One of the best ways to support partners is often through the creation of a shared marketplace that enables better access to customers. How, though, do we assess partner marketing programmes? How do we decide what matters to the debate? The answer lies across two main areas: level of analysis or relevance, and a broad range of criteria or issues.
Making the right decisions
We believe that it is important to consider partner marketing at strategic, tactical and operational levels, as you would any business issue. You might think of this as policy, procedure and execution. In other words, strategy is what you set out to do or to achieve: your business aim, and broadly how you plan to achieve it. Your tactics are the ways in which you will deliver your strategy. Tactical issues include the campaigns you will run, and how you will organise your operations to deliver results. Finally, operational level sets out the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what you are doing on a day-to-day basis.
It is important to look across all three levels, because the decision to use partner marketing should be a strategic one, with a clear idea of what you want to achieve from it. However, the tactics and operational approach will vary between companies.
At strategic level, for example, we look at issues such as the priority given to different elements of the package. We consider whether the marketplace is visible or private, and why, and the level of visitor tracking. At tactical level, we consider issues such as the choice of metrics, and any specific terms and conditions. At operational level, we assess issues such as knowledge of how fast visitors can conclude purchases, and validation issues.
A question of five criteria
We also look at five criteria, the ‘five Rs’. These are Reach, Relevance, Revenue, Return rate and Real ease of use. What do we mean by each of these?
- Reach describes the total number of people reached by the partner marketing strategy or marketplace. In our research, it includes access to the marketplace or site and its openness, and the number of visitors per month or year.
- Relevance describes how well your partner marketing approach or marketplace fits the needs of your partners. We therefore consider aspects such as the direct financial return to your partners, and ‘side benefits’ such as sharing customer stories.
- Revenue does exactly what it says on the tin: considers financial aspects of the partner marketing programme such as the revenue from the portal or marketplace as a whole, and as a percentage of the total, and details of any fees.
- Return rate describes the contribution of the marketplace or partner marketing to the business. We consider aspects like how many customers buy and return to the portal or marketplace, and whether the marketplace is linked to core operations such as customer relationship management.
- Finally, real ease of use is about the customer experience, and how easy the marketplace is to use. We want to know how much businesses know about the ease of transactions, such as how many clicks from first landing to price information or completed purchase, and how often marketplace solutions are validated.
A broad assessment
These two areas—three levels and five criteria—allow us to generate samples and benchmarks to enable comparisons. We can also make a more formal assessment across the five criteria if we wish, to create a spider graph to compare two or more businesses in the same or different sectors. Overall, this gives us a broad understanding of partner marketing programmes and marketplaces, and enables meaningful comparisons.