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Peter O'Neill here. Several people have asked me to re-post this blog from a few years ago. Here it is .....
It is January, 2015, and technology sales reps Reg, Xerxes, Francis, and Loretta have been to the movies to watch a rerun of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably one of the best film comedies of any time. At dinner afterward, they are reliving the scene where the commandos discuss “what did the Romans ever do for us” when one of their marketing colleagues stops by to say hello. After the marketing manager leaves, they continue their discussion.
Now there’s another point. Those people in marketing. What have they ever done for us?!
Funny question. The answer seems so obvious, right? True that when it comes to tangible stuff with clear intrinsic attributes which are, well, easy to value. Gold goes for $1,390 as of 3:16 pm Eastern time today, and we all know why. It's a commodity, a scarce one at that, and gold here, same as gold where you are. Obvious.
But what about intangible stuff? How valuable is fame, how valuable is professional success, leadership, or maybe a strategy? Well, we also know that depends on who is doing the buying and why, which means that value is in the eye of the beholder, just like beauty. So putting a price on some things is tricky. How much were you looking to pay for that success? And maybe price is not really an issue when a strategy for turning around your $15b company is the goal and its your head if that strategy does not work in the next 18 months, so that will cost you $6m, few questions asked.
So why am I asking such a simple question?
In our research with business and IT executives we ask them simple questions, like what's valuable to them, and they are quite clear. And their answers tend toward the intangibles versus the tangibles. For example, when we ask, "What would you consider to be a valuable meeting with a vendor salesperson?" the number one reply is "The salesperson clearly shows they understand my business issues and can clearly articulate to me how to solve them." That's an intangible value forged in the cauldron of empathy, credibility, expertise, experience. Also obvious, but perhaps not so easy to deliver.
Funny question, until you think about it a bit more. With all the focus on the changed buyer who finds online or from peers much of what she needs to make a decision, on just about everything, including what to buy, why do we still have salespeople on the payroll?
Because your customers require them.
Funny answer, until you think about it a bit more.
Work with me here. If your company is in the business of converting assets, like a patent, or skilled craftspeople, or molten metal, or a process you understand well, into something of potential value to others, that is step one. Next, you have to communicate that value to other people so they can decide to get some, or not. To do that, you have people crafting all sorts of messages about your value; some of those messages you send out to the world online, some in traditional ads, others on blogs, some into communities, maybe a book, and those messages are the simpler ones. Simpler because these are messages the target recipient must be able to decode, absorb, and assimilate unaided into his or her personal value equation. Does the value I perceive exceed the cost and is the risk to realizing that value manageable and acceptable? "I like what I hear and read about this iPhone well enough, the cost seems worth it, and I think I can figure out how to make it work." Like that.
Then there are more complex messages, to go with more involved decisions, for stuff, the value of which you created to solve more involved problems than retrieving and sending texts or booking a table for dinner.
I was encouraged to see that Huawei had a proper track session on its channel strategy during its 10th Global analyst summit in Shenzhen. The track is another sign that the company’s enterprise division is maturing and taking the right steps to expand its activities in China as well as globally.
In 2012, Huawei recruited 1,289 distributors, VAPs, and tier 2 channel partners to reach around 3,789 worldwide, which represents growth of 52% in China, Europe, and 26 other key countries globally. Huawei’s enterprise share of channel sales was around 55% (excludes Operator resale) of its total revenue in 2012, a 32% revenue growth through channels from 2011. Huawei is also starting to build its services and software ecosystems with 700 authorized service partners and 200 ISVs.
Overall, three key things that stood out to me about Huawei’s partner programs are:
A more structured and well-defined partner program: The partner program has evolved considerably since last year and Huawei is working towards mapping its key accounts and streamlining the account management process. Through the segregation of 5000+ named accounts (key accounts based on deal size) and defining the customer engagement model for high value accounts, Huawei can bring about the clearer channel architecture that will be required to build an open and successful channel ecosystem.
Channel partners are bullish about their growth prospects. In fact, in a recently conducted Forrester survey in North America (NA) and Europe, 59% of channel partners expect to grow by more than 10% in each of the next two years. However, partners will need help and handholding as they aim for greater sophistication and higher growth targets, especially around cloud based services. Forrester research indicates that three-quarters of channel partners in NA and Europe now sell cloud-based solutions (up dramatically from two years ago). These solutions now make up 26% of their overall revenue, a percentage they expect to increase in coming years.
