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5 tips to help choose the right agency for Partner ABM

Tom Perry
by Tom Perry - October 12, 2018

partner ABMThe marketing landscape is fed by a system of streams, through which different strategies flow, such as demand generation, paid traffic, direct marketing, channel marketing and ABM. Just like it’s natural equivalent, each meandering stream responds to organic and specifically-induced changes; some are powerful enough to forge their own route, some burst their banks - eventually flooding in to other channels, some create subsidiary streams and some just dry up. From a marketeer’s point of view, none of these streams are uncharted, but some are more plain sailing than others. One of the more complex streams to navigate is the fast flowing, effervescent rapids of ABM; hugely popular, deceptively long and not for the inexperienced. This is why any agency worth their salt is offering ABM as a service, as many businesses need experienced guides to help direct their marketing effort. However, one of the lesser explored ABM distributaries flows through the channel. (This is where my stream/channel analogy comes-a-cropper…but bear with me!).

Partner ABM has many distinctions, that must be understood in order to be successful and not many agencies currently offer this precise skillset. So how do you find the right agency to guide your business successfully through the fast currents and turbulent water? Here are our five tips for choosing the right Partner ABM agency.

1. Channel experience is a must.

The channel is a complex place. ABM in the channel is even harder. A small minority of Vendors and Partners are ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing activities and content distribution, but the fractured MDF system has left many channel partners de-motivated, blasé, disengaged and lacking sufficient marketing expertise for effective campaign delivery. Combined with a general lack of sales and marketing alignment, the channel sales funnel is fragile and leaky. However, it is not all doom and gloom…when channel marketing works, it works well. The key is understanding its nuances and having the experience and expertise to operate well within it. ABM is perfectly suited to partner marketing as it works with - and even improves upon – the efficiency of many existing marketing practices. However, as with all ABM, suitable foundations must be present in the first place and the many accompanying challenges and aforementioned nuances must be understood and addressed to generate value. 

Your agency of choice should have extensive experience in partner marketing and understand the subtleties and distinctions which come with marketing through the channel. They should be able to navigate and identify the obstacles and the relevant solutions to establish successful and scalable ABM programmes for partners. They should be able to assess whether your business has the suitable foundations for Partner ABM and be honest and transparent, when discussing their assessment. Partner ABM is a sizeable investment and the agency needs to be a trusted partner! Look for recent case studies and testimonials to validate their experience. You don’t want their maiden ABM voyage to be without an experience skipper! 

2. Good project management. 

Partner ABM is highly collaborative, but requires enormous flexibility to cater for the requirements of the Vendor, Partner and Agency. The Agency takes on the role of project manager and has a responsibility to establish an SLA between parties before the programme is rolled out. This requires transparency, excellent communication and organisational skills. Many partners are not used to operating in an environment where they are fully managed by an agency, but the right agency will have the experience of dealing with this relationship and ensuring results are achieved.

3. They must have a clearly defined delivery process.

Partner ABM is an involved process. The campaign length is far longer than a standard marketing campaign and is built upon much more structured foundations due to the longer build. Many Vendors will attempt to build an ABM campaign on existing sales quarters, but this is not a suitable approach for ABM and the agency must be clear in managing this expectation. Intent is a large part of Partner ABM and any agency worth considering will have thoroughly researched your business, identified some potential target companies and should be able to plot out some specifics and details for the strategy and campaigns they propose for your business. They should be able to talk you through their standard campaign process but also the level of programme and campaign outline they would consider suitable for your business. Look for good examples/case studies of campaigns they have worked on and enquire about the correlation between metrics and initial goals and targets.

4. They should place emphasis on measurement, optimisation and performance.

The beauty of having an agency project managing a partner ABM campaign is that each aspect is fully monitored. The vendor investment is often substantial, so proof of execution, ROI and campaign performance need to be monitored extensively. The agency should offer a completely objective viewpoint and ensure all parties are constantly updated. Live performance dashboards should be available to monitor performance, facilitate optimisation and drive leads. If an agency doesn’t mention their campaign monitoring, measurement and optimisation capabilities, then alarm bells should sound. Ask if the agency monitors the partners involved and gets involved with nurturing leads….they should! 

5. They should leverage your team’s expertise.

ABM is all about people; partner ABM takes this to the next level. Not only are you providing specific solutions to clearly targeted and defined audiences in a highly personable way, but you are doing it through a number of parties. Therefore the agency involved not only needs to project manage the entire process well, but also learn from the partners and Vendor who bring their own expertise to the table. A good agency will not dictate the best methods and keep the skills within their own team, but educate partners and share best practice to ensure that future campaigns can benefit. You should be looking for an agency who works with you, not one that dictates and dominates proceedings. Partners bring referencability within specific audiences and this should be leveraged by the agency in content creation and targeting. If you think you will get on with the agency…this is always a good first step! 

Sherpa have extensive experience in partner marketing and understand the subtleties and distinctions which come with marketing through the channel.

We have recently completed an extremely successful pilot partner ABM campaign with a global market leading software company and would be happy to talk you through the programme. For more information or to discuss how Sherpa can transform your channel marketing through Partner ABM campaigns, please get in touch via: 

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