Channel gets smarter with marketing

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This article appeared in the November 2014 issue of CRN magazine.

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Channel gets smarter with marketing

Any IT people who watch television series Mad Men would have enjoyed the most recent season in which ad agency Sterling Draper & Partners buys a room-sized IBM System 360 to remain relevant as a technology-driven provider. 

The show depicted the beginnings of marketing automation; it’s a sector very much in vogue half-a-century later. From Gartner’s prediction that the chief marketing officer will soon hold more IT budget than the CIO to the arrival of new campaign automation tools, the intersection of technology and marketing is hot right now. 

Yet while marketers go mad for technology, our corner of the tech sector is not always so inspiring in its approach to marketing. Email marketing is a central pillar of channel campaigns, and some are more successful than others. 

Who am I to judge? Well, CRN produce our fair share of email newsletters. We understand the challenge to cut-through the average reader’s overloaded inbox. As I write this, I have 17,642 emails in my inbox (the concept of ‘inbox zero’ being up there with the paperless office and work-life balance). Everyone is clamouring for attention from a busy audience. In sales, they talk about ‘quote and hope’. In online marketing, it can be more ‘spray and pray’. There’s a place for broadcasting, but there’s also a need for a more targeted strategy.  

But even the cleverest MDF proposals only work if vendors are willing to play ball. Resellers know their audience, vendors have the budget to spend, but matching up the knowledge with the dollars isn’t always easy.

Step forward distributors. Much has been said in these pages about the challenge that disties face to remain relevant in the era of the virtual supply chain (see our cover story). Cloud marketplaces offer one way for disties to carve out a new identity; new styles of marketing services represent another. 

That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed this article on MDF. We speak to two distributors who have made significant investments to better serve the channel with marketing expertise. They’re not alone. While writing this column, an email landed in my inbox (number 17,643) revealing that the UK office of the world’s biggest distie has launched ‘Agency Ingram Micro’ to help partners plan, create and execute campaigns. While Ingram has no immediate plans to launch the agency model locally, the way this facet of channel strategy is heating up, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

Steven Kiernan is the editor of CRN

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