In my recent report, Seeding the Cloud Channel, I highlight three key areas where the partners will need support from both their tech vendors and their distributors:
Diagnostic tools and services to assess current maturity and set a transformation road map. Partners will first have to collaborate with their principal vendors to gauge the fitness of their organizations for an annuity-based business model — and whether they can sustain that model in long run. Vendors need to create assessment tools to evaluate their partners' business model transformation potential. For example, Cisco Systems built its OnPlus ROI Tool expressly for partners to model the myriad business model options and scenario decisions they face. This will not only help partners identify their pertinent strengths and weaknesses, but will also help them plan their future growth strategy.
Peter O’Neill here with some comments about being truly effective at content marketing. Did you know that B2B buyers say that 70% of the content they read and study before making a purchase decision is actually found by themselves; as opposed to being given to them by marketing or sales? At Forrester, we like to talk about the new interaction model of need-match-engage, where the buyers now initiate the interaction and spend a major part of their buyer journey doing their own research before calling in potential suppliers.
Content marketing has therefore become much more than product and solutions collateral, campaigns, mailings, and fulfillment. B2B marketers have to be great at being found by buyers in their early research phase (the phases we call discover and explore). In a way, successful marketers will “fool” their buyers into consuming their thought-leadership and educational content in stages 1 through 5 — while hardly realizing its source. And the most successful marketers will learn how to mix their brand "scent" into that content without appearing to be selling — to the extent that buyers will count it as part of their 70%.
B2B marketing leaders are striving to position their companies as “thought leaders.” And why not? If you do not have a truly disruptive technology, product, service or idea (in which case you actually are a thought leader) being seen as a thought leader gives your company strategic differentiation. It helps you stand-out in the cacophony of messages that your customers must sift through to find you. Given the complexities that B2B buyers face when making decisions for sophisticated solutions, your thought leadership might just be the most important part of your marketing program. It becomes part of your brand value. It converts you from a commodity supplier into a trusted advisor who can lead the customer to achievement of their vision.
Your thought leadership only matters if people read it, see it, or hear it.
Now here is some more “earned media” for Cisco. As usual, full disclosure rules require me (Peter O’Neill here) to note that Cisco invited me to its latest Partner Velocity conference in Cannes last week. As they told, the agenda was truly in my sweet zone of research: the challenges of B2B marketing including channel marketing. This annual worldwide conference was held in Las Vegas last year but the last one I had attended was the previous European event two years ago in Barcelona. As I wrote then, I continue to be truly excited by what I saw and heard at the event.
Cisco is the ONLY tech vendor that holds an event of this strength exclusively for marketers – the marketers who work for its business partners. I’ve been on vendor/partner marketing advisory councils but this one was a marketing training event and which IT vendor besides Cisco thinks it is good enough at its own marketing to be able to hold such an event for others? I had some really great conversations with marketers across the globe – I collected business cards from South Africa, Nigeria, Dubai, Lithuania, plus across Europe and North America. It is interesting to hear that marketing has similar issues (getting enough executive support, proving its value, lack of resources) all over the world.
Two things I noted especially at this year’s event:
This week, Colt launched its Ceano cloud services for SMBs with a particular focus on the reseller channel that actually services these businesses. As this announcement combines the business strategy of a telco provider with an innovative channel strategy, Forrester analysts Dan Bieler and Peter O’Neill have again combined (as in their previous blog on Cisco) to discuss their impressions:
Peter O’Neill here and welcome to another “Letter from Germany” post where I highlight something important for you about B2B marketing in Germany. Last week I attended the first Lead Management Summit in Munich, an event organized by the business media publisher Vogel Business Media together with DemandGen AG, the European arm of that worldwide consulting group. More than 150 attendees were treated to an agenda jam-packed full of user experience stories enriched by each speaker with their own set of useful anecdotes. Two highlights for me were:
Thomas Dueker, AEB GmbH(supply chain logistics software vendor). In discussing how he optimized their lead management process, Thomas also said he didn’t like to use the word “lead” too much. He remarked that he sees it as “too American, too much about selling, too quickly.” Remember my note in a previous blog about differing expectations in European marketers? His system identifies “marketable and relevant contacts” and feeds them “quality content with minimum sales messaging.”