It’s not easy being an alliance manager these days! Alliance managers need to play the roles of both the strategic visionary and the tactical execution expert. Their corporate marketing peers often have teams of marcom specialists and product marketing experts on hand to create long-term marketing strategies. But alone in the alliance management arena, marketing managers have to be fast on their feet and think quickly!
Launch International’s alliance marketing clients tell us their biggest challenge is being experts on multiple products and solutions. In addition to their own company offerings, alliance managers need to know their alliance partners’ solutions, as well as their sales channels and customer base. That’s a lot of specific audiences—and a lot of custom messages.
Fret not. Launch International has helped many alliance marketing managers navigate the wilds of alliance solution marketing. Our “Alliance Marketing Triple Play” will give you some ideas and direction for creating a marketing foundation for your alliance partnerships.
Don’t assume that a great solution will naturally make its own friends. We’ve seen the best ideas die in the channel because the vision and value weren’t properly defined up front—before launching to sales teams.
Alliance solution messaging is critical to the success of a joint solution. Both partners need to agree on the solution basics: what the solution is, who it’s for, what value it delivers to the audience, etc.
What’s more, there needs to be a competitive differentiator that separates your solution from others in the marketplace. Let’s face it, your alliance partner likely has partnerships with other similar or competitive vendors, so spend a little time defining how you’re better!
For one Launch client in the ERP software space, we developed a complete message overhaul to better align the company’s software with the platforms of its primary server partner. The new messaging included the highlights of the server platform and how the ERP application leveraged those features to deliver speed and efficiency to the user.
Once you’ve defined the joint solution messaging, it’s time to roll it out through the sales channels of both companies. This is where we’ve seen many clients hit a roadblock—not because they lack the ability to sell, but because they haven’t properly shown either sales force how the solution can benefit their common customers and prospects.
While brochures and data sheets may come to mind first, be sure to include white papers and case studies—which can often move a customer to a buying decision faster. In addition, solution selling guides for both companies will help the sales teams understand the total solution and best describe it to their customers.
One Launch client, a storage networking market leader, created a selling guide for the sales force of its largest OEM alliance partner. The solution messaging was developed to leverage the server vendor’s current messaging. Meanwhile, the joint solution was positioned as the premier choice for the companies’ mutual customers. Early feedback from the sales force has been very positive, and we’re exploring additional solution selling resources for this client.
This isn’t about maintenance services; it’s about maintaining communication with your various audiences. It’s simply not enough to create the solution and expect the sales teams to go forth and conquer. Like any other solution marketing initiative, audiences must be continuously cultivated and reminded of solution messaging, benefits, and value propositions.
Ongoing communications like email and social media can further reinforce your messaging and help customers and salespeople better understand your solution in specific contexts. Be sure to find a new or original hook in the marketplace as a reference point for your solution. For example, compliance, security concerns, and ROI are recent hot buttons in the industry press. Figure out how your joint solution can best help your customers solve these challenges.
Launch International used security management as the angle to help a large storage and security services client combine their messages with a software alliance partner. The joint solution leveraged strengths from both companies, truly differentiating their solution in the marketplace. In fact, a large analyst firm posted the thought leadership materials Launch International created for the client on its website and in subsequent webcasts.
While alliance marketing will never be easy, you can increase your effectiveness through the “Triple Play” of Messaging, Mindshare, and Maintenance.