Old-school marketing tactics such as direct mail campaigns are set to make a comeback, panellists at CRN's MSP North Conference, held yesterday in Manchester (check out our Facebook page for all the photos), predicted.
The arrival of GDPR has forced all businesses to review their marketing playbooks, with email spam and cold calls under more scrutiny than ever.
The MSPs on the second panel debate of the day, which focused on marketing excellence, agreed that emails are losing their potency as a marketing medium, with or without GDPR.
And moving the messaging to social media isn't the only answer, panellists agreed.
"While there's so much focus on the new stuff, don't be afraid to go old school," said Erica Jones, marketing manager at Bamboo Technology Group.
"We did a campaign recently with direct snail mail that was slightly interactive and got a lot of prospects from subsequent partners - because actually not a lot hits your desk these days. The old school may be coming back around."
Kate Wallyn, marketing manager at OryxAlign, agreed: "I've read in a few places that [direct marketing] is coming back and that's the thing to try now - to go back to the old school and start sending letters. People don't receive post anymore. I've been at OryxAlign two months now and haven't had a letter. If I received a letter, that would be exciting."
The topic of GDRP quickly arose, with one audience member pointing out that many firms are circumventing the issue of gaining consent by claiming ‘legitimate interest'.
David McLeman, CEO of Ancoris, said although the ICO will be more concerned with B2C firms than B2Bs, companies shouldn't rely on email campaigns in any event.
"If you keep doing it, lots of people get irritated about that, because they think GDPR protects them against that," he said.
"The bigger issue is, we have to recognise that email marketing is getting harder and harder, regardless of whether GDPR has happened or not, and therefore there is more emphasis on articulating your value-add, and getting contacts out there."
Paul Stringfellow, technical director at Gardner Systems (pictured above, second from left, alongside Jones (far left), Wallyn and McLeman), agreed that getting staff involved in the community is an essential component of the modern marketing arsenal.
"One of the things we're keen to encourage in our business is getting involved in the community," he said.
"[One of the ways to achieve differentiation] is to have people being seen in environments where they can share their skill sets or knowledge. It becomes clear they know what they're talking about. I would encourage anyone in our business to set up their own blog or build up their own Twitter reputation. I'm not bothered about them putting stuff on our website and it not being corporate branded. In a modern organisation, that's how you build these relationships."
During the day's first panel discussion, which focused on sales excellence, Celerity COO Craig Aston described the compensation headaches that stem from moving to a managed services model as "probably the biggest challenge we have".
"We have some people working for us who have stayed just on the traditional side of the business, and we've also employed some people to work in services," he said. "The hard part is where they have a balance, because trying to put together a compensation plan which guides them in the right direction is extremely difficult. I'm coming to the conclusion that having a mixed portfolio doesn't work."
EACS CEO Kevin Timms, meanwhile, warned that good hardware salespeople can't always transfer their skills to the more relationship-based sale of managed services.
"Controversially, there is a view that says if someone is really good at the transactional side of a business, they can't make it as a seller of relationships," he said. "If you're selling managed services, you're not selling a product or a service but a relationship - the person is buying into you and the culture and the company because they want a long-term relationship with you. That's very different from providing a hundredweight of something. I actually have the view that there are people who just can't make that transition."
Recruitment and retention tactics were also discussed, with Andrea Babbs, channel manager at FuseMail UK (pictured below, alongside James Cox, channel manager at TechQuarters and Timms), advising delegates to "chill out a little" when it comes to filling vacancies.
"The biggest mistake I ever made is when I was desperate to find somebody to take the workload off and I took the second person I met who could speak," she said.
"Take your time and don't be afraid to bring someone back for three interviews. Let them meet different people in the business and value their opinion. Do they think [the candidate] can do the same job they're doing? Have them speak to somebody technical to understand - if it's a salesperson - whether they have any technical capability."
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