Marketing helps a company manage existing customers, find new ones, and grow its business, but it's not always given high priority by SMB-focused solution providers, who often lack the resources and personnel to do it right.
Mary Campbell, vice president of marketing at Harrisburg, Pa.-based D&H Distributing, has made it her -- and her company's -- mission to help SMB-focused solution providers take advantage of marketing to put themselves front and center with potential customers. D&H has made modernization of partners' marketing activities a top priority, Campbell said.
"Anything related to digital print and social media can be pretty confusing," she said. "It's a little easier for the younger generation, whereas people with already established businesses are saying, ‘What is modern marketing? What does digital transformation mean? Do I really need to use it?'"
D&H's marketing support includes help with developing advertisements, emails and social media campaigns, as well as event planning and lead generation, Campbell told CRN. "We know we need to help partners be competitive in today's world not just in selling products, but in how they sell them," she said.
The distributor's custom marketing services let solution providers put their own branding on D&H-designed templates for advertisements, email campaigns and even local events, Campbell said. These services are paid for by D&H or the vendors involved. "It's a partner ad-agency-in-a-box," she said.
D&H's key differentiation when it comes to its partner services and custom marketing is its ability to scale to the sheer number of SMB partners, Campbell said.
"You can deliver a tool, you can deliver a kit," she said. "But many times there's that consultation they need along with it. [Solution providers] are not marketing experts. If you just give them an asset or a digital kit or whatever, they don't necessarily know the next steps to take. And that's where D&H plays a strong role."
Follow-up to partner marketing services is important as well. D&H helped Phoenix-based Troxell sponsor a reception at the February meeting of the Texas Computer Education Association in San Antonio, where over 250 existing and prospective customers attended, Campbell said.
"They had door prizes, vendor presentations, networking engagement," she said. "Then the customers were surveyed on the different product categories they were interested in, and we followed up afterward to help Troxell with that, setting the stage to make a sale."
The more support D&H provides, the greater role it plays with its partners, Campbell said. "[That] trusted business adviser heavy lifting that you always hear about at D&H?" she said. "We don't shy away from that. We see it as an opportunity."
Finally, a big part of D&H's marketing outreach comes from face-to-face meetings. D&H sponsors vertical-focused partner councils that hold regional meetings at D&H's West Coast and East Coast conferences, Campbell said. The council meetings are held in a roundtable format, giving partners an opportunity to share best practices and discuss opportunities.
D&H currently holds a spring partner summit in California and a fall partner summit in Pennsylvania. Starting at the last spring conference, held in March, D&H transitioned its summits to focus more on education and customer engagement, Campbell said.
That customer engagement is crucial for many solution providers that serve the SMB market.
Dynamic Computer Solutions of Topeka is typical of an SMB-focused solution provider, said Rich McDaniel, executive vice president and chief technology officer.
"We do some marketing in-house," McDaniel told CRN. "We have one person doing sales and marketing, so we're not big in marketing. Our biggest marketing is word-of mouth, where we get new opportunities from doing a good job and someone recommending us to others."
However, he said, that has to change. "We're trying to build our marketing. And we expect D&H will provide a lot of resources to help us as we do it."