CRN’s Channel Academy is a learning hub for training and enablement for people in the IT industry which touches on four key pillars of business: Sales, Marketing, Finance and HR.

We have engaged with experts in each of these fields to offer unique insights on challenges facing all IT businesses today and in a post COVID-19 world.

If fortune has favoured you, it’s time to be bold

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If fortune has favoured you, it’s time to be bold

When the prospect of a global lockdown became a reality, it sent shockwaves through almost every industry and every business in the world. And rightly so, for the first time in our lives we were facing unprecedented change, major uncertainty and significant economic impact, not to mention the actual health risks of the pandemic.

Now, more than a month into the unknown, many businesses, including several in the IT and technology channel, have unfortunately had to close their doors, whilst the future for others looks uncertain. Some have opted to go into hibernation and wait this period of uncertainty out.

Of those remaining, there will be a portion who are in a very fortunate position to see opportunities for growth through an increase in customer demand or by quickly pivoting or refocusing their business, potentially becoming more diversified.

We have seen and heard some negativity recently, with some arguing that businesses will fail if they are not robust. This is a simplistic way of looking at things. In that Australian channel, if we look at the advice of most vendors over the last five years, it has centred on encouraging partners to find their specialisation and go for a niche target market.

My organisation Mogrify works with many partners in the channel and for some who did go more niche, large portions of their customers are, or were, in an industry that was destroyed almost overnight, such as hospitality or travel. The impact of closing borders, preventing travel and extreme restrictions on restaurants and venues was bound to have broad and severe ramifications, including the closure or reduction of supplier businesses.

This is not because of any bad decisions, or poor planning. These partners are highly competent, led by business-savvy owners, and their businesses are profitable. It is just bad timing. It takes time to build up a niche and use your success there to fund growth in other niches. If you get caught at the wrong time with an unprecedented macro-economic shock, then your cost base will be too big for your remaining customers to sustain. Inevitably, you’ll need to cut back.

For the businesses that have successfully surfed the wave of uncertainty and have seen an opportunity to grow or pivot, time is of the essence. You need to reassess your marketing strategy.

How should you be tackling your marketing now?

The first step (and it is fairly obvious) is to acknowledge that you cannot keep offering and delivering your services in line with a pandemic-free, business as usual world.

Instead, business leaders need to hone in on their top priority, or biggest opportunity, and shift marketing activities to align with it.

What and where are the customer needs right now, and what can you do to help address them? Depending on your customer requirements and your marketing to date, there are several options for refocusing your marketing.

For those fortunate businesses, here are some suggestions on how to refocus your marketing:

  1. Pivot your marketing strategy and messaging. If you usually have a strong focus on marketing, it is essential you reassess the relevance, delivery and messaging of your existing plan. By focussing on the current market and listening to customers, businesses can pivot their activity and drive their business forward.
  2. Get laser focused. What is your new marketing objective for the next 6-12 months? It is to focus on customer retention, better lead nurturing, higher sales conversions, or new lead generation? Perhaps a new product or service launch? Where are your lowest hanging fruits? Don’t try to do everything – focus is a must.
  3. Streamline your processes. Are your current marketing processes as efficient as they could be? If all your activity is currently executed through manual processes, consider implementing a Marketing Automation Platform. This will allow you to continue to nurture prospects with minimal resourcing required. If your lead generation activity has been focusses on face to face meetings, you don’t want to let the investment in this activity go to waste. Review your prospect lists and consider how you can nurture contacts in place of meetings.

Positive pivot-ers and how acting quickly has impacted their businesses.

Several Australian businesses have already pivoted their services quickly with extremely positive outcomes. Within the IT channel, there has been much activity as customers turn to technology in order to maintain business operations.

Microsoft partner Dynamic Business Technologies is an IT company that rapidly realised there was an opportunity to grow if they could quickly pivot.

“We were midway through executing a marketing strategy that relied heavily on face-to-face events around modern desktop," Dynamic Business Technologies managing director Nathan Franks explained.

"Obviously we had to rethink this given social distancing. At the same time we were seeing a significant increase in enquiries about rapid Cloud migration from businesses that needed to enable staff to work from home.”

Having realised that the shift to working from home was an opportunity for the business, Nathan worked with his marketing partner to quickly redefine messaging, create cloud based offers, and communicate them with prospects.

“The work we are focussing on now was not a central point of our original marketing plan but it didn’t make sense to push on with a plan that didn’t account for COVID-19 when there was clearly an opportunity for us to tap into,” adds Nathan.

Modern Workplace specialists, and Microsoft gold partner, Insync Technology, is an example of a refocus.

The company was quick to realise that it needed to prioritise Adoption & Change Management over their other services.

The refocus centred on existing customers, with Insync keen to ensure that all the Modern Workplace tools, applications and processes they had previously implemented were being used correctly and driving business outcomes for their customers.

“Our primary focus is ensuring our customers have everything they need to enable their staff to work productively from home, or enable their students to study from home (in the Education sector). This isn’t just about giving them the tools, but thinking about security, compliance, and of course about training,” noted Insync Technology marketing and sales director Stuart Moore.

Further to this, Insync quickly adjusted their Microsoft Teams training offering and launched WFH Upskill, an online course to enable a productive remote working experience, created in response to the shift to remote work as a result of COVID-19.

“We knew that our customers would suddenly have to press go on new applications and tools overnight. So, we created training courses that target the general user who suddenly found themselves relying on Microsoft 365 but who may have not utilised it properly yet. Right now, it is all about responding to customer needs quickly,” added Moore.

If your COVID-19 cloud has a silver lining, don’t delay – act now!

We are in unprecedented times, and sadly businesses are going to close. Luck (or perhaps bad luck) has a lot to do with it but for some in our channel, there is opportunity to grow, to diversify and to move into new areas.

Innovation is what the Australian channel does best – we’re known for it on a global scale. Now is the time to innovate, create and communicate.

Go forth and be bold! 

Melanie Unwin is the co-founder and director of Mogrify, a channel specialist marketing agency. She has been a Microsoft Partner Success Mentor since 2017 and has trained and mentored a large number of partners in Australia over the last seven years.

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