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Epic Channel Marketing Fails (And How To Avoid Them)

"Doing no marketing is the most expensive form of marketing there is."

Marketing fails, at the end of the day, are just business fails, according to marketing guru Greg Bond.

"We're all failing in different ways. The ones that are the most epic are the ones we don’t learn very much from," Bond, COO of Denver-based strategic marketing agency estound, told an audience of solution providers Sunday at XChange 2019, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.  

Marketing is a process of understanding how people make decisions, something that's critical for solution providers to invest in and figure out.

But marketing is also viewed as risky. Many channel partners struggle to develop a successful marketing strategy and are doomed to repeat the same mistakes that prevent business growth, Bond said.  

[Related: The Old Way Of Sales And Marketing Won't Seal The Deal Today]

The reason why a customer is coming to you, Bond told solution providers, is because they are in pain, not because the last company didn't have the right mix of services. "It's not necessarily about having the right mix of features; it's about speaking to the emotions that business is experiencing," he said.

But communications breakdown is a big—and all too common—marketing fail. Bond said that solution providers often make the mistake of targeting their messages to appeal to leadership, rather than talking to the market and addressing its needs.  

"Your best sales channel isn't through any leadership, it's through the public at large, so that's who you have to be most concerned with influencing," he said. "How you perceive yourself is much less important and accurate than how the rest of the world perceives you."  

The easiest way to flip this mistake is to delegate the task of marketing to the most passionate person about that part of the business in the company, Bond said. This is also a helpful strategy for channel partners who may not think they have the resources to dedicate to marketing—another large-scale fail, he said.

Alliance Business Technologies has its own marketing team, but the company also gets a chunk of its marketing accomplished naturally through positive word of mouth by its clients, said Jon Criste, a network administrator for the Harrisburg, Pa.-based MSP.  

"It surprised me to learn that lead generation was one of the most expensive forms of marketing," Criste said. "If you're doing your job well and making your clients happy, generally speaking, they do put your name out there." 

Alliance Business Technologies gets a lot of referrals this way, even from fellow MSPs that may not be able to match what a particular client needs. But like many MSPs, Criste said his company could get more specific about targeting the right audience through marketing.

One of the hardest parts of marketing for many MSPs is turning away business that doesn’t fit within their wheelhouse, Bond said. "This is when [partners] start to think; 'I don't want to get too specific because I'm afraid I'll leave someone out,' and that's one of the biggest mistake they can make." 

Improving lifetime value in the eyes of customers is one of the best investments solution providers can make. Partners should be prepared to "give a ton" before getting anything back in return. That can be a very challenging aspect of marketing for solution providers, especially when measuring return on investment and performance can be fuzzy, Bond said.  

Marketing isn't about spending more upfront, even if it often seems to be the case, Bond said. "It's about spending less on retention, closing sales and generating leads. Doing no marketing is the most expensive form of marketing there is."



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