By Juliette Rizkallah
Chief Marketing Officer
Whether you are working for a high-growth start-up or a multi-product portfolio company, the balance between sustaining the demand generation machine and the pressure for better margins is tough to achieve when budget and planning time comes around.
The first time I became CMO (overnight after our CMO left and I was asked to step in for the interim), I found myself having to slash my budget each quarter. This meant reprioritizing programs, calming down disgruntled teams and apologizing to field reps for not getting the support they expected. It was no fun, but I thought this was just how that public company was running its business.
The second time was a bit different as I did not have to cut budget mid-course. I just didn’t get enough budget to execute my vision and the marketing strategy I wanted to accomplish on the forefront. As I embedded myself into that company’s business, I started seeing the opportunities that a partner ecosystem could bring not just to a sales organization, but also to a marketing organization. I learned quickly that partners (resellers, system integrators and technology partners) were eager to develop marketing strategies but many did not have the marketing brainpower or the logistical resources to do much.
With two of my Field Marketing directors, we started developing a strategy where we would build in partner involvement in each activity – whether an event, a webinar, an email campaign or even an ad campaign. We engaged early on with a few, showed success and very soon after could claim 50 to 60% of all our marketing activities as being done jointly with partners. Partners would contribute 50% to 66% of the cost, which enabled us to free up budget for other strategic initiatives that did not get funding at the beginning of the year.
This was not just a budget game. From the start, we developed a pipeline with partners and helped forged strong relationships between the company and its ecosystem, as well as between prospects, partners and ourselves, the vendor. Our strategies were so aligned, prospects saw one entity versus two in their discussions and our win rate increased.
Today, working with partners in more than 50% of our activities is not a budget gimmick – it is the foundation of our B2B marketing strategy. My advice for those of you considering how to effectively leverage partners in your own marketing strategy includes the following:
1. Develop your marketing plan early in the year. We make our plan available in the first week of January and present it to partners before or during Sales Kick Off.
2. Present a compelling campaign that helps position both the vendor solutions and the partners’ services.
3. Develop your plan and budget built with partners contribution embedded, to help maximize funds and incentivize the marketing team to engage with them early in the quarter.
4. Track, monitor and measure all activities to show ROI to engaged partners, and use that success to get buy-in from additional partners, proving the value of joint marketing.
Juliette Rizkallah is a marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, specifically security and big data. She is currently Chief Marketing Officer at SailPoint Technologies, where she oversees all aspects of SailPoint’s marketing strategy including corporate and product messaging, branding, corporate communications, digital demand generation, field and channel marketing.
Juliette has held executive positions at some of the world’s largest technology companies, including Oracle, CA, Business Objects-SAP and Check Point Software. She began her career as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company San Francisco and Arthur Andersen France.