In a crowded space to market and sell solutions in, vendors are getting creative and thinking ahead about how to capture their audience’s attention.
“Vendors are thinking of creative ways to collaborate with their partners. Traditionally vendors would interact with them via shows and emails. With these new ecosystem lines of business applications, which is a partner-first tool, vendors are now able to meet them where they work,” said Christine Ululati, VP of vendor partnerships for Glasshive.
Ululati along with Alex Stanton, senior director of partner marketing at Arctic Wolf and Elisa Esposito, director of marketing programs at Konica Minolta spoke on a panel at CRN parent company The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel Summit West event in Palm Springs, Calif. last week to discuss channel marketing trends. The panel was moderated by Adelaide Reilly, global SVP of customer digital experience for The Channel Company.
“Video continues to explode,” said Reilly. “I was reading a study online recently that said people are now consuming about 17 hours of video a week. We know from the CRN readership survey that 53 percent of our audience love to consume video.”
Esposito said Konica Minolta has learned to narrow down its marketing videos to get to the meat of the message to capture the audience.ADVERTISEMENT
“Try to put the content in there, make it easy for them to just quickly get it and think about what will really resonate with the customer and not trying to think that you’ve got to put the whole kitchen sink in there,” she said.
From video to automation to personalization, here are five channel marketing trends vendors can use to drive revenue and scale their businesses.
Esposito: Konica Minolta recently launched a program for its dealer channel, where there are different levels of dealers. There was one program where the dealers really needed more hand holding to get them to the next level.
The only way to do that was to look at the data, take the data, scrub it and build a program that we felt would be achievable for them. All of it was based on building dashboards. It’s all about their revenue. We’re showing total revenue, production revenue, hardware revenue…so don’t just have one product. We sell over 600 different products to our dealers so we have to combine it all and make sense of it.
And then it’s how do they know where they are. Leaving it up to our managers doesn’t always necessarily work, because they have maybe multiple dealers to get to. By using the dashboard, creating calculators, it’s all online, it’s live and automated. It’s been working great and we’ve seen such an incline in their tiers.
Stanton: As consumers, we expect the personalized experience. It’s different for our partners. We are in the cybersecurity space which is an increasing concern for all businesses. Because of that, the space is very noisy. As a solution, we need to make sure that our partners are getting the information when they need it, how they need it, how they want it and at the time that’s right for them. It’s got to cut through the noise, so not only do you need this unicorn solution for cybersecurity you need to provide an experience that keeps you top of mind and gains the mind share needed to drive the loyalty. It’s increasingly important to not take the one-size-fits-all approach.
Ululati: Video is playing an important role now more than ever. What’s happening is the channel is being flooded with so many different solutions for partners to sell. First it was networking, now it’s cloud, it’s cybersecurity and hyper automation. Their solutions stack is growing and it’s getting harder to sell. The great thing about video is it never gets tired of perfectly presenting the perfect solution 24/7. In this day and age of AI and ChatGPT I think it’s a great way to retain your authenticity because AI can’t produce its own video…yet.
Esposito: I’ve learned that product videos don’t do as well as case study videos. What we did is go out and get case studies from our customers, but the rates would drop. So I said, ‘Let’s do little snippets.’ Because if I can’t catch you in the first three seconds, you’re not going to watch this video. We have to look at where is the actual meat of the video, pull it out, do that little snippet, make it about us, make it about them and all of a sudden the rates just kept going up.
It was really rethinking that you don’t have to tell the entire story in the video. Try to put the content in there, make it easy for them to just quickly get it and think about what will really resonates with the customer and not trying to think that you’ve got to put the whole kitchen sink in there.
Marketing Efforts Catered To Mid-Tier Partners
Stanton: When Arctic Wolf looks at its tiered programs, partners keep growing because they are getting the resources they need to climb. The middle tier easily gets left behind. We need to look at what benefits and resources we’re giving that mid-to-lower tier in order to get them to the next level.
