Juniper Networks will significantly expand the marketing and channel conference resources it offers partners, starting with a series of virtual events kicking off this month. It's all part of an expanded marketing push for Juniper, which is spending millions to reposition the company from a channel marketing also-ran to channel marketing powerhouse.
The events include virtual training and seminars, invite-only conferences specifically for female channel executives and Juniper's top regional VARs, and, for Juniper's worldwide partner base, the company's first-ever global partner summit.
"Juniper is making a large investment in partner marketing and wants to enhance our partners' exposure to marketing," said Luanne Tierney, Juniper's vice president, global partner marketing. "The same thing I'm hearing -- a consistent message from all our partners -- is 'Teach me the latest trends and techniques around marketing and how to build out the ultimate business plan.'"
Tierney left the top channels marketing job at Cisco in January. At Cisco, Tierney was known for a number of highly regarded marketing programs and conferences, including Cisco's annual Partner Velocity event, and channel observers wondered if she'd bring similar marketing muscle to Juniper under Lauren Flaherty, Juniper's tenacious chief marketing officer.
Now they have their answer. The first new event Tierney and her team are launching is called InnoVAR, and it's actually a series of virtual marketing conferences, the first of which kicks off Aug. 10.
Each InnoVAR segment is a one-hour webcast, and the Aug. 10 installment will feature Lorraine Antrim, co-founder of Core Ideas Communication. The topic? Communicating brand advantage using "messages that are crisp, concise and loaded with customer value," according to a Juniper promotion viewed by CRN.
Antrim's involvement continues a trend Tierney followed in her Cisco days, which was to bring in outside marketing experts, not vendor-specific marketers, to consult with partners.
"I'll host, the speaker will come in, and then there'll be opportunity for Q&A," Tierney explained to CRN. "In future ones we'll be able to start sharing best practices, and providing access to go in and look at partner marketing and show partners who are doing things well."
The InnoVAR webcasts will take place once a month, and partners will also be able to access them on-demand. Tierney said that InnoVAR may expand to an in-person event if the demand is there.
"First, we're starting virtually, and then as this community grows we may consider that," said Tierney, adding that Juniper will likely add co-marketing breakout sessions at Juniper's partner conference.
InnoVAR and marketing initiatives like it are tied to Juniper's upcoming Marketing Concierge, an online resource through which Juniper partners will be able to sign up for things like external marketing consulting and social media training.
Unlike the InnoVAR sessions, which are free to Juniper partners, access to certain Marketing Concierge programs will require investment. But according to Tierney, partners will be able to use Juniper market development funds (MDF) toward its programs.
Marketing Concierge officially launches in November. Another idea, said Tierney, is that Marketing Concierge resources will match to partner specialities, so that if a security-focused partner accesses the online portal, the portal will "remember" that partner's preferences and focus on content based on those preferences.
Tierney said she wants to get resources working immediately so that Juniper partners can try out what works and what will take a while to explore. Future InnoVAR sessions will include mobile marketing, video and social media interaction, she said.
NEXT: Juniper's Global Conference
Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif.-based solution provider, said he hadn't much investigated Juniper's new marketing resources but he did sign up for the first InnoVAR session.
Asked what he hoped to get out of it, Hiebert said, "Simple. How does ROI Networks, an elite Juniper VAR, clearly communicate our mutual value proposition in a clear and concise way."
Hiebert said it's all about "relevance, relevance, relevance" and learning about what will separate his solution provider business from others.
Dan Wilson, co-founder and vice president of partner alliances at Accuvant, a Denver-based solution provider, said Accuvant is focused on building its own brand and capabilities, and that he'd like to see Juniper take a more hands-on approach to helping with that.
"We're hearing a lot of good things about how do we enable Accuvant in the market as a Juniper player," Wilson said. "In the past, it was a lot of 'build your own brand' and 'good luck with that' and 'we'll support it with MDF.' But in terms of providing direction, there wasn't much there."
In addition to marketing events, Juniper in May 2012 will host its first-ever global partner conference. The company has long had partner conferences specific to sales theaters, but with an expanding channel team in place under Emilio Umeoka, Juniper's senior vice president worldwide partners, it made sense to bring Juniper's global partner base together to expand the networking opportunity, Tierney said.
"The other theaters can benefit from peer-to-peer sharing," she said. "And in terms of the format, it will be a mix of global vision, strategy and some product roadmap, and then specific breakouts for the theaters to make sure they still get what they came for. It'll be cost effective and we can be more global."
Tierney didn't confirm the specific location of the summit, but it will kick off May 8, 2012, in a major East Coast U.S. city.
"To get all the right people at the one right event, that's the big thing," she said.
Another new Juniper event being organized by Tierney is a Women in Channels event, set to happen in October. Tierney said Juniper will invite female executives from Juniper partners, and they will be asked to invite female executives from their customers, too.
"We'll bring in some outside speakers and do a lot of networking," Tierney said.
Finally, said Tierney, Juniper is starting to promote Partner Executive Advisory Councils, which means Juniper is bringing the top 25 to 30 Juniper partners in each theater in for tight-knit discussion and time with Juniper's top executives. The partners involved aren't necessarily the top regional Juniper partners by revenue, and will be hand-picked by Juniper, she explained.
Those Council meetings, which will begin in September for the Americas, October for Asia/Pacific and November for EMEA, will be invitation-only, and allow partners to hear about the company's vision, product roadmap and what Juniper will do to drive "the technology conversation," Tierney said. The Americas event will be in Southern California, location to be announced, she added.
Accuvant's Wilson said he's encouraged by Tierney's efforts so far, as well as her embrace of newer marketing techniques, like helping VARs leverage social media.
"I hear she's someone who takes advantage of the new mediums and that's something we're certainly exploring more and more," Wilson said. "There's a huge, largely untapped market there, without a vast expense to [tap] it."