Marketing certification: Best practice, or a waste of time?

If I have a big red mark on my forehead, it’s from banging my head against a wall. That wall is built up of unnecessary rules, protocols, form-filling, red tape, paperwork…all the stuff that hinders channel partners from getting on with the job of selling.

Arguably, the path to certification falls into that category. Why, then, am I such a big fan of marketing certification?

Simple. Marketing certification directly contributes to sales success.

But hang on a minute. Isn’t that also true of other certifications? For example, certification on a particular product, or group of products; or service delivery; or installation/ commissioning/ management of a solution. And so on. Well, yes it is – but let me put it into context.

Channel partners work with many different vendors. Quite often, some of them are directly competitive. The certification you award your partners is a hygiene factor to reassure customers and prospects that those partners know what they’re doing. And, undoubtedly, those certifications complement the primary purpose or objective of the partner, which is to sell.

But by themselves, they don’t get your message out there.

Channel marketing certification, on the other hand, is your way of making sure that partners are putting your marketing efforts (and budget) to good use. Because more than anything else, if you’re a tech vendor, marketing certification – or rather, its outcomes – impacts on your bottom line. When partners get it right, and successfully implement your channel marketing programmes, everyone wins. But when partners get it wrong, everyone loses.

It’s costing you money straightaway – and costing both of you potential sales.

So what is the main reason for failure – and how can you prevent it? Almost certainly, it’s because your partners don’t really understand your programmes, fail to implement them properly, or ignore them and do their own thing. Which probably means one of two things. Either the programmes are too complicated, or you haven’t taken the time to explain them properly. Remember, complexity is a big turn-off.

All those steps and stages? They’re easy for you to comprehend, and so they should be. After all, you wrote the programme. But for a partner’s sales rep who wants to close deals, they’re a closed book. Whatever you’re asking a partner to do has to be easier than the alternative activity (in this instance, that’s participating in another vendor’s programme).

This is why I encourage you to build marketing certification into your channel best practices.

Using certification, you can train one or more key members of your partner’s sales team. That way, they have ownership of the materials and processes you want them to use, and can train others. Not only do you empower them with the necessary skills, but you also establish yourself as the vendor prepared to go the extra mile for them and their sales. The result is improved mindshare, improved sales figures and improved profitability for you and the partner.

There’s always a but.

But first you have to persuade the partner that it’s worth their while pulling a team member off selling duties to achieve the certification. How you do it is up to you. In my experience, dangling the carrot of funded training is a good incentive. So is spelling out the benefits of extra money in the partner’s marketing budget, post-certification. When partners see that you’re investing – and understand that their participation is also a sound investment – they’ll find the motivation.

Certification has blanket benefits for you and your partners. But marketing certification – giving partner sales reps exactly what they need to improve their strike rate – can be a real winner.   

Is marketing certification working for you? Share your thoughts – and look out for more channel education posts in this series, coming soon.

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