D&H Marketing VP Campbell On Cloud And VAR Growth, Leadership And Digital Marketing

Evolving With The Industry

As D&H Distributing approaches its 100-year anniversary, the SMB-focused IT products supplier wants to maintain its reputation as a high-touch business advisor amid rapid growth across multiple market segments.

D&H has experienced 22 percent year-over-year growth around its overall VAR business, the company said, underscoring an organization-wide 3.5 percent growth rate. This success has come under the leadership of Peter DiMarco, who came aboard as VP of VAR sales in 2015, and has been followed by the hiring of distribution industry veteran Ken Fabozzi as senior director of VAR field sales earlier this month.

D&H's trajectory has been helped by the distributor's foray into cloud services, a venture that yielded triple-digit growth during its first few months. In June, D&H added Microsoft Azure to its cloud marketplace with eyes on increasing the number of channel partners on that platform five-fold.

In the edited interview that follows, D&H VP of Marketing Mary Campbell caught up with CRN to discuss the company's priorities in 2017 and beyond.

D&H has recently expanded its senior leadership team. What are some of the drivers behind those moves?

We're investing in our team because we need to keep up with the growth. I wouldn't say it's outpacing us, but that's definitely where our focus is – raising attention. We're going on our 100th year soon. D&H has always had a high-touch. For the other distributors, it's difficult to duplicate. For the SMB space, it's necessary. You have to teach your customers to be competitive, not just about the product. You have to have the management team working with the customers. We don't want to lose that. We pride ourselves on being a trusted business advisor.

Y ou cited double-digit growth around the D&H VAR business. Which market segments have led the way in that space?

We're up triple digits in our wireless business and triple digits in cloud, because cloud's a greenfield for us. We're getting deeper into cloud. The server business has grown by double digits. The K-12 (education) space has also been a very strong business for us, as well. These are all in the last quarter. Within that, our core VARs are up double digits.

How does D&H define a core VAR?

They're VARs that are getting more mature in their business, as opposed to the ones that might be trying to learn the business. These VARs are the ones ready to engage more of a maturity level, either because of their background or expertise, or they're ones that are learning and highly engaged with us. All our VARs are important to us. We don't want to treat anyone different, which is that high-touch, personal-touch (approach), but there are ones you want to spend more time with based on their category of growth and their relationships with D&H. That doesn't mean they have the top sales. It means they've got everything aligned to do that.

Which of your recent cloud investments have excited the partner community most?

We have our cloud marketplace, where we've been working with the partner community. At our Chicago show, we had cloud trainings, a cloud booth by our tech solutions team. We brought on new management there, as well. As we are growing quickly with that we had to expand the management.

How does D&H help VARs market themselves to their end customers?

Digital marketing is very key. If that is not a part of your distribution strategy, you're missing the boat. Maybe they're not as mature in that area, or maybe they are. You've got to understand where they're at in that area and get them to ramp up on selling through product but not knowing how to expand the business. Sometimes they can answer the call, but how can they continue the relationship?

How do you equip partners with tools that allow them to do that?

I drive Partner Services, our in-house ad agency. It's free for our customers, so they can brand themselves with template ads and digital marketing assets that we or the vendors provide. You attach that to every training. We have VAR councils. When they leave the councils, they're getting a tool kit. The most downloaded template we've had from Partner Services is "why hire us?" They wear many hats. Sometimes they're not the best salesperson, or they're nervous about how they upsell that and add on value? That's what's going to keep them competitive. That's a role we love to play.

What are some of the core competencies Partner Services focuses on? Which areas have drawn significant interest from the VAR community?

The (digital marketing) toolkits. The training sessions. Sometimes, if they have a storefront, they like to do the printouts and hand to people at counters. Bringing MDF support to them, as well. We work with our vendors to bring them dollars so they can place the ads. Partner Services can scale to whatever an ad agency can be.

How much help do partners need from D&H to effectively use MDF dollars?

They need the advisement. That's what myself and the Partner Services director focus on. They need the consultation. If we can bring them more out-of-the-box consultation so they're not waiting for that, great. It's developing that nice mix. Hand-holding, but at the same time, we're going to make this so easy for you. We need to empower them to act quickly. The digital marketing toolkits help with that.

What assets do you typically emphasize within those digital marketing toolkits?

Segmentation campaigns are good. A lot of times we think of it as one level where you need to mine your customer data. If I reach out to them and the return rate of an email isn't as strong as I thought, what could I have done to do that better? How do I say, 'Hey, you didn't open my email?' Or if you did show interest, here's some more offers. That's where that can really help them. The more we can do that for them, the better.

Do you anticipate any expansion of Partner Services?

Yes, I do ... The template, toolkits and digital ads, the channel MDF we're growing more and more. We survey our customers and pull a lot of analytics, so we know what the next thing is that they want. Bring me leads. Bring me all of that. We can do everything. Focusing more effectively is what we need to do.

What role do you see marketing automation platforms playing in the partner community?

I would say that's important, because many of them, they have multiple roles inside the organization. The more you can automate and tell them this is where your personal touch is, the better.

What's the general view toward marketing within the D&H partner community? How do they weigh the importance of digital strategies versus traditional tactics, like events?

Some are all about it because they came from it. Some don't have an idea, but know they need to do it. Some might be a little reticent. I would say more don't have that background. The SMB is just starting to experience comfort with not having to engage face-to-face. You need both, but how we do face-to-face is evolving. It's not just product showcase. There are councils, seminars, digital marketing kits. That's what we're showing them. We say, 'Hey, this is the way you market.' We've got a Solutions Lab that's on-site in Harrisburg (Pa.) where we broadcast out. So then you're reaching out that way. You can scale.

What can the VAR community expect from D&H moving forward?

We really are investing in the teams that support them, whether it be in marketing or sales. It's all about partner enablement and demand generation. More training, more engagement at the shows, not only with our vendors but D&H experts in the field, to help them become experts themselves. We've always had that higher touch, but we're expanding on that in the ways we need to help them. D&H isn't going anywhere. We're staying true to our mission to arm the SMB and bring them the right support. We're not diverting from that. We're evolving with the industry. We're going to help them evolve to be competitive as well.