As a channel partner, adopting a cloud services model creates significant opportunities for winning new business. Cloud services enable partners to expand well beyond their office locations, serving customers regardless of geography because on-site infrastructure maintenance is no longer needed. And over time, a customer base consisting of high-margin, recurring revenue offers partners the ability to scale costs with revenue, increase lifetime customer value and generate more predictable revenue streams.
However, transitioning existing customers to cloud services alone won’t be enough to close the initial top-line revenue gap as you evolve your business model. When selling cloud services, partners must also increase the number of customers they serve to achieve the same amount of annual top-line revenue they earned selling, upgrading, installing and maintaining IT in an expensive infrastructure model. This is likely why CompTIA research found that nearly half of channel firms expect their revenue growth to come mainly from new customers over the next two years.
Bottom line, to be successful selling cloud services, channel partners need an increased focus on customer acquisition. Relying only on word-of-mouth isn’t going to cut it — it’s time to up your marketing game, and your suppliers should be helping. Here are five key questions to ask vendors. The right answers can make life a lot easier for channel partners.
1. Do you have a full library of marketing materials? At a bare minimum, most vendors should provide their reseller partners with a suite of materials that can either be fully branded or co-branded. Channel partners shouldn’t be expected to curate content and develop tools and resources for every single product or service that they sell. That’s just not feasible when they have dozens of vendors with many different services. These types of materials are critical for building awareness, generating leads and even closing deals. Pre-made, ready-to-go vendor marketing materials should include datasheets, whitepapers, infographics, sales presentations, email templates and more.
2. Can we get one-on-one marketing consulting? Some vendors have marketing experts readily available to provide one-on-one advice on how to drive demand and generate leads for their services. These experts will work closely with channel partners to understand their target market and business objectives, and they will also help develop a marketing strategy that consists of various programs and campaigns. This type of support can be enormously beneficial — with the caveat that if channel partners don’t have the marketing infrastructure, resources, expertise or budget, it will be challenging to execute on the consultant’s recommendations.
Note that one-on-one support is typically offered only to a select group of partners that drive a high volume of sales. If you’re not currently receiving one-on-one marketing support from your vendors and believe you could benefit, it certainly can’t hurt to ask. To increase the chances of getting that support, come prepared with a proposal that clearly outlines your specific requests and demonstrates your commitment to growing your business with the vendors. It will go a long way.
3. Have you developed any “campaigns-in-a-box”? Essentially, these are prebuilt integrated marketing campaigns that tell a consistent story across a variety of marketing tactics to help raise awareness and increase lead generation. The campaign narrative is carefully thought through and brought to life with research that highlights a common customer business problem, and it offers a solution on how that problem can be solved with the vendor’s products and services. The campaign’s premade assets generally include content that’s fully designed for emails, landing pages, blog posts, social media and more. These assets are in near-final form, requiring only slight customization, such as adding your logo and contact information.
The catch: To take full advantage of campaigns-in-a-box, you need tools to customize, execute and track these efforts. That means marketing automation platforms like Marketo or Eloqua are a must have, along with the expertise to operate them.
4. Do you have through-partner marketing automation platforms? Through-partner marketing automation platforms take the elements of campaigns-in-a-box outlined above to the next level. Providers of through-partner marketing automation platforms work with vendors who license their software and pass it on to channel partners. Unlike traditional automation platforms, through-partner marketing automation platforms like Elastic Grid are intuitive enough that they generally do not require expertise to operate. Through-partner marketing automation platforms are often pre-loaded with robust, integrated marketing campaigns created by vendors that can be fully customized and launched with just a few clicks of the mouse. And to close the loop, these platforms also provide real-time tracking and lead alerts to help ensure you’re fully capitalizing on interest generated by the campaigns.
Through-partner marketing automation platforms are great to leverage if you don’t have in-house marketing expertise, tools and resources. A sales representative or even an office administrator has the ability to implement a full-on integrated marketing campaign in just minutes. The only downfall of these tools compared with traditional marketing automation platforms is that many of them limit your ability to have full control over campaign assets and flow and to create new campaigns from scratch. However, with these platforms being fairly new, they have not yet been widely adopted by vendors.
5. Can we get leads passed along? The easiest way to increase lead volume is to have a vendor that will simply hand them over. According to CompTIA’s research, 65 to 75 percent of IT products and services sold to businesses in the United States are delivered through or influenced by the indirect channel. Many vendors are fully aware of this statistic and understand the tremendous value-add that channel partners bring to their solutions. Because of that, these vendors will identify leads that are much better suited for a channel partner and will pass them on.
As the industry shifts to a cloud-services delivery model, new customer acquisitions and marketing are more important than ever. Channel partners should take a close look at the vendors they already work with or are considering partnering with. How does their marketing support stack up? Do they meet any or all of the five key areas outlined above? At the end of the day, channel partners can’t serve as the marketing experts for all of the products and services they sell. Working with vendors that truly support their needs is vital to cloud sales success.
Jon Borgese serves as the head of Intermedia’s channel marketing department. Since joining the company in 2011, Borgese has built Intermedia’s channel marketing team and infrastructure from the ground up. Under Borgese’s leadership, Intermedia now has over one million users and a network of over 6,000 active partners.