Local channel marketing in a state of turmoil

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This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Local channel marketing in a state of turmoil

It’s been a tough couple of years for marketers in Australia’s IT channel. I know of two large integrators that have shuttered their marketing divisions. What’s going wrong here? 

The core of this problem lies with management failing to invest in marketing. Unlike other operational business units, marketing is rarely allocated an ROI number; instead it is treated as a cost centre. This problem can be fixed but needs change to flow from the top down. 

Does your organisation have a formal marketing budget and detailed plan? Most don’t. Let’s be blunt: there’s no plan to follow or cash to spend. It’s hardly surprising channel marketing is failing so dismally. Many people in the job lack resources or well-articulated goals. Marketing initiatives are mostly ad-hoc or vendor driven; they lack framework, management buy-in and funding.

Vendor-driven market development funding (MDF) campaigns are an area of consistent failure. Many vendors despair that partners’ marketing vision only extends to events or telemarketing campaigns, while MDF funds are often unclaimed. I was involved in one vendor initiative that subsidised the production cost of branded case studies for less than $500. Many partners expressed interest, but only one took advantage of
the offer. 

That’s hardly a good starting line to achieve management’s goal of leading your market, growing mindshare and achieving ‘trusted advisor’ status. 

How should management measure marketing performance? Typical benchmarks include measuring the volume of leads generated or counting how many guests attend an event. These insights have some weight, but how useful are they if your strategic objectives are to increase brand value or capture market share? If mergers and acquisitions are key to your growth strategy, then how is your marketing execution meeting this ambition? 

Tighter alignment of sales and marketing goals will help deliver better outcomes. When was the last time the marketing professional attended the sales meeting, accompanied a BDM on a client visit, or spent time cold-calling prospective clients? The general feeling among sales professionals is that marketing people are unwilling to get their hands dirty. The testy relationship sustains the familiar ‘them and us’ divide. 

The website should be the foundation for all successful marketing. Try this. Visit a website and decode the three key messages the organisation is conveying to their audience. Are they easy to interpret? If you were a prospective client, would the message resonate with you? 

Try to distil your go-to-market message. Use the proven ‘rule of threes’ to sharpen your pitch into three key points, and bring clarity to your offer. Plan to facelift your website annually in order to reflect market changes. 

While much marketing execution in the channel is glacial, there are exceptions. Channel marketing champions are easy to identify because of their success and stellar growth. Outstanding performers consistently use their websites as the centrepiece for their marketing activities. Amazon’s Alexa independently ranks websites and allows easy comparisons between the achievers and the also-rans. According to my own investigations via web audit portal Alexa, leaders include Brennan IT, Ricoh Australia and Kloud, which all consistently feature at the high end of the scale. 

Pundits demand that Australia must invest more taxpayer money into emerging technologies. 

I contend that we must become a w orld leader in marketing our services and products. It isn’t the best product that wins markets;
it’s the best-marketed product. 

Mike Ryan is a technology copywriter who draws upon more than three decades of client-facing enterprise IT experience working for companies like Klikon Solutions, Allcom Networks and MCR.

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