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Lenovo, Datto Tweak Strategy To Generate More Qualified Leads

Datto isn't focused on filling a room, Michael DePalma said, and would much rather have 25 qualified companies present at an event rather than 50 business owners that might just want a free lunch.

Lenovo and Datto are adopting new processes to ensure that the leads they're receiving or passing along to partners offer strong potential for future business.

Lenovo will be announcing an engagement program that focuses heavily on three or four activities that the technology vendor and its channel community can do well together, according to Rob Cato, executive director, channel chief, Lenovo PC and PCSD.

Some of the co-investments Lenovo could make with its partner community include putting on an event together for local customers in the solution provider's area or providing seed units to a handful of clients that might be joint acquisition targets, Cato said.

[Related: Lenovo Channel Chief Cato On Increasing Rebates, MDF And Sales Alignment To Get Back Into 'Growth Mode']

Both Lenovo and the solution provider would invest money in the program, Cato said, and also leverage joint partnerships with Intel and Microsoft to maximize the return on investment. The engagement program should make things more simplified and easy, Cato said, and allow Lenovo to focus on the things it can do really well in the demand generation space.

Datto, meanwhile, had relied on public-facing advertisements or sponsoring sports events, but found that the leads generated through these efforts weren't qualified or vetted, according to Michael DePalma, channel development manager for the Norwalk, Conn.-based data backup and recovery vendor.

"It just wasn't a good model to hand off leads," DePalma said at the 2018 Best of Breed Conference in Philadelphia, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Co.

Since then, DePalma said Datto has made a larger investment in its market development funds (MDF) programs, holding 111 breakfast, lunch and panel events last year. Datto provides the partner with financial resources and works with them from start to finish to help the solution provider get a room of qualified folks together, according to DePalma.

Datto isn't focused on filling a room for the sake of filling a room, DePalma said, and would much rather have 25 qualified companies present that the channel partner is interested in working with rather than 50 business owners that might just want a free lunch.

Analytics Datto has received on the events indicate that they are a much more efficient, effective, and lean way for the company to grow, DePalma said, delivering a return of investment of more than 500 percent in 2017.

Solution provider Rocket IT isn't big enough to typically receive qualified leads from vendors, and instead relies on hosting events and meals and speeches in front of prospective customers to generate demand, according to Eric Henderson, virtual chief information officer for the Duluth, Ga.-based company.

Rocket IT sells more down-market, and therefore needs to first educate customers on the existence of a technology – such as the Internet of Things outside of a home automation context – before it can successfully sell to them, Henderson said.

As a result, Rocket IT has been more focused on selling hardware and infrastructure boxes, which Henderson said the company is looking to fix through enhanced sales and marketing strategies.

Meanwhile, Lenovo's Cato said channel executives need to advocate for the partner community within their own organization.

He helped Lenovo put together an education series for new hires and the company's end-user sales team that covers what the channel brings to the customer experience, how to engage with partners, how they are compensated, what gross margin in, and how to deliver services alongside them.

At Datto, meanwhile, DePalma said the channel organization isn't tied to the sales team at all. As a result, DePalma said Datto's channel team can go out and put together events where the company and its products aren't even discussed.

Instead, DePalma said, the events are targeted at smaller businesses and address the basic need to outsource IT to a managed service provider. DePalma considers these events to be a success if Datto can get its foot in the door with anything, and set up any of the company's products in the customer's ecosystem.

Ultimately, by educating SMB customers that they can't handle all of their IT needs in-house and instead need to outsource, DePalma said it creates an opportunity for Datto to grow, even if it's six or 12 months later.

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