XChange 2014: 8 Channel Marketing Trends And Best Practices

Market Makers

Solution providers often struggle with marketing, but there are some ways for them to effectively get their messages out. Karen Newnam, senior director of product development at The Channel Company, spoke to an audience of solution providers and vendors at XChange Solution Provider 2014 about some of the trends and best practices for channel marketing today. Here are some of the highlights.

8. VARs Must Be Open To Co-Branding

With limited budgets and personnel for marketing, solution providers must take a serious look at co-branding opportunities with their top vendors, Newnam said. Leveraging those opportunities can get the ball rolling for a solution provider's own dedicated marketing efforts.

7. Sales And Marketing Must Be Integrated

Too often, Newnam said, sales and marketing departments are at odds with one another. Marketing teams can't be stand-alone divisions that are set apart from the rest of the organization, whether it's a vendor or solution provider. "We can't create strategic marketing plans unless we know what the business goals are," Newnam said. The best way to achieve that is to have integrated, closed-loop marketing efforts developed by the sales and marketing teams.

6. Measure ROI For Your Leads

Newnam said another best practice for marketing-driven leads is to develop a way to effectively measure the return on investment (ROI). While measuring and tracking ROI for leads can take time, it will ultimately help both solution providers and vendors better identify what kind of leads really work and increase their ability to generate more of those high-value leads.

5. It's Quality, Not Quantity

In the past, marketers tried to generate as many leads as possible, Newnam said. But a large volume of marketing-generated leads can leave solution providers swamped and unable to find the most valuable ones. So the best way to clear up the clutter is for marketers to focus on developing quality leads in smaller numbers.

4. One Person Can't Do It Alone

Solution providers tend to have limited marketing personnel -- often just one, true dedicated marketing executive. And one person can't track and vet all of the leads that come in from vendor partners. As a result, Newnam said, solution providers need more marketing staff or should use a third-party agency.

3. Don't Let Leads Fall Through The Cracks

With the volume of sales and marketing-driven leads being generated, too many are ending up "in the trash can," Newnam said. Solution providers need to have a system or tool in place to organize those leads and make sure potentially valuable ones don't fall through the cracks. If staff members can't communicate, she said, then they'll have no way of knowing whether those leads are worth anything or not.

2. Marketing Dollars Are Shrinking

Even though marketing has become more important in recent years, it's getting less money, Newnam said. Solution-provider budgets for marketing are shrinking, as are vendor marketing development funds (MDFs). So VARs need to make the most out of what they have, be creative, and leverage free resources like social media.

1. The Role Of Marketing Has Changed

Ten or 15 years ago, Newnam said, marketing was seen as a frivolous part of the business. But today, it's much more important for solution providers to get their brand out and differentiate themselves. Marketers now have an opportunity to help build the company -- but they have to justify their importance. "You have to elevate the conversation," Newnam said. "You have to earn a seat at the table [with sales and C-level executives]."