With the rise of social media and innovative new marketing strategies and campaigns, it’s time for partners to sit up and listen.
Marketing is a staple in any successful business and plays a major role in supporting and developing sales.
If you don’t yet have dedicated in-house marketing capabilities, putting a marketing strategy in place can seem a daunting or even impossible task.
However advances in online technology, particularly with regards to social media, mean that reaching and building relationships with your customers is now easier and more economical than it has been in the past.
Before diving into a marketing strategy, it’s sensible to first take a step back and think about what you really want to achieve. There may be certain areas you want to focus on more, or specific solutions offerings that you want to promote to both current and potential customers.
When planning your marketing strategy it’s important to consider a number of different areas, including the following.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but should help kick start your thinking and keep you on the straight and narrow!
* Understand your business plan and objectives
You need to align your marketing spend and activities with more general business plans. Make sure that you set clear customer objectives in line with this. For example you might want to identify customers that you’ve been working with for the last 12 months and understand how you could expand your relationship with them.
In business there are two areas you traditionally focus on, retention and development of existing customers and acquisition of new ones. Make sure you have an equal balance of focus on these two areas in any marketing strategy and don’t just think about new customers instead of nurturing existing relationships.
* Understand your audience
Before you kick activities off, you need to pinpoint the audience you’re trying to access and learn everything you can about that audience to understand which activities will be most successful. What magazines and newspapers do they read? What TV programmes do they watch?
Where do they like to socialise with friends and peers? Once you know all of this and more, you’ll have an idea how you need to structure your marketing activities. Remember that you are talking to people, not companies. It’s important to keep that human element of the conversation.
* Focus on your brand first
Although it’s important to have some great vendors in your portfolio, at the end of the day you want your company to be the one your customers remember above all as their trusted advisor. Brand consistency is important – this means using your logo and brand colours on all official communications, establishing brand values and making sure these are reflected throughout your organisation.
As a partner you really need to distinguish yourself from competitors; there isn’t much differentiation in the reseller world so brand and relationships are often what make companies stand out. * Use the right social media platforms.
If your customers are mainly C-Suite then you may want to consider using LinkedIn as your primary platform. On the flip side if you want to reach the end users within a large enterprise, you’ll need to use Twitter as well. Remember to tailor your message according to the platform. If you are going down the social media route, which it feels almost impossible not to do these days, remember to update your profiles frequently and at regular intervals.
Above all else, keep it sincere and relevant, and it may sound obvious, but make sure what you say is interesting content. The lifecycle of an IT purchase is long and IT decision makers will dip in and out of social media and digital content so make sure you follow this simple instruction “right message to the right person at the right time” and you shouldn’t go wrong.
* Educate your team
At the end of the day your team are the ones interacting with customers day in day out and they need to not just know, but live, the brand. You may have a hugely successful marketing campaign across all social media platforms, but if your account managers aren’t aligned with this then the effect can be at best lost, and at worst confused. * Measure your results.
This doesn’t just mean counting how many people have favourited your tweet about the latest tablet that’s become available, but really measuring the specific impact of your marketing spend. This measurement will differ from partner to partner as your priorities will inevitably vary.
For example you can measure brand sentiment with a survey that goes out to attendees of an event asking them a few questions about your company and then do a follow up survey where you gauge whether brand sentiment has changed following the event. This can be critical in demonstrating the effectiveness of these events on an internal basis to ensure you have ongoing support from all areas of the business.
Another way is by using Google Analytics for example to help you track website views, enabling you to see which pages your viewers are looking at most and where those viewers are coming from.
* Mix it up
Marketing covers a broad spectrum including advertising, public relations, promotions and sales. Having a healthy mix is critical here, for example website development, print/broadcast advertising or public relations. In order to reach a variety of potential customers you need to keep your options open and not dedicate all your resources to one stream of marketing.
When considering all marketing activity, it’s important to be realistic. Marketing is a fantastic tool and one that every partner should have on their radar, but don’t expect miracles. The important thing here is building a great reputation on and offline and that can’t be done overnight.
Ensure that your marketing strategy is well thought out and addresses the different areas you are looking to develop and then stay on point.
Obviously things may need to be adapted and tailored along the way but the important thing is that you do not lose momentum.
Stephen Gater is channel marketing director UK at Dell
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