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McAfee’s Strategic Transition Will Benefit Partners — But Mind These 2 Wild Cards

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GlobalData's Eric Parizo

Eric Parizo

By Eric Parizo, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Security, GlobalData

McAfee is a security provider in transition.

After spinning out of Intel earlier this year to become an independent company co-owned by TPG, Thoma Bravo and Intel, McAfee CEO Chris Young wasted no time streamlining the organization, cutting approximately 300 jobs.

Meanwhile, the vendor widely known for its endpoint security portfolio has significantly revamped its enterprise product line, last year cutting a handful of underperforming products and doubling down on five key areas: endpoint, security operations, workload security, data protection and integration.

McAfee’s long-term vision, shared at its recent Mpower conference, is to become its customers’ most trusted security technology provider, and solution providers will be essential to realizing that opportunity. But in the short term, channel partners must study two key developments to understand the ramifications for their businesses.

McAfee shifts away from field marketing: McAfee’s recent layoffs were in part a result of the company’s strategic decision to reduce spending on local field marketing, instead shifting more of its efforts toward digital marketing. Executives say the strategic adjustment reflects the changing nature of how IT buyers engage with vendors, conduct research and ultimately choose products. Increasingly, all of these activities happen wholly or partly online as opposed to in the field.

This is a trend affecting all information security vendors and more broadly the entire IT security market. Customers are now very comfortable using the internet to choose and purchase products of all sorts, including IT. In turn, vendors have realized that engaging websites, detailed webcasts and demos, and active social media presences often produce better results than full-color brochures and high-pressure onsite sales presentations.

This change offers benefits for vendors in that marketing spending is more measurable, with a clearer ROI. It’s trivial to track which digital campaigns draw in leads and which ones don’t. That matters to a VC-owned company like McAfee that is challenged with balancing short-term revenue versus long-term growth.

But there are important ramifications for McAfee channel partners. Fewer local events will mean fewer opportunities to bring McAfee’s expertise to bear when selling its products. Similarly, the expected reduction in local sales engineers and travel for regional sales engineers means less on-site support during the sales process. Digital-centric sales cycles are often longer and require an effective “warm handoff” from the vendor to partners, creating more points at which potential deals can fall through.

Partners should pressure McAfee to improve its lead management process. Specifically, ask how it plans to scale and refine efforts to identify, qualify and transition digitally generated leads to partners. Furthermore, solution providers should follow McAfee’s lead and make sufficient investments in their own customized digital marketing efforts. Partners should also plan for the vendor’s reduced local presence by opportunistically attending more …

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