The channel is finding a voice through self-publishing tools and social media, as partners attempt to communicate with new customers across a wider audience base.
Whether it be through personalised blogs, weekly newsletters or regular LinkedIn posts, a penny is slowly dropping in the channel that marketing must be front and centre of future strategies.
Positive intentions? Yes. Flawed execution? Perhaps.
Take LinkedIn Pulse for example, an online news aggregation feed within LinkedIn designed for members to share self-published content with their audience, which represents a double-edge sword for partners.
On the positive side, such a platform represents a new age of communication for the channel, a crucial tool to attract coveted net new customers across the market.
But when executed poorly, LinkedIn Pulse can do more damage than good, acting as a very visible way in how NOT to market a brand.
While it’s encouraging to see the one-time social media shy channel step up and take action, enthusiasm and expertise shouldn’t be confused.
Any basic Google search will offer immediate ‘quick-fix’ ways for partners to maximise LinkedIn, whether that’s through keeping headlines short and snappy; using eye-catching imagery or publishing frequently.
Throw in the odd paid targeted campaign, plus a little old school SEO and technology providers have a starting point from which to communicate.
Yet this is social media 101, even if the fundamentals take an enormous effort from resource-poor partners.
But this represents merely the structure, a basic framework from which the real value can be derived - the content.
Creating a content strategy
According to EDGE Research, new-look buyers are struggling to understand or engage with partners, due to the channel’s inability to change the lines of communication.
Technical conversations deep-rooted in vendor specific products simply no longer fly, forcing the channel to change the narrative to obtain customer buy-in.
“Content marketing is not rocket science, but it can get complicated,” said Rob O’Regan, global content director at IDG.
According to O’Regan, the first step for any channel partner should centre around defining a target audience.
“Buyer personas are a foundational component of a content strategy - if you don’t understand the needs and pain points of your target audience, you’ll have a hard time delivering content that motivates them to learn more,” O’Regan added.
“Secondly, assess your current state. Take a broad view across all of your existing content. There may be gold to mine - or gaps to fill. Assess for relevancy, freshness, audience, topic, and format; by categorising this way, you’ll quickly see opportunities for new content.”
As outlined by IDG Research, 79 per cent of technology decision-makers find it challenging to locate enough high-quality, trusted information on major enterprise IT products and services to make an informed purchase decision.
So much so that this same base of customers stated that if they can’t find vendor or technology provider content during the research process it negatively effects their impression of the company.
“Thirdly, dig into the data," O’Regan advised. "Metrics should inform every phase of your content strategy, so look for the tools that help you understand the buyer’s interests, and the way they consume content, on your own website and social media accounts, as well as across the broader digital landscape."
“Fourthly, document your plan. Create a strategic plan that clearly defines core messages, processes, and style guidelines. Include a 3/6/12-month editorial calendar for launching and reactivating content – but remain flexible enough to revisit and adjust as needed.”
Delving deeper, and according to IDG Research, 83 per cent of IT decision-makers have registered to receive technology-related content during the past six months.
Specifically, IT managers download an average of six assets during the purchase process, but IT professionals download just three.
“Step five is ensuring you have a process in place for delivering the right type of content, in the right format, through the right channels, at each stage of the buyer journey,” O’Regan said. “Your goal is an end-to-end narrative that builds toward a conversion.
“Then for step six, bring out the voices of subject matter experts within your organisation, and bring in the voices of outside influencers, to build authority and credibility around your message.
“And finally for step seven, create a few core “hero” assets that can be used to create many derivative pieces of content – including blogs, social posts, infographics, and other interactive/visual content – to maximise resources and extend the reach of your thought leadership.”
Yet the harsh reality remains that providers are simply time-poor and resource lacking, with only six per cent of an average partner organisation focused on marketing.
This leads to an inability to produce regular streams of high-quality content, instead relying on recycled and refurbished material handed down en masse from vendors.
While syndicated content allows an easy way into the world of content creation, a deeper message is required.
The key for partners now centres around whether they have the appetite to instigate such change, in a bid to engage with that coveted group of net new customers.