Don't leave money on the table. Five secrets to more vendor funding

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This article appeared in the July 2017 issue of CRN magazine.

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Don't leave money on the table. Five secrets to more vendor funding

COMMENT  |  As a reseller working with multiple OEM vendors and likely multiple distributors, how do you manage when everybody wants a “piece of you”? Your directors want increased profits, while your distributors and vendors want a bigger piece of your revenue pie. Just reading all of your distributor and OEM newsletters and attending all the partner conferences and training would take up a quarter of your time – how do you have any time left to increase sales and drive profitability?

While these are legitimate concerns, the truth is that vendors and their distributors (usually with money from the OEMs) want to help partners increase demand. This goes beyond the set‑aside marketing development funds that result from your sales revenue. They are spending millions of dollars on systems, campaigns and concierge support (often with agencies such as ours) for one simple reason – to increase your sales of their solutions.

Why should you care? Because if you manage them all properly based on the tips outlined below, you’ll make everyone happy – including your directors.

With limited marketing resources of your own, you must actually take advantage of all the resources provided. It sounds like common sense, but nearly 50 percent of allocated MDF funds aren’t utilised by partners. Ask your OEMs if they offer outsourced partner marketing concierge services through third party agencies, including ready-made campaign packages for you to spend the MDF on. If these PMC services are offered from a full-service integrated marketing agency, they can essentially act as your outsourced strategic marketing team and provide bespoke marketing services to you at reasonable and pre‑negotiated fees.

Secondly, these PMC teams can help you leverage the multiple platforms most big tech companies have to “manage” relationships as well as demand generation and leads with you. There is actually an entire area of technology called partner relationship management (PRM), as well as a narrower sub-segment called through-channel marketing automation. TCMA is itself a subset of technology from general B2B marketing automation, which includes major vendors you may already be working with, like Eloqua (part of Oracle Marketing Cloud), Marketo and Hubspot.

If you have your own marketing automation solution, you’re already ahead of the game in terms of marketing sophistication; the best bet for you is likely just to ask your vendors for HTML campaign assets that you can customise and use independent of whatever a vendor is offering. You will, of course, still want to take advantage of the lead shark tank, opportunity rebate and MDF spending capabilities through all of your vendors’ PRM systems. If this applies to you, stop reading now and get selling!

For the majority of resellers not spending thousands a month on whiz-bang B2B marketing automation systems, let me give you the inside scoop on how you can get the support you need from your vendors to sell more successfully.

Building off of the acronyms I mentioned above (PLM and its subset, TCMA), there are a variety of SaaS software vendors competing for your vendor’s partner enablement budgets. “Why don’t they just give me the money directly in MDF and incentives instead of giving it to these PRM vendors?” you might ask. One more acronym: ROI.

As dedicated as you are to driving sales of your vendors’ solutions, nothing comes for free. Just like government pension programs, MDF is “your” money, but it’s not. Your vendor partner marketing and sales contacts are being KPI’d on the opportunities you create and what you do with leads they give you.

However, you should remember that they are doing all of this for you. They would love to hear from you about what you want and the types of demand generation you find most effective in the field. They are likely dying for guidance on whatever they could do to help you create more demand for their solutions. OEMs are actually paying for IT analysts and consultancy insights from companies like SirusDecisions and Forrester to know what platforms are likely to help their partners most. Unfortunately, just like with CRM (especially before Salesforce) and other enterprise software implementations, many are not successful, even after spending millions of dollars trying to get you to use them.

Therefore, I have the following five recommendations based on insights gathered by my teams in the Asia-Pacific region, who are working with resellers like you to generate sales opportunities on behalf of OEM vendors such as Veritas, CA Technologies, Symantec, Citrix, Intuit, and Autodesk and others.

They’ve had partners using SharedVue (now Zift), Zinfi, Elastic Grid, Elateral and other TCMA platforms.

1. Get your data in order

The core of any good marketing activity is customer and lead data. Without it, no amount of campaign tactics are likely to result in solid opportunities. However, many vendor-funded partner marketing centres offer teleprospecting and data purchase as part of their menu of MDF options.

2. Ask for all the support your vendor provides

MDF, lead shark tanks, POC funding, marketing concierge support, marketing bureau agency support, campaign assets, social media posts, presentations... the list goes on. Even though benefits are often tiered based on your partner program status, most core campaign assets should be available even at a registered partner level.

3. Ask for HTML or artwork files you can customise

Vendors are paranoid about their brands and spend millions with integrated marketing agencies to make sure their brand image effectively resonates in global markets. They, therefore, often “lock down” the customisation of campaigns to just inserting your company logo and contact details. However, if pushed – and as long as they know it will result in you actually executing a campaign – they may be willing to allow you to increase the customisation to whatever you want (within reason).

4. Don’t hesitate to play the “competitor card”

As much as they’d love to pretend otherwise, your vendors know you’re being “promiscuous” in who you partner with to meet your customers’ needs.

Nothing quite gets the attention of a vendor like, “Your competitor is giving me partner marketing concierge support; why aren’t you?”

5. Tell them you are only willing to use a multi-vendor marketing automation platform

Most vendors will only give you free access to their locked-down TCMA system with their assets inside, and require you to upload your confidential database into it to launch campaigns.

However, there are platforms – including StrategyMix, which has an APJ presence in Sydney – which are designed as partner marketing automation SaaS solutions that you can use for whatever campaigns you want, regardless of the OEM solutions included. Even if they won’t change TCMA platforms, ask that your partner marketing centre agency signs an NDA with you, detailing that they won’t share your data without your permission – even with the vendor paying for the service.

If you follow this advice, you are bound to generate more sales opportunities for yourself, your distributors and, ultimately, the vendors paying the bill for all of the marketing resources. Just like with airline mile points, you only have to be smart about how you leverage the benefits to soar free of charge!

Ben Wightman is the channel and sales enablement director, head of precision for Asia-Pacific and Japan and group director in gyro’s Asia-Pacific strategy and planning team

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