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At CRN's XChange Solution Provider conference in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month, a common theme surfaced that solution providers, vendors and analysts all agreed on: The importance of marketing to drive local brand awareness, growth and profits. Speaker after speaker referred to the growing prominence of the chief marketing officer as budget decisions shift from IT to marketing. In her keynote, Tiffani Bova, Gartner research vice president, stressed the importance of leading with marketing to drive brand awareness and sales. In his annual state of the market keynote, UBM Tech Channel CEO Robert Faletra spoke of the need for solution providers to target CMOs.
In today's IT world with all the competitive challenges solution providers face, leading with a marketing strategy should be your top priority. Leveraging strategic relationships to maximize your ability to expand brand awareness will make the difference in whether your business succeeds or fails.
As a former executive vice president of vendor relations and marketing, I want to share my story of how our marketing team built short- and long-term strategies and executed on those plans. Our team was nationally recognized for our innovative and forward-thinking marketing strategies that turned a local VAR from a "best kept secret" into one of the most well-known solution providers in North America.
Our first step was to hire a consulting firm to help develop the strategy. The strategy included branding, website development, local event strategies, calling campaigns, vendor and distributor engagement, giving back to the local community, and forming alliances with third-party resources to leverage their expertise. We didn't try to build everything as an internal process or "boil the ocean," but aimed to set goals and objectives with baby-step expectations for results. It's important not to "plan-to-plan" but to "plan to execute." Our methodology was to get the horse out of the barn and tweak as we went, striving for continuous improvement and results.
We then formed a small but very capable "tiger" team to execute on our marketing strategies. This team of four, all outsourced personnel, performed a variety of tasks, including website development, public relations, social media communication, events planning, Salesforce.com CRM for event invitation and follow-up, analytical assessments and evaluation. The point here is that even if you don't have the internal resources, you can build an effective marketing team as an outsourced resource. We also always leveraged the marketing resources of the manufacturer and distribution. This is a very cost-effective way to achieve your marketing goals and objectives and drive brand awareness.