5 Questions Partnership Channel Owners Need to Know How to Answer
Or…How to be powerfully prepared before you meet with your boss, board or CEO
It can be a daunting moment when an email, a text, or a Slack message comes from your boss or any C-level executive: “Can we talk? I have a question for you.” Will you be able to pull the best answer out of your back pocket right away?
As the owner of partnerships, there are some common questions you should be able to answer immediately about your channel. However, I regularly meet these channel owners across all verticals who struggle with some — or even all — of them. Fortunately, with the right tools, data and strategy, there are easy answers.
It’s time to arm yourself with the best responses to the following five basic queries. Test yourself: Are you able to answer them all?
Question #1: “Why do we have a partnership program?”
Many partnership professionals and performance marketers joined companies with existing, large marketing or partnership departments, or inherited a partnership program that someone else started. Others may be part of a startup and are launching partnerships from the ground up. Either way, company executives may not fully understand what a partnership program is and why they should care. Here’s how you can respond:
Answer: “To reach new audiences, increase conversions in other channels and drive a great return. And, in what other channel do you only pay for the final result that you want?”
All of the above are great options to answer the “why” of your partnership program. Reaching new audiences is one of the most underrated opportunities of the partnership channel, especially in an advertising universe increasingly dominated by Google and Facebook, with many brands recognizing the emerging role of influencers. In addition, mobile’s increasingly advanced tracking and cross-device insights mean brands can now leverage partnerships to reach audiences that have historically been unavailable.
Of course, few conversions happen in a vacuum, but because the customer was already thinking about buying and has read reviews. Partnership programs can help your brand enhance other channels by leading customers down common conversion paths — whether it is teaming up with specific partners to dominate paid search results on Google or leveraging the power of “friends” to drive traffic to blog posts on Facebook.
Finally, improving conversion rates and driving great returns are bottom-line must-haves that your partnership program can prove through the right platform technology. Get the right metrics to show your boss your partnership program works: There is nothing more powerful to the C-Suite to be able to justify an investment directly by the results driven.
Question #2: “What’s our partnership program really doing for us?”
I’ve worked in marketing and advertising for over a decade. One thing that is true regardless of the industry area is that marketers and partnership professionals are really good at justifying how well they are doing. Furthermore, data can be manipulated to tell a variety of stories. So how can you convince your higher-ups that a partnership program gets true results?
Answer: “Let me show you the granular data and customer insights we’ve discovered that shows exactly what drives our partnership program results.”
A large consumer goods company I met with recently has a portfolio of brands, with individual brand managers responsible for P&L. At the start of each quarter, they slow down their focus on affiliates, in favor of other channels (search, social).
However, like clockwork, when those channels start falling behind on goals, the affiliate team steps up and kicks into gear and puts the deal/loyalty machine to work. Certainly, discounts can be powerful conversion drivers, but the truth is, they may genuinely not know whether the discounts and coupons attracted buyers or trained them to wait to purchase.
You need to understand what is driving peaks and dips in your top level KPIs, such as revenue and sales. That requires granular data and customer insights to go beyond correlation and get to the root causes.
Question #3: “What would we lose if we turned our program off?”
Almost all of the partnership professionals I meet with are focused on finding “incrementality.” So, not surprisingly, in a typical conversion path with multiple touchpoints, they want to know what revenue can be credited only to the partnership channel, or to individual partners. Historically, that has been hard to come by, which leads to simple speculation…and nothing more. So, how can you move beyond that?
Answer: “We know exactly how much revenue we can credit only to our partnership program, and to each partner individually through aggregated conversion path insights”
When my wife and I were buying our car, I spent more time reading reviews and watching videos than I invested in reading Balzac or Molière for for my three-year French degree. But it was a critical mass of content pointing in the same direction of ‘family friendly’, ‘surprisingly spacious’ and ‘value for money’ that got me to my considered – surprisingly spacious – purchase. On the other hand, one well-targeted ad around the holidays led me to buy, with one click, a cute Game of Thrones onesie for my newborn.
Without aggregated conversion path insights, built from accurate tracking of your partners and other channels, you can never confidently answer questions about “What would we lose?” and are only speculating.
Question #4: “Who are our top partners and what are they doing for us?”
Sure, you may already know top-level metrics such as revenue and spend with each partner. But do you know the average customer LTV for each of your partners? How many new vs repeat customers they drive? Which SKUs/items do the customers they send buy? What type of shopper behaviors are you seeing from their traffic? Which promotional placements are working best for them, and how do they compare to other partners? When was the last time a new partner broke into your top 10 (and what were they doing to get there)? When was the last time you curated custom promotions for your long tail partners, or took the time to analyze how they could drive more conversions?
Answer: “We know all of that…and much more.”
One thing I hear constantly is the wide variety of tasks a program manager has to manage. On the one hand, they are responsible for driving revenue for the partnership program. On the other, they have to deal with reporting, setting up calls with publishers, keeping agendas and helping with follow-up tasks.
With the latest partnership platform, automated workflows can take partnership management to the next level and enable you to answer all the questions your boss has about top partners and their value. Best of all, it leaves program managers far more time to build and nurture partner relationships.
Question #5: “How much time do we invest in growing our program?”
If your boss wants to know how many “human hours” are invested in growing your program, you should not just be thinking about your own in-house resources and time your own team spends. If you are working with an outside agency, or perhaps a network account management team, you should consider how much time they are investing in growing your relationships.. Most importantly, how is that time being used, and what are the outcomes?
Answer: “Our team’s time is spent finding new relationships and growing existing ones – thankfully, we don’t waste time with any low-value, manual tasks. This helps us fully engage with and support our partners in ways that create value boost our bottom line.”
Many of the partnership channel owners that I speak with spend time talking to their top partners, but often rely on outside support to manage the longtail of partners, or they interact with them from a distance. It makes sense – if you can help your top partners move the needle a little further, it will have an exponential impact on your success. However, the more you can engage with and support your fully body of partnerships, the more they ‘feel the love’ from you and understand your business, the more successful you will all be.
How did you do?
If you had the best answers to all five of these questions, congratulations! If not, Impact’s partnership platform can help you go to the next level of insight so you can make sure you can respond to your boss in the right way. Then, you’ll be able to counter with a question of your own:
“Why aren’t you giving me more budget to grow this channel?”
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