Five Channel Partner Enablement Trends for 2016

Are vendors or partners responsible for driving net new growth?
Are vendors or partners responsible for driving net new growth?

It’s shaping up to be another disruptive year in the channel for 2016. With cloud migration and softening economic growth, the channel partner landscape remains under pressure. Some partners are positioning to thrive: distributors are developing solutions, resellers are adding new services, upstarts are creating new cloud-based offerings. Others are struggling to survive, trying to figure out business models that will keep the lights on, much less fuel net new growth.

One question cuts to the core of channel risk in 2016: Who are you depending on to drive net new revenue growth? Too many vendors point at partners saying “They’re closest to their customer, they know what to do,” at the same time too many partners point at vendors saying “They have all the marketing resources and expertise, they know what we should do.” That gap is only widening, and it won’t be filled with traditional MDF programs.
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About Shutting Up Long Enough to Listen

OriginalNipperOne of the most common questions I get asked is “How frequently should I post?” How many times a day should I post to Twitter? How many times a week should I post to LinkedIn? How much is too little? How much is too much?

If you look at the gap in time between this post and my last post, you’ll find it’s something I don’t worry too much about. Yes, there are optimal cadences for building a presence in social media that will help you look timely and relevant and involved, but there’s a significant downside as well. More and more people are lamenting that social media is generating too much noise–a lot of optimized shouting and not a lot of substance.

My steadfast advice to anyone engaged in social media: post when you have something of value to share. If you’re searching for something to share just to fill the space, it may be time to take a break. Rethink your frame of reference. Find some new sources and inspiration. Put the mouth in neutral for awhile and just listen.

Focusing on optimizing quantity in the absence of quality is not a recipe for success.

Every year I take time off to listen. Instead of constantly angling for a great headline or a new spin, I hang out on message boards and LinkedIn groups, I spend a lot of time talking to customers, and I focus on how SocialRep can create value. This year, I spent a lot of time with our team and a handful of customers, not just in one-off catch up calls, but in weekly hour-long calls for several months on end.

We heard a lot of customers musing about how confusing social media has become–all the hype about content marketing, social selling (what is it, exactly?), inbound strategies and cadences, and above all, the empty-calorie content companies are generating to be heard (hint: shout louder!). We heard customers struggling with how to manage social media programs, how to find and train the right people to rep their brands online, how to choose the right marketing tools and mix to get their message heard.

Then we went to work, still mostly in listening mode. We wanted to find a way, beyond just a list of best practices, to really define what makes an effective social marketing program. We wanted to build new tools to help our customers do more with social media, more authentically. We wanted to engage new partners and customers committed to creating real value and real dialog with their own customers. We wrote dozens of presentations and briefs, we exchanged ideas and prototypes with customers and partners, we hung out with analysts and developers just to talk shop. And I Tweeted none of it. I updated none of it to LinkedIn. I posted none of it to our blog.

And the world didn’t end. Business didn’t come screeching to a halt. The best feedback I got was overhearing someone at an event say: “They don’t post a lot, but what they post is worth reading.” I’ll take that any day over being consistent and forgettable.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be ramping up the dialog again in all the usual places. But with a lot of new material, a lot of fresh ideas, and hopefully some new voices adding to the discussion.

If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed by the hunger of social media, or underwhelmed by the lack of depth, take time off to just listen. Let the anxiety of needing to post burn itself out, and then listen some more. Find channels of conversation that aren’t for public grandstanding, but for sharing ideas and hearing new perspectives. Use your phone to talk one-on-one with customers (wait, no likes and reshares?. The world won’t run away from you. Sure, you’ll lose some bot followers and stats, but the people who matter will find you, and they’ll want to hear what you have to say.

What I Learned about Marketing from Magic Johnson

magic-johnson Last week I saw Magic Johnson deliver a keynote on marketing at the Sirius Decisions Summit in Nashville. If you’re not a marketing or sales geek, Sirius Decisions is an analyst-driven consulting firm that focuses on helping businesses improve sales and marketing operations with better processes and technologies. Exciting stuff for us marketing geeks, but Magic Johnson?

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Enabling Channel Partners: Data Sheets Don’t Cut it Anymore


The fourth interview in our webcast series on The Channel’s Biggest Marketing Challenges is with  Carol Meyers, CMO at Rapid7. Carol has a wealth of experience and insights on channel management, including branding, lead generation, sales support and partner management. We discuss channel challenges from the Supplier perspective, including best practices for partner enablement, channel account management, and developing effective partnerships.

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What Partners Want from Channel Marketing Enablement


The third interview in our series on The Channel’s Biggest Marketing Challenges is with Mike McDermott, SVP of Business Development at PrimitiveLogic. Mike leads solution selling of business and technology consulting services, and develops reselling relationships with leading technology suppliers. We discuss channel challenges from the VAR and Integrator perspective, including best practices for channel marketing enablement and for partners adjusting to cloud disruption.

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Incentives are No Longer Enough to Drive Channel Revenue

channel coo

The second interview in our webcast series on The Channel’s Biggest Marketing Challenges is with Sridhar Ramanathan, COO of Aventi Group. A channel marketing veteran, Sridhar now advises clients like Symantec, Atlassian, SAP and Arrow on both direct and indirect sales and marketing. We discuss the disruption of cloud migration and how it’s impacting channel revenue strategy from incentives to pipeline metrics for measuring channel partner performance.

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Are You Investing in the Right Channel Partners?

chisbecwarThe first interview in our series on The Channel’s Biggest Marketing Challenges is with Chris Becwar, Senior Director of Marketing at CCI Global Channel Management. Chris is an expert on channel partner enablement, incentives and performance management, and we discuss these topics in the context of all the disruption driven by cloud migration. Which of your partners will help you succeed, and which will hold you back as the market shifts towards everything as a service?  Continue reading

Webcast Series: The Channel’s Biggest Marketing Challenges

Over the course of the past several weeks, I’ve been co-hosting a podcast with Mitchell Levy at Thought Leader Life, focusing on the challenges and best practices for today’s channel marketers. We brought together channel experts on the front line of sales, marketing and strategy to talk about their insights and experiences.

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Verizon Just Served a Wake-Up Call to the Channel

Wake Up call for Channel MarketersVerizon finally announced their Software Defined Networking (SDN) roadmap yesterday, and while they may be playing catchup to AT&T on SDN it’s a shot across the bow for IT vendors as well as their channel marketing teams. In embracing SDN Verizon, like AT&T, has made it clear that they no longer view hardware as strategic, but as a commodity upon which they intend to build value for their customers. Continue reading

What’s Your Social Selling Persona?

SocialSellingPersonaEveryone’s talking about Social Selling these days, trying to get their arms around what it means and how it works. While much of the focus now is on tools and techniques, it’s important to recognize that there are different approaches and different styles of social selling, each of which are appropriate for different sales personalities and brands. What kind of Social Sales approach is right for you?

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