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April 9, 2014   Posted by: Dale Underwood

B2B Marketing: 3 Steps to Seed and Feed Your Partners/Dealers with new opportunities

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Are your VARs/Dealers failing to generate demand for your products?

Are you spending time and money signing up new partners only to have them produce mediocre results?

Every manufacturer knows that VAR channel leverage is the key to growth. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) can’t scale without an increasing number of good channel partners to leverage their sales efforts.

So why are VARs/Dealers just fulfilling demand instead of creating it?

The answer may lie in how buyer behavior has changed.

OEMs spend a significant amount of Marketing Development Funds (MDF), time and effort trying to get partners to create demand and sell their solutions.

The buyers, however, aren’t biting. In fact, they can find all the information they need by bypassing the partner and going right to the manufacturer, wasting marketing funds.

varjump

Figure 1 – Serious buyers ignore VARs/Dealers and use the internet for initial research, wasting money and opportunities

Manufacturers themselves generally have healthy websites with plenty of information about their products; information that is much more up to date and relevant. Why would a potential customer waste time in the early stages of a project with a dealer when he/she can research solutions directly with the manufacturer? Answer: They wouldn’t.

Quite simply, VARs/Dealers don’t create demand any more, they fulfill it.

To solve this problem and get back on track, OEMs must realize that they hold the key to channel growth. A strong channel is built by finding new sales opportunities that can be transferred into the channel for fulfillment.

OEMs can increase channel width (new partners) and channel depth (more deals per partner) by putting in place a strong program that surfaces sales opportunities and gets them to their channel partners quickly.

Here’s the 3 steps:

  1. The OEM must create compelling content that draws in anonymous, potential customers to the manufacturer’s website(s). Think blogs, non-gated whitepapers, etc.
  2. There must be a strong offer that appeals to an early stage, serious prospect and compels them to reveal their contact information.
  3. Once captured, there must be a standard “hand off” process that connects the new prospect with a new or existing channel partner.

 

The following diagram shows how a pull process works. Since serious buyers always research solutions directly with the OEM, it makes sense that the OEM takes the primary responsibility for B2B lead generation. As inbound visitors check out the OEM’s website, strong calls-to-action can entice and motivate serious buyers to respond.


Figure 2 – The pull method places the OEM front and center in lead generation activities on behalf of channel partners

The power of this method is evident when a new, potential customer engages with the OEM. Suppose a prospect responds to the website offer and contacts the sales group of the OEM. With a simple question, the sales rep can “seed or feed”. Here’s how it might go.

Hello Jim,
This is Bob at EquipCorp. I approved your budgetary request and it has been sent. If you have not received it, please check your spam filter.

May I ask you a question?

Do you have a specific VAR/Dealer you prefer to work with, or no?

 
 

The Seed (increases channel width)

Now, if Bob responds with “Yes, I like to work with SolutionsCorp, Inc.” and they are not yet a partner you have the opportunity to seed a new partner relationship and bring SolutionsCorp into it’s first deal.

The Feed (increases channel depth)

However, if Bob responds with “No, I really don’t have a preferred VAR” then you are in a unique position to “feed” one of your existing partners/dealers a new opportunity.

Either way, as long as you the OEM are capturing and distributing the inbound leads, you can direct them to where it suits your channel program the best. When you leave it up to your channel partners to find new customers you may find yourself spending a lot of money on co-marketing events with few results.

Summary

In today’s self-service environment, IT Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are turning to a more direct approach to channel building. As buyers resist and ignore channel partner/dealers marketing efforts, smart OEMs are picking up the ball and driving the lead generation/capture process. Focusing on great content, strong website offer(s) and a formal hand-off process for new/existing partners can help any IT vendor build a successful channel.

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