How to Approach Your Customer-Centric Channel Program

Bob ClintonBy Bob Clinton

As partners grow their businesses, they keep up to date on the latest technologies, juggle a portfolio of complimentary or competitive vendors, handle inventory and logistics, retain, develop and grow their staff, and try and drive predictable business, all while managing the tradeoffs between revenue and margin, and keeping an eye on bottom line SG&A (costs). Operationally, technology and financially focused, it’s easy to see why partners could lose sight of the most important part of their business — the customer.

Partners typically develop relationships with customers over the course of a business opportunity or deal, and ideally they become their trusted adviser as their relationship moves from transactional to opportunistic to ultimately long-term strategic. For many partners, this is a natural evolution as business is based on trust, and trust engenders loyalty.

But how well do partners know their customers? Many partners will tell you about the positive or negative experiences they’ve had, the types of solutions they put in place, the revenue associated with the deals, and maybe even the names of the customer’s spouse, pet or favorite sports team.

Good business partners go a level deeper. For them, it’s about trying to understand customer needs, if those needs are met or unmet, and how to best position their marketing message or sales pitch to tap into those different needs.

To gain insight into prospects or customers, marketers divide all of the customer profiles. Here are four ways to approach these opportunities:

  1. Demographic segmentation categorizes opportunities using structured data such as age, gender, location, revenue and tenure as a customer.
  2. Psychographic segmentation groups opportunities based on personality, lifestyles, attitudes, interests, values and opinions.
  3. Behavioral segmentation differentiates opportunities based on a customer’s knowledge or attitudes and usage of a particular product or service.
  4. Needs-based segmentation provides insight into the underlying drivers of attitudes and behaviors. It also identifies the most relevant needs so that a marketing message or sales pitch can be effectively targeted.

As a partner, think about these approaches. Think about the motivations behind how your customers think and what they do. You may hear responses like “Cloud services won’t impact my business” or “My current three-year-old security solution is just fine,” or “Help me figure out the simplest unified communications solutions.”

In what ways do you effectively probe, guide, educate or investigate why your customers think and act the way they do?  

As senior vice president of global channel marketing at Unify, Bob Clinton is tasked with assisting the company in expanding its routes to market, growing the geographic footprint and providing Unify distribution partners with the marketing programs and tools to be successful. Clinton has more than 25 years’ experience in global marketing, technology and the channel, the majority being in senior management and executive positions. In his previous role as CMO at Westcon Group, he helped define and drive a customer-centric approach to the market. Prior to that, he drove a number of key strategic business initiatives at CA Technologies and Motorola. 

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