Here is a quote to chew on, “Solution providers are terrible marketers. They don’t invest in marketing. They don’t frame their value propositions beyond their technical skill sets. And they have unrealistic expectations for the returns on their marketing investments.” This is courtesy of Channelnomics post “VARs Must Market Up and Down the Channel.”
I have to say I don’t disagree having come from a VAR before joining Seagate 7 years ago. Back then, when Market Development Funds (MDF) money flowed more freely, we constantly marketed ourselves to our vendor partners to embark on campaigns to small to medium business and government and education customers.
Today, let’s face it, with lower margins on hardware, and the movement to cloud and managed services, the MDF that once flowed freely from vendors to partners is much tighter and more stringent. If it exists at all. What vendors once invested downstream in partner marketing has shifted to vendors’ own marketing budgets in hopes of generating their own brand awareness and preference, and thus, leads.
Yet, for many vendors, lead generation is where the marketing metric stops. Building a database of tens of thousands of customers isn’t worth much if those customers are buying your wares. Let’s face it, most vendors are not equipped to call on small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) directly. Their sales force is either too small, or their direct customer support model is not scalable. This is where VARs tend to shine. The high touch support and personal relationships they establish with customers, especially SMBs, is still needed even in the virtual IT world of cloud computing.
The problem: what VARs do vendors send their SMB leads to? Larry Walsh makes an excellent point in his Channelnomics post:
“To earn those opportunities, solution providers need to educate and continually reinforce their competencies, capabilities and capacities to their vendors. By providing vendor sales with a steady stream of information on certifications, qualifications, staffing, market reach and extended partnerships, a solution provider will differentiate themselves from their peers and remain top-of-mind when opportunities arise.”
Most, if not all, vendors have partner programs like Seagate’s SPP (Seagate Partner Program). And, I believe, many times these partner programs are not leveraged to the full extent. VARs / solution providers should view their vendor partner programs as the key to marketing upstream in 2013. Consider it your New Year’s Resolution to do the following:
- When vendors ask to update your partner profile – do it. Partner profiles are the means in which vendors segment partners by area of expertise, vertical markets served, geographic location, etc.
- Establish a personal relationship with your vendors’ partner program managers. Really – there are real people behind these programs and they love talking to and engaging with partners.
- Get as many sales, marketing, and technical people at the company registered in vendors’ partner programs. This will ensure there is no gatekeeper to the information, or the relationship with partner program managers at vendors.
- Take interest in vendor marketing campaigns. Be involved and ask questions about your vendors’ marketing strategies especially to your customer base. Look for ways to leverage such campaigns into your own sales and marketing efforts, and make a direct connection between vendor lead generation and your company.
- Provide results. Vendors love metrics and success stories. The easiest way for you to get up on a vendor’s webpage is to co-develop a compelling success story or case study on how you used the vendor’s product to solve a problem. At the same time, metrics are key. Vendors marketing activities live and die on metrics. If vendors can link marketing dollars spent directly to revenue, you’re golden.
The good thing is this doesn’t cost you any money…just time and dedication. After all, all you are doing is what you do best with your customers – relationship building. This time, it’s upstream.
Here’s to a fresh start in 2013!