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New Lenovo Communities Initiative Sends The Right Message To Partners

Lenovo is delivering channel guides and sales battlecards to partners based on what is most relevant to their specific business.

Lenovo is delivering channel guides and sales battlecards to partners based on what is most relevant to their specific business. Lenovo’s North America Intelligent Devices Group took a major step toward streamlining engagement with channel partners over the past year through its Communities initiative, which delivers targeted information to partners based on their market specialties, executives told CRN.

“This is a new and different way for us to engage with partners,” said Rob Cato (pictured), vice president and North America channel chief in the Intelligent Devices Group, of the Communities initiative. “We’ve gotten very good feedback. We’ll continue to refine those and continue to make those even better than they are today.”

[RELATED: Lenovo Goes After 10,000 Accounts With New Partner-Centric March]

For partners in Lenovo’s two top tiers, Gold and Platinum, the initiative has created three Communities segments— enterprise, SMB and K-12.

All 300 of Lenovo’s Gold and Platinum partners are members of at least one of the Communities, said Kim Durden Johnson, director of North America channel communities at Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group.

“One big piece of [the Communities initiative] is engagement—how is Lenovo engaging with these partners? How do we make sure that that engagement is relevant? What’s important to them and their business?” Johnson said.

For Lenovo’s average partner that focuses on K-12, for example, 80 percent of its revenue comes from that market segment alone.

A key element of the Communities initiative is delivering segment-based messages to partners based on what is most relevant to their businesses, Johnson said. Lenovo has created segment-based channel guides and sales battlecards with key information—on solutions and pain points, for example.

“A lot of this is about taking quite a bit of the information we have available and consolidating it into a single place for the partners to be able to easily access to go deeper on the topics that are most relevant to them,” she said.

Since launching the Communities initiative this past fall, Lenovo also has been providing newsletters with specific content by segment and is holding biweekly webinars for partners, featuring subject-matter experts on the various segments. Partner attendance at the webinars has been strong, Johnson said.

In addition, Lenovo has created a new position—the Community manager—to head up each of the Communities segments, she said. And the company is now offering matching market development funds that Communities partners can use to invest back into their business.

The Communities approach has represented a big improvement in how Lenovo is delivering information to partners, said Peter Scarpella, vice president of operations and marketing at Arey Jones Educational Solutions. The San Diego-based solution provider, which is a Lenovo Platinum partner, focuses on the K-12 market.

Lenovo is now “able to funnel just the stuff that’s important to us,” Scarpella said. “I don’t get as much of the commercial stuff that I used to see, and I don’t get as much on public sector that’s non-K-12 that I used to see. So it is beneficial.”

Looking ahead, Lenovo is considering launching additional Communities focusing on the public sector, potentially around higher education and government, Cato said.

“We’re very underpenetrated in those markets, with lots of room to grow,” he said.

For the Communities effort overall, “I think we’ve built a good base this year,” Johnson said. “One big piece of this is looking at how do we continue to make sure the messaging is very relevant so [partners] stay engaged. Really, we’re now building off that base and looking at different ways that our partners consume information.” Segmenting the K-12 segment from other businesses has been critical for Arey Jones Educational Solutions, which saw its Lenovo revenue grow by 20 percent last year, according to Scarpella.

“The biggest advantage that I’ve seen is their segmentation of K-12 out of the rest of their business,” he said. “Because that not only happens from the management perspective, it also goes down to the rep. And from our perspective, the reps that we’re dealing with right now at Lenovo are only in K-12 accounts. So that works for a much smoother relationship.”

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