Awards case study: How F5 Networks generated $1.2 million of pipeline by revolutionising its channel marketing

Learn how the app networking tech business delivered 16x ROI by developing a one-stop marketing shop for channel partners to help them run their own campaigns.

Summary

F5, a leading global technology supplier, tasked Agency Inc with putting something in its channel partners’ hands that would revolutionise the way it conducted its marketing. Previous marketing collateral was outdated, uninspiring, complex and indistinguishable from competitors’ materials. Agency Inc turned this on its head, giving it resources that were engaging, easy to use and above all, effective. To make it even more challenging, there was a tight timeframe and limited budget.

The agency created a one-stop marketing shop that inspires partners and gives them all they need to run their own marketing campaigns. It revamped the look and feel to improve usability and make things both interesting and accessible and injected personality into the tone of voice to make the materials more engaging. Collectively, this resource gives partners all the guidance they need to run their own integrated marketing campaigns.

The most downloaded partner toolkit ever. 16x ROI. Over $1.2 million of pipeline revenue attributed to this activity since January 2017. And it’s now the de-facto template for all partner toolkits (three further toolkits have already been developed).

About

F5 makes apps go faster, smarter, and safer for the world’s largest businesses, service providers, governments, and consumer brands. F5 delivers cloud and security solutions that enable organisations to embrace the application infrastructure they choose without sacrificing speed and control.

Strategy

F5’s global sales model focuses on distributors and partners who on-sell F5 products and services. F5 also sells directly, but the channel contributes to around 60 per cent of global sales revenue. Resourcing channel partners was therefore a significant objective for 2016/17, ensuring sales growth and helping F5 maintain its status as a global leader.

Objectives

In the EMEA market, F5 works with about 4,000 partners who sell F5 products and solutions to medium and large enterprises. F5 needed a way to engage these partners and enable them to meet their 2016-17 commercial objectives, which focused on F5’s app security solutions.

The target audience

F5 categorises channel partners according to sales relationship and provides them with different levels of support on this basis. An F5 partner can range from a small local reseller with little or no budget for creating and running integrated marketing campaigns, right up to large multinational companies which sells F5 products wholesale and has dedicated media and marketing budgets.

The objective for all channel partners is to sell as many F5 products and services as possible, both to receive further support from F5 and to improve their own business performance.

With limited strategic guidance, uninspiring copy and outdated approaches to marketing, the support offered to partners wasn’t engaging or enabling them to reach their maximum business potential.

Media, channels or techniques used

The focus was on enabling partners to run integrated marketing activity by providing them with resources through the F5 partner portal.

Timescales of the campaign

With a tight timeframe and limited budget, F5 needed to reinvigorate and empower its partner audience. Channel partners were used to being supplied with very tech focused resources that were hard to differentiate from competitor marketing material. These materials were dispersed across a number of locations on the portal site, with poor usability. F5 needed to make it as easy as possible for their partners to run integrated marketing campaigns and give them access to whatever they needed. In short, a one-stop marketing shop that would inspire their partners.

Results

Our solution was to:

  • Make it as easy as possible for partners to change the way they approached marketing.
  • Develop a new style for partner communications, including visual identity and tone of voice.
  • Develop new engagement strategies, such as lead nurturing and content marketing plans.
  • Develop campaign rollout plans tailored to partners and their preferred marketing channels, including guidance on use of social and digital channels.
  • Create four distinct campaigns for four different security solutions using this new style.
  • Audit existing material and bring it in line with the new direction.
  • Create new assets to support these strategies in line with each campaign identity.
  • The range of assets included social assets, digital banner assets, email templates, event/webinar content, blog content and telemarketing quick reference guides.
  • Consolidate all strategic advice, assets and supporting material into a single resource.

Agency identified and addressed three major challenges:

  1. Change the partners’ outdated approach to marketing and advise them how to optimise rollout of integrated campaigns.
  2. Reinvigorate the existing tone of voice and content to help simplify the complex messaging used to present F5 products to end-users.
  3. Consolidate all assets and support content into a single piece of easily distributable collateral.

The final output allowed partners to use as much or as little as they needed in terms of guidance and assets. The new tone of voice focused on using easy to understand language combined with clear, benefit-led messaging.

F5 launched the initiative internally, then pushed it to partners through their own networks, updating the partner portal and leveraging direct relationships with partners.

The timescales for the development of the guide and associated assets were tight. The brief was received on 19 August 2016 and within a month and a half, the material was delivered and in the process of being rolled out across six other languages.

Within a week of launching, the English version alone broke all global company records, making it the most downloaded partner toolkit ever.

To date, the guide has amassed approximately 600 views on the partner portal and 200 downloads from the 100 partners across the EMEA region. Since the complete EMEA wide launch of the initiative and subsequent translations in January 2017, F5 has already been able to attribute over $1.2 million of pipeline revenue to this activity.

While the guide continues to get downloads and contributes to pipeline sales, the return on investment at 30 June 2017 is estimated as 16x.

The initiative has been so successful and so well received that it has become the de-facto template for partner toolkits. Three further toolkits have already been developed. These were launched in Q1 2017 to the EMEA partner audience and are currently being translated for the relevant local markets.

"I have been thrilled with everything... The fact you guys have got us from where we were to our current position considering the time is brilliant."

Joe Dotson, partner marketing EMEA, F5 Networks

B2B Marketing Awards 2017 – winners

This submission won the award for 'Best channel marketing initiative' at the B2B Marketing Awards 2017: 'F5 security demand generation guide campaign' for F5 Networks by Agency Inc.

See the full list of winners

B2B Marketing Awards 2017 – winners