generation responsibility is shared between partner and vendor – and the more vendors can do to support service providers here – the more likely an service provider is to be loyal to that vendor.

Empowerment and Education Services  Service providers will not have the same depth of marketing and business expertise that vendors have.  That is why empowerment and educational services offered by the vendor are highly valued by the service provider.  Continuously improving the sales team’s performance in the service provider is a top priority according to several recent channel studies.

Providing the content or passing a lead is one thing, but if the service provider doesn’t know what to do with it, then all is lost.  Providing sales training like a social media or cold call boot camp, demonstration skills workshop or deploying effective sales strategies can set a vendor apart and gain the trust of service providers as a true partner, not just a vendor.

Concierge Services Full-service marketing services are a win for service providers.  Along the same lines of vendor-led lead generation, making marketing easy, and having a full-service marketing company to assist service providers, will make a vendor’s program all that more attractive.  Having one or two marketing concierge services for service providers to use, and rolling that into a MDF program, makes it much more likely that service providers would develop plans and execute programs on their own – that have a high likelihood to produce a return.

Vendor programs play a big role in the marketing prowess of their service provider partners.  It is important to have different initiatives within a vendor’s marketing offers so there are elements that every service provider would value.  However, don’t be afraid to try something new or outside the box.

Allowing partner marketing programs to evolve over time with new pilot programs and ideas from the service providers and industry experts can lead to the best innovations that prove an ROI.