Posted: June 22nd, 2012 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Practice Enablement, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
One of the greatest marketing/sales disconnects in direct organizations is how demand gen campaign activity integrates with sales process. It is surprisingly common for marketing organizations to report that salespeople are simply unaware of the campaigns taking place around them and how those efforts could impact and enhance interactions with their customers and prospects.
This disconnect is especially magnified in the channel fundamentally because of how campaigns are funded: Most campaign budgets come from a product or solution silo, and the monies support the campaign through the process of delivering leads to a partner. That partner is then left to carry each lead to a sale. That’s like running a relay where the first leg runs at top speed straight to the second leg, passes the baton, but the second leg is wearing blindfolds. Despite running at great speed, the second leg is never quite sure if he/she is headed in the right direction.
Campaigns without corresponding enablement are particularly great for “low-hanging fruit” deals. But in today’s economy where sales cycles are longer, marketers must employ multi-touch campaigns that recognize where buyer’s are in their journeys and include sellers in the process. In fact, aligning campaigns with buying/selling processes is a major imperative for channel organizations focused on enablement strategies, and it is forcing vendors and LOB managers to rethink budget allocations. Here are five easy-to-include works that extend campaigns into usable tools for sellers:
- Campaign Value Briefs provide partners with an overview of the campaign, key campaign messages, and a map of sales process and assets across the entire campaign lifecycle. It also identifies available tools and resources for partners to leverage at every step of the buyer and seller journey.
- Correspondence Packs provide sellers with a series of communications that can be personalized for emails or letters to their target audiences. These “Very Important Top Officer” (VITO) assets leverage great solution information and reach prospects in a way that is continuous, relevant and prompts an increased sense of urgency for them to act.
- Conversation Guides help sellers recognize what kinds of conversations belong at various points of the sales cycle, based on what their prospect is saying. For example, introductory scripts can help partners zero in on specific business challenges customers may be experiencing. White board conversations often provide the venue for a more interactive discussion where visuals reinforce key points.
- Customizable One-Pagers help sellers leverage campaign-specific thought leadership and collateral assets in more digestible format. They serve two great benefits: Sellers have a reason to stay in touch with the prospect over time, and prospects have immediate access to information they can share across their organizations when a seller isn’t present. Remember, prospect organizations have more decision influencers than ever…sellers cannot be everywhere.
- Proof Templates help partners create their own examples of success that can be weaved into their selling process. By showing partners how to turn their own case studies into simple statements that can be used as part of a larger conversation, partners have “at your fingertips” validation for campaign messages/offers.
Considering that 40% of solution providers have not standardized or documented a specific selling methodology, it’s no small job to create tools that help sellers across an undocumented course. We’ve spent countless hours hosting workshops for partners on various topics from messaging and sales process alignment to teaching partners how to whiteboard, and these are some of the things they tell us they need:
- A reason to stay in touch, flyers and one-pagers
- Business-focused conversation starters and diagnostic questions
- Case studies
- Email content
- Proposal language
- Objection handling
If your campaigns are being measured on closed deals, perhaps it’s time to enable your partners with a targeted mix of assets and resources aligned with the sales process.
Posted: June 21st, 2012 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Practice Enablement, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
The concept of “practice enablement” has started to get some attention at channel events I’m attending (if only because I’m encouraging the conversations)!
Getting above traditional onboarding and training—and encouraging a more holistic, dynamic enablement strategy to help partners drive services and solution revenues with your offerings at their foundation—is attractive to the channel organizations I’m speaking to.
Focusing on practice enablement is a way to differentiate your company from competitors with similar offerings. Moving a partner from a reseller model to “solution practice” is a huge win for your company, and can provide valuable benefits and profits for the partner.
I typically talk about these topics from a content perspective; how are you providing the market vision and value leadership that will help partners develop their practices? How are you looking beyond the next sale or the next quarter’s targets to build a sustainable, growing practice?
Many channel organizations make the mistake of taking the product to market first, and not putting the partner in the forefront. Your company has likely already done the work to position the product in the marketplace (market need, value prop, etc). It’s the channel organization’s job to make it relevant to the partner and illustrate the overall value message to the partner, and encourage the investment required to really succeed with your solutions.
We put together this graphic as the baseline for our upcoming ebook, Content Strategies for the Channel Landscape. We’ll dive deeper into each section, and provide some actionable information around how channel organizations can achieve these goals.
Looking forward to further discussion and development around practice enablement and channel enablement overall.
Posted: June 10th, 2012 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
I wanted my blog post about our upcoming Channel Management Summit attendance to sound lofty and strategic–but I’m literally at 37,000 feet. (Thank you #VirginAmerica and #GogoInflight.)