We have a program that has point-based incentives where our partners can earn points on things like training and closing business. If we only make it applicable to top tier, they’re going to keep growing but we have to be mindful of, ‘Do we throttle certain things?’ Maybe it’s not for everything, they can’t earn for every click and every engagement but we have to get them to take action. So if we offer them something at the lower tier that gets them excited and motivated to go to the next tier, and giving them the training in order to do so, that’s where we have to look at the sweet spot in enabling our partners.
Esposito: Part of a program that we’re putting together is we try to add a benefit to it. I want to reward those for good behavior. However, it’s not always about what I can give them but what other vendors, and what they offer, that I think is going to benefit my dealers. I could work with them and see what the pricing is like, I will offer and subsidize a certain amount for you if you hit this revenue. It’s a give and take, and I do that with a few different vendors.
Stanton: When a partner applies, what type of information are you getting to get them ramped as a partner. There are some things we can do in our points-based platform as well. We can get them excited and keep us top of mind. What I’m most excited about is we’re looking at partner behavior scoring systems, similar to what we find with prospect scoring. It’s based on how a partner engages with us, how they produce for us and what they’re selling for Arctic Wolf. And then how do we throttle different programs, engagement, experiences and incentives to get them from high engagement to high producing. So it’s really looking at that scoring system to help us learn how to structure our marketing strategy instead of just [casting] a wide net.
The other things is partner pedigree, we require this now for our gold and silver partners. It’s really obtaining information about what products and solutions they sell and what spaces and segments they sell into. It’s for us to understand if we’re emailing a partner who sells their own incident response solution, we shouldn’t be emailing them talking about that solution because we’re in direct competition with them.
Ululati: Not only are vendors using these tools to automate their workflows but partners are using them as well. Vendors are able to do their marketing in the same ecosystem as their partners. It shortens the timeframe for partners to get to market and they’re able to drive revenue a lot faster. We’re also seeing channel marketers get a lot more mileage out of the content that they are creating, so if you combine that with platforms with AI where partners don’t have to sit there and create their own content, they’re able to automate their email marketing plans and sales processes. They’re able to create an aggressive marketing strategy that’s scalable.
Esposito: It’s end to end. We’re looking at how do we automate any lead that’s coming into the system. We have to facilitate whether it’s dealer or direct and make sure we get them into our CRM system. That’s all personalization there, but then again it’s your campaigns. How are you automating them and making sure the campaigns are hitting the right personas, the right people. It’s all about how the lead is coming in.
Future Technologies and Upcoming Trends
Ululati: Big data, AI and ecosystems are something channel marketers need to look out for. Big data, if we can look at the channel’s daily activities [we can determine] when’s the best time to send an email, what email campaign am I sending has the best open rate or what piece of collateral am I sending that has the best click-through rate. I can use this information through big data to feed into platforms with AI. Then partners make better decisions if they have information on that.
Stanton: We’re in cybersecurity so we have to think about if we’re putting information into this system, what’s being done with it. Is it safe? I also think there’s this lost art around internal enablement. With channel marketing, our audience is our partners, salespeople, technical reps and marketers. We have to make sure we’re staying top of mind for them. That also means training our internal teams to push the right programs and to push the right content to enable their partners.
Ululati said vendors are thinking of creative ways to collaborate with their partners. Traditionally vendors would interact with them via shows and emails. With these new ecosystem lines of business applications, which is a partner-first tool, vendors are now able to meet them where they work. They don’t have to disrupt their workflow. Vendors meetings partners in these ecosystems gives them visibility into what they’re doing with their sales processes, so they get access into that.
Stanton: We have a five-day period of six webinars that cover everything from a different solution type to new routes to market. Depending on their role within the company, they’ve a solution focus they can look at, they can look at their stage in the partner journey and we also enable our sellers in the field to go out with sales plays that are specific to the partner and where there at.
From that, being able to take the data from which webinar they attended to know which resources they’re interested in allows us to deliver a more personalized follow up.LEARN MORE: Marketing Matters | Video | SMB-Midmarket Opportunities
CJ Fairfield is an associate editor at CRN covering solution providers, MSPs and distributors. Prior to joining CRN, she worked at daily newspapers, including The Press of Atlantic City in New Jersey and The Frederick News-Post in Maryland. She can be reached at [email protected].
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