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Relayware Partner Relationship Management

Communicating with Partners Means Competing in the Attention Economy

Posted on February 26, 2014 by Chris Bucholtz

We all know the type: the person who never stops talking, to the point where they prevent you from being heard. Technology’s allowed them to take this to the next level; even when they’re out of earshot, they can dominate the conversation by updating their Facebook status every 15 minutes or bombarding their followers with Tweets or sending barrages of emails.

And we all have strategies for dealing with these people. Mostly, we unfriend them and stay away from them as much as possible.

Now, consider your marketing communications to your channel partners. Are you playing the role of the compulsive communicator? If you are, your channel partners will probably do the same things most of us do to avoid people of that ilk – they’ll avoid you and disregard your communications regardless of the media you use to reach them. And, soon, they’ll look for other vendors who are less chatty and more respectful of their time and attention.

Communicating too little with partners is a problem, but so is communicating too much. Channel partners have a lot of things competing for their attention: their customers, namely, but also other vendors, the basics of running their businesses, employee issues and other things. That’s a drain on what CRM guru Brent Leary dubbed “the Attention Economy” back in 2010 http://crm2.typepad.com/brents_blog/2010/01/penetrating-the-attention-economy-in-the-age-social-media.html - that is, the finite amount of time that people have for communications of any sort in an era where it’s easier to communicate than ever before, especially via one-to-many communications.

We’ve been able to automate or partially automate almost everything via technology – production, fulfillment, many back-office tasks, major components of marketing, customer-facing tasks through CRM, and even most of the channel management through PRM. That’s made people more productive and our businesses more profitable. But it hasn’t bought people more time and more attention – no matter what we do short of inventing a time machine, we each get 24 hours in a day, and of those 24 hours there is precious little that isn’t already accounted for. People guard that time closely, and they must choose how they use it carefully.

So, when you pepper them with emails or social media messages that aren’t targeted at them, or which don’t give them some value, you’re wasting one of their most valued resources.

So how do you compete in the attention economy? Three things leap to mind:

  1. Have something valuable to say – not a sales pitch, not something that talks up your company, but some content which makes your reader’s life better or easier or more prosperous.
  2. Segment your audience so the right people get the right message – what’s valuable to one partner may bot be valuable to another.
  3. Personalize your message as much as possible. What has more impact on you: an email blast that’s sent to a thousand people, of whom you are one, and written in such a way as to appeal to every one of them, or an email sent to you that clearly has been written with your circumstances in mind?

Scaling this approach, ironically, requires automation when your channel grows and you’re working with many partners. It also requires you to be creative and to continue to look for ways to provide value to customers and potential customers in ways that go beyond what you’re selling. It’s not easy – but it’s worth it when you realize that the untargeted blasts and nonstop streams of unfocused communications that your competitors may be sending are actually teeing their partners up for you to take away from them.

You want partners to think of you first. You want them to feel connected to you and maintain them – especially your most lucrative partners – for the long term. If that’s the case, communicate with them in a way that brings them value – and doesn’t cause them to tune you out.