This year’s theme at the Channel Management Summit is “Manage your Channel Strategy and Partner Relationships for a Seamless Approach to Maximize Results.” A quick read of the brochure shows a wide choice of topics, ranging from onboarding and recruiting to marketing and sales enablement. Since those key topics are squarely in our roundhouse here at Launch International, we’re coming to the show to talk to channel leaders about the importance of an integrated content strategy in their channel program.
The key concept we’ll be covering: The content you create, distribute and maintain for your partners is critical to helping your partners achieve greater results and better alignment with your organization. What goals can you achieve by developing better content for your channel partners?
- Align partner business models and offerings with vendor initiatives and market leadership
Partners that understand your business value to their business will align their practice and offerings to your solutions. That includes services and consulting offerings, as well as dedicated sales and technical resources to drive opportunities.
- Integrate vendor messages and value propositions into partner solutions and sales models
Developing better content for partner use helps them get beyond their own specific capabilities, and position themselves as a leader in solution areas that drive opportunities for your offerings.
- Execute flawlessly on sales initiatives and tactics, and marketing programs and campaigns
Better content drives better conversations—pure and simple. Sales enablement, thought leadership and collateral that combines your industry leadership with the partner’s local expertise is a win-win situation for all your joint sales and marketing initiatives.
That’s about all the strategy I can muster at 37,000 feet. Look for more at the Channel Management Show next week, and be sure to download our ebook, Content Strategies for the Channel Landscape!
Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Presentations, Sales Enablement, Sales Training | Tags: sales conversations, selling tools, whiteboard selling tools | No Comments »
Whiteboard selling tools are the latest craze. With good reason — they eliminate “death by PowerPoint” (or need for any supporting technology) and enable sellers to have more intimate, interactive conversations with their customers and prospects using nothing more than a writing surface and pen.
Problem is, they’re popping up everywhere, and sellers are being inundated with new process and techniques.
At Launch International, we’ve had the opportunity to create and/or work with dozens of whiteboards, ranging from business-focused high level conversations to the most technical of discussions. We’ve rolled out whiteboard tools to global organizations, and trained dozens of partners and sellers nationwide on how to use them. We’ve watched sellers both shine and struggle as they take on this new medium and determine when/how to successfully include it in their selling style.
It’s a transition for them, and it’s hard work to learn a whiteboard and present it well. So, we owe it to them to make sure it’s on target, and to create it with the end goal in mind.
We’ve identified commonalities across these whiteboards and categorized them into three groups:
- Scoping whiteboards explore pains and challenges throughout client organizations. These are typically used at the early stages of a sale because they help drill down to specific issues a target may be facing.
- Impact whiteboards demonstrate solution value across the organization to show how disparate groups or units could benefit from a more integrated solution.
- Transformation whiteboards illustrate a new way of doing business based on the value of your solution. These could show maturity curves, timelines, or even benchmarks across competitors and the market.
PROS(of well-designed whiteboards)
- Creates interaction between seller/buyer
- Carries a conversation from a business need to a solution response
- Is natural, so sellers easily can present
- Infuses differentiation, “sparklers” and proof points along the way
- Builds consensus and logically carries buyer to next steps in the process
CONS(of ineffective whiteboards)
- Don’t clearly define points of interaction, so they become a drawn presentation
- Don’t clearly identify when to be used in the selling process, such as using a technical whiteboard in an introductory conversation
- Scripts language and flow that causes presenters to struggle Is not unique. If you remove one vendor name and add another, would you have the same whiteboard?
- Does not actually do the intended goal: Gain approval from the audience to move to the next step in the buying process
Posted: October 14th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Thought leadership, Uncategorized | Tags: channel marketing, content, messaging, Sales Enablement | No Comments »
In August 2010, Launch International published a white paper outlining recommendations for marketers around their cloud computing offerings. In How Marketing Can Accelerate Cloud Adoption: Three Strategies to Turn Buzz into Buyers, we offered some thoughts and examples around:
- Mapping cloud messages to buying and selling cycles and enabling the development of resources that guide customers and prospects to and through the cloud
- Investing in non-traditional thought leadership and awareness activities can dispel confusion and doubt surrounding cloud technologies
- Developing the right sales conversations to help build and sustain prospect interaction to continue moving an opportunity forward
But since we published that paper just 14 months ago, the entire cloud computing marketplace has grown and matured at an incredible pace. It seems the transition from “early adoption” to “mainstream adoption” has been compressed—and clearly that’s a good thing for cloud solution vendors, providers and resellers.
