Maintaining regular communication with your channel partners is always important, but in light of the “new normal” of working remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become more important than ever to stay connected to channel partners. For many brands, brand-to-local email programs are an afterthought, even though it’s integral for keeping partners engaged, and ensuring that your messaging, branding, and promotional material is consistent from the top to the bottom of your organization.
Use these tips to create or optimize a channel partner email program.
Strike a Balance Between You and Your Audience
As with any form of email marketing, think about your audience and what they might be looking for. We frequently see brand-to-local communications garner little engagement because the content is either overwhelming or not particularly valuable to the channel partner audience, or both. What’s important for the corporate brand to communicate and what your channel partners consider important may not be the same, so do your best to strike a balance between the two. Maybe that entails a combination of organizational updates, available tools and services, and suggestions on how partners spend their co-op dollars. Or, maybe it’s just one article on the upcoming offer period that impacts multiple areas of business. Don’t lose sight of what content is most valuable at the local level.
Consider what content is a priority when designing your email, and structure it so it’s organized and puts the most relevant information at the top. Choose an email template or layout that allows recipients to skim or easily jump to the content they’re searching for. You can even leverage Anchor Links to create a table of contents within your email as long as you know your recipients’ email supports it.
But what if you don’t know what’s important to your channel partners? Ask them! We have seen great success when brands do surveys, outreach to key dealers, or focus groups to determine what’s working and what’s not, or to prep for a new partner engagement program that’s not yet off the ground.
Lastly, make sure you keep the nature of your channel partner relationships in mind. Are you talking to captive agents who only receive communications from your brand, or licensed dealers who might be contacted by all the brands they represent? Have your partners provided implied consent to be emailed, or does the business relationship warrant an opt-in process? These considerations can be valuable as you think through your approach.
Find the Right Cadence For Your Channel Partner Email Program
Almost as important as what to communicate is when to communicate. When determining the right cadence for your communications, think about what emails you already send your partners. Avoid overwhelming them with too many emails, and make sure they don’t receive more than one email from your brand in a day. Stick to a regular communication schedule so your partners come to expect—or, gasp!—even look forward to your email. Consider when your partners are most likely to be checking email versus when they’re in the field, and try to time your communications accordingly. This may be something that requires trial and error, and you can optimize your program to find a rhythm that yeilds the best open rates over time.
When it comes to choosing a length for your emails, you want to strike a balance between delivering essential content and respecting your partners’ time. If your emails are too long, you may find that partners only read the beginning of your email and bounce, or don’t open it at all. If you find that your emails require heavy use of the mouse wheel, you may want to consider more frequent emails with less content in each. On the other hand, if you’re finding there’s not that much to convey in each of your emails, consider spacing emails farther apart, as long as nothing time-sensitive will be missed as a result. We’ve found that a good place to start for most major brands is sending weekly emails that highlight 2-3 important topics.
Measure and Optimize the Results of Your Email Program
Brand-to-local email programs occupy a unique space: not B2C, not quite B2B, and not exactly internal communications. Because channel partner communications fall in a very niche area, it can be difficult (and we mean, really difficult) to find any applicable benchmarks for measuring the success of your program. But as with any email marketing program, your best benchmark is one you create over time that is specific to your audience, content, and business. If you’re looking for something to see how you stack up, consult with BrandMuscle to learn about benchmarks specific to your industry. As a general rule of thumb, companies sending B2C emails should aim for open rates above 15% and click-through rates above 2.5%. However, brand-to-local communications should perform significantly better. We tend to see open rates between 30-50% and click-through rates between 2.5-10% when managing channel partner email programs.
Establish Key Performance Indicators
As with any marketing, it’s important to recognize the goals of your email when developing your program and determining key performance indicators (KPIs). If your emails are strictly informational and don’t regularly have calls to action, then leveraging click-through rate as a primary KPI won’t make sense for you. Instead, you’ll solely want to focus on improving open rates. But if eliciting an action each time you send an email is vital, make sure you’re optimizing for more conversions.
Ensure High Deliverability
Deliverability is also an important factor in maintaining a healthy communications program. Many brand-to-local communications programs are contacting channel partners with email addresses that all share a company domain, which guarantees high deliverability. But in some cases, your channel partners may have different email domains, meaning you’ll need to update and clean your lists regularly to ensure deliverability.
Optimize for the Best Results
As you start to gather results from your communications program, look for ways to optimize it. If your open rates are low, give more attention to your subject lines and preheader text. If you include calls-to-action but they’re not getting clicks, think about how to make your CTAs jump out more visually, or make the button language more enticing for your channel partners to click on. Make sure your content is presented cleanly, precisely, and in a visually appealing way. Run A/B tests to improve subject lines, button placement, and layout choices. Continue to track the results of each email and compare your progress against existing benchmarks.
Ready to Hit Send?
While brand-to-local email communications occupy a unique space and are often overlooked, they are a great way to maintain brand consistency and empower your channel partners. Ask BrandMuscle if we can help with your brand-to-local communications today.