Choosing a marketing channel for your new product need not be an either-or, zero-sum game. While for some products you may need to choose one channel from which to exclusively generate and develop leads, more often than not this won’t be the case.
Let’s say you look at a new product line and target customer segment (and you should almost always think about both in combination), and determine that a specific type of partner, say, is best positioned because of vertical expertise or service offering, to help market your product. What should you do with your other partners, or your direct sales force, or your web site? Should they be discouraged from helping generate new business?
The answer is usually no. Brand owners should leverage – and trust, the wide networks of professional (and personal) contacts their sales and marketing channel members run with. Encourage them to help you market (= “create leads”) even when they are not the target channel. But how? Here are 4 steps to get you started:
1. Create and communicate objective, transparent criteria around your go-to-market strategy for products and/or customers. You spend a lot of thought and effort on your marketing strategy. Trust in your channels and communicate the why and how of your approach.
2. Develop a referral program for partners – both demand-side AND supply-side. Let partners know about your new products and services, even if they’re not the “preferred” channel for lead development. If you’ve established a pattern of doing the first point well, they should understand your approach. Create a financial reward, often in the form of a referral fee. If you have a formal partner program, consider adding some component of “bonus” for “non-core” referrals – perhaps as additional points for quarterly or annual partner performance reviews. And what about supply-chain partners? They win when you sell more in the form of increased purchases up-stream to them. Encourage them just as you would your demand-chain.
3. Have your direct channels help too. As you will with your partners, create financial incentives for your direct channels to develop leads as well. When out on the golf course or with prospects for dinner, who knows what your sales people might find! Create incentives for those responsible for your web and telemarketing channels as well.
4. As with the hot sauce, a little goes a long way. Just as in school, where extra credit should be doled out to compliment (not replace) core work, a little incentive is usually all that is needed to encourage better collaboration and all that is wanted so as not to focus marketing channels away from their core responsibilities.
Next time you’re facing a new product release, think about all your channels and how they can help develop new business. They’ll appreciate you thinking of them.