And just like the market adoption of cloud computing has accelerated—so has Launch International’s experience helping cloud vendors and suppliers develop the strategy, assets and resources it takes to recruit and enable resellers, as well as take an integrated, mature message to market.
The kinds of cloud vendor clients we’ve worked with is broad—from systems, software and storage vendors interesting in driving cloud infrastructure solutions through direct and indirect channels, to distributors and managed service providers trying to show value to both resellers and customers.
Cloud sales enablement and marketing for 2012
We’ll be updating the cloud marketing paper in the coming months, but I wanted to take a rainy Friday here in Philadelphia to put a few ideas to paper:
- Maturing the cloud message: I’ve seen a real shift in the way cloud companies are talking about their solutions. The early messages around cost savings are still valid, but it seems we’ve all done a lot more thinking about driving real business value: becoming more agile; being more responsive to market fluctuations; developing new capabilities and services for customers. This more proactive, value-centric approach better addresses customer challenges and is helping with cloud adoption.I’ve been speaking with a desktop-in-the-cloud company whose offerings are basically the same as they were 12 months ago. But their business has really shifted quite a bit as desktop virtualization has become a much hotter topic. I’ve been impressed with the way they’ve shifted the message to be more customer-centric, while still retaining their focus on managed service providers. Which leads me to point #2…
- Targeting service providers: With more cloud technology options on the market every day, hosting and service providers have many options for how they deliver their cloud services. Security was an early message for cloud marketers, but that’s now become table stakes. Today’s service providers are looking for new technologies that will help not only with cost savings and security, but in driving agility and flexibility across the infrastructure. Large technology vendors in the server and storage spaces are retooling their messages and recruiting materials to show service providers how they can help customers be more dynamic.One of my long-term clients has started putting significant resources into forging better relationships with service provider partners. Much like the long-term strategy of encouraging consultants and systems integrators to base their solutions practices on a certain technology, today’s vendors are showing the value of their offerings in a service provider’s cloud architecture. That’s also critical in recruiting new reseller partner…taking us to point #3…
- Enabling VARs and partners: Channel industry trade publications and websites are full of headlines and articles analyzing the impact that cloud computing is having on the traditional VAR channel. Certainly pure-play systems resellers are going to need to transition their business model to take more of a cloud strategist role, and depend on their vendor suppliers and regional service providers to help craft a complete cloud transition strategy that adds value to the customers’ business AND the reseller’s profitability.One client of mine has added “cloud aggregator” to their reseller line card. They’re helping their reseller partners identify the best cloud offerings to offer, as well as offering a dashboard of cloud usage issue resolution—a critical part of resellers becoming a “trusted advisor” for clients and their cloud strategies moving into the future.
No shortage of cloud information for customers OR resellers
The cloud computing marketplace has made me realize that I’m truly a “market headline junkie.” I’ll click on any story or blog that offers information or insight into how marketers can help sellers make money selling cloud computing.
I’d be interested in your feedback and thoughts about sales enablement and marketing cloud computing services in 2012 and beyond.
Posted: July 26th, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Messaging, Sales Enablement, Social Media, Thought leadership | No Comments »
It’s not easy being an alliance manager these days! Alliance managers need to play the roles of both the strategic visionary and the tactical execution expert. Their corporate marketing peers often have teams of marcom specialists and product marketing experts on hand to create long-term marketing strategies. But alone in the alliance management arena, marketing managers have to be fast on their feet and think quickly!
Launch International’s alliance marketing clients tell us their biggest challenge is being experts on multiple products and solutions. In addition to their own company offerings, alliance managers need to know their alliance partners’ solutions, as well as their sales channels and customer base. That’s a lot of specific audiences—and a lot of custom messages.
Fret not. Launch International has helped many alliance marketing managers navigate the wilds of alliance solution marketing. Our “Alliance Marketing Triple Play” will give you some ideas and direction for creating a marketing foundation for your alliance partnerships.
Don’t assume that a great solution will naturally make its own friends. We’ve seen the best ideas die in the channel because the vision and value weren’t properly defined up front—before launching to sales teams.
Alliance solution messaging is critical to the success of a joint solution. Both partners need to agree on the solution basics: what the solution is, who it’s for, what value it delivers to the audience, etc.
What’s more, there needs to be a competitive differentiator that separates your solution from others in the marketplace. Let’s face it, your alliance partner likely has partnerships with other similar or competitive vendors, so spend a little time defining how you’re better!
For one Launch client in the ERP software space, we developed a complete message overhaul to better align the company’s software with the platforms of its primary server partner. The new messaging included the highlights of the server platform and how the ERP application leveraged those features to deliver speed and efficiency to the user.
Once you’ve defined