In our third installment of the SaaS Channel Playbook, we uncover channel marketing emerging trends and channel partner marketing best practices – the approaches that work when marketing with your Partners and generate revenue for all.

Channel marketing is notoriously underserved. SaaS vendors that spend time thinking through their platform and strategy to create a unified and straightforward experience for your partners reaps benefits for both the vendor and partner. Remember, everything starts with the partner experience.


Emerging SaaS Channel Marketing Trends

 It is important to understand that changing landscape you are working in when creating a strategy for your program. Below are three current trends to keep in mind:

1. Pandemic Spurs Dramatic Acceleration of Digital Transformation

A recent survey by McKinsey revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation across industries by several years and contributed to the tremendous continuation of SaaS growth. Post-pandemic, there are now over 11,000 SaaS applications available, and approximately 70% of all organizations using mostly SaaS. This growth is expected to continue in the coming years. According to Gartner, SaaS worldwide spending is expected to reach $145.3 billion by 2022.

2. Emphasis on Partner Experience

Before the pandemic, 85% of all SaaS vendors were competing on customer experience. As the SaaS market becomes increasingly competitive, vendors have turned to the channel and shifted their focus to include partner experience. With this shift, marketers across the industry are assessing and refining their partner programs to create a unified partner experience, resulting in higher ROI.

3. Enablement through Education

Historically, the goal of channel marketing is to add value by enabling partners to adopt new solutions and/or evolve. Right now, much of partner enablement is happening through education, specifically digital education. Vendors and distributors are investing time and resources into delivering a comprehensive and unique educational experience to their partners.


Channel Partner Marketing Best Practices

Once you understand the landscape, consider how to make it work to your advantage:

1. Drive Partner Engagement

Partner engagement is fundamental to your channel marketing strategy. Here are three actionable ways to boost your engagement:

  • Engage with your partners through co-branded collateral and campaigns
  • Establish a strong, unique Partner Value Proposition
  • Support partners with thought leadership

These three actions are easy to implement and go a long way in driving mutual and joint value and growth.

2. Achieve Vendor/Partner Alignment

Every partner is different. Some partners prefer to own their leads from start to finish, while others prefer to work alongside vendors to close deals. As a vendor, your goal is to create a process and platform where the partner has the final choice. Additionally, from a technology standpoint, make it possible to share your leads directly with your partners. By doing this, you create a trusting environment, boost engagement, and drive growth.

3. Get Creative with MDF

 How do you serve your channel? Do you provide leads for your partners, help with marketing, or provide education and training? This process should be a personal experience for your partners, but it can be tricky: It’s too easy for a SaaS vendor to allocate Marketing Development Funds (MDF) and then have no idea if those funds and those joint marketing activities will result in any business.

Whatever program you design, make sure you are always able to attach metrics and goals to be met.

Ideally, MDFs should lead directly to sales. However, the process is exceptionally complex, and often MDFs are more of a burden than a help to many partners, especially for those without a sales or marketing team. To minimize the burden and maximize MDFs, channel marketers must get creative. In this new world, consider hosting virtual joint events such as roundtables, webinars, and other live events where both you and the partner put in the same amount.

As you think of creative ways to help your partners maximize their MDF, remember MDFs are not only about marketing. They’re about partner development, anything that enables your partners to drive growth in their business.

4. Adopt Quarterly Business Reviews

Break your partner base into three cohorts: 0-15% adoption, 15%-40% adoption, 40%+ adoption, and create unique go-to-market plans for each cohort to help them get to 40% adoption. Hold QBRs with each of your partners and talk to them about their business, priorities, and design a plan of action with them that supports their priorities. You can then easily measure execution and growth quarter-to-quarter with adoption being your key metric.

5. Invest in community building

The best brands are more than a product – they are a community. From a marketing perspective, it’s the vendor’s responsibility to add value and create an environment where peers can learn from each other. Remember, 75% of all sales happen before a customer even talks to you about the product.

Channel marketing is complex, and SaaS vendors often don’t get it right. By staying ahead of the trends and building a foundation based on engagement, enablement, and trust, your SaaS company will stand out from the competition and generate significant revenue for your company and partners.


Stay tuned for the final installment of this series where we’ll uncover industry secrets for building Channel Account Manager superstars.


A huge thank you to industry experts, Angus Robertson, Chief Marketing Officer of Chief Outsiders; Don Jeter, SVP of Marketing at Pax8; and Claudia Lee, VP of Partner Marketing at Nutanix, who we sat down with to discuss emerging trends and industry-wide best practices for SaaS Channel Marketing. Click here to view the full LinkedIn Live Video Recording.

Building a channel? Learn more about the AchieveUnite Channel Acceleration Bootcamp (CAB) designed to help you deliver a unique channel strategy that fits your business needs and drives value for your partners.