Tom Levers

SEM Channel Partner Methods

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 14, 2008
partners3
by Tom Levers

Adding an SEM perspective to your partner programs can generate a better quality lead.

Today few corporate brand owners are thinking creatively when developing partner programs. While manufacturers and others offer traditional co-branding marketing programs, they often fail miserably at executing Search Engine Marketing.

The brand owner needs to know: Why is the partner not selling more?  How are they generating leads? What did they do with all the leads?  What’s the return on the co-op dollars they were given?  In general what is their marketing plan and tactics for the product?

Channel partners, on the other hand, often complain about the lack of support. We need more co-op dollars. Why don’t you give us more leads? The leads you give us aren’t qualified. What are you doing to improve promoting us?

Both sides are generally justified in their stance. The root issue, however, lies not in the money spent promoting channel partners, but in the effectiveness of channel partner initiatives. With all the evidence that search plays a huge role in B2B purchases, few brands have made the investment to properly optimize their own sites for search, let alone optimize their sites to promote or advise partner search marketing. Yet SEM can be one of the most effective, cost-efficient ways to drive traffic to channel partners and generate leads and sales.

It’s hard to explain topartner28 a partner how to optimize its site for search of your product. Typically, you cannot mandate how channel partners should do their PPC campaign. At the corporate brand level, it’s hard to justify pay-per-click campaigns that drive traffic to channel partners and not to the corporate brand (it would be like sending partners a check for every click). The answer lies, however, in organic optimization. A well-designed landing page for each channel partner on the corporate brand’s site is largely a one-time expense. Done right, it can generate channel partner leads in perpetuity with little to no ongoing investment.

SEM is still in the Wild West phase of marketing and the PPC range wars are not touched in partner marketing.  But with one unique page for each channel partner, one that speaks to their expertise and value as a partner can create a lot of business and improve overall keyword rankings. Too often, partner contact information is merely an address and a link that goes to each partner’s site or worse… nothing at all. There really isn’t much for the search engine to index. And that’s the problem. If you want to drive traffic to channel partners (and you should), you need to create optimized landing pages that speak to the prospect in key word searches that target your partners value add to your brand. These pages differentiate and add value beyond just the product feature set. Prospects often start their search by looking for solutions close to the solution, e.g., “software tools”, but often drill down to narrow thrier requirement. The partner page should provide more segmented keyword differentiation, “software testing tools and testing services in California.”

Also, make sure you use generic search terms. Don’t adopt the myopic and arrogant position that every person knows your brand and is going to use that brand name in every search. Yes, most dealers, reps, and distributors carry products from other companies, and optimizing channel partner landing pages using generic terms may send channel partners leads that ultimately buy another brand, but wouldn’t you rather drive traffic to your dealer. If your products are good, your partners will sell them. If they’re not, your problem likely isn’t your dealer network.

Try to support the partner on both their site and yours.  That’s right… you need to put it on your website as part of your reseller program. Often the execution of the Channel partner contact page can look very similar; the only thing that changes is the name of the channel partner and its contact information. This can lead to duplicate content issues. The key to avoiding these issues is simple. Don’t be lazy. If you choose to create a bunch of channel partner contact pages on your site, don’t use the same page for all channel partners by merely swapping the name of the next distributor or dealer. If you do, the search engines will likely only index one of these pages and consider all the others duplicate content.

Think of how much money you spend on supporting your channel partners through meetings, tradeshows, traditional co-branded print literature, developing relationships, travel, etc. The number gets big quickly. All you need to do is spend a little time to develop a unique, non-duplicate-content page for each partner? And doing so will not only speak volumes regarding your support of each partner, but it will also generate tangible returns for them, something you can clearly point to as evidence of contributing to their success.

Make sure your channel partner contact pages can be indexed. Too often, these pages are database-driven pages that can’t be indexed by the search engines. Make sure your site and its content are designed so the search engines crawlers scan and index each of the partner contact pages.

But there is even more you can do with partner blogs.

An optimized landing page for each channel partner on the corporate site is only one of the ways to help create demand in the channel. Don’t fpartner27orget about other ways, too. If you have a corporate blog, use it to promote happenings at the channel partner level. Be smart about your blog entries, ensuring the content of your posts is optimized for search terms that prospects in your channel partner’s market are likely to use.

The same is true for public relations efforts. Take advantage of optimized news releases that promote channel partner happenings. Perhaps your dealer or distributor is going to carry a new line of yours, open a new location, or doing something to further support your brand. Chances are your dealers may be less sophisticated regarding search marketing than you are. Effectively distributing optimized news releases is another way to ensure your channel partners are found by prospects in their markets.

The role of search marketing is about assisting in the evaluation process and generating sales. There are many ways you can use search marketing to do this. But remember, it’s not all about promoting you and your brand. It’s about having more touch points, and more people at the street level to recommend and close the sale. Smart search marketing promotes not only the brand, but also its channel partners. Make sure your search marketing efforts drive channel traffic to your partners. Driving prospects to channel partners will improve relationships and translate into driving sales to you.

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  1. […] tomlevers wrote an interesting post today onSEM Channel Partner MethodsHere’s a quick excerptPosted in marketing Tagged: Add new tag, B2B search marketing, Best Practices, change, Channel Partner, CPC, CPM, CTR, Direct Response Testing, generate leads, Integrated Marketing, Marketing KPIs, marketing methods, partner blogs, … […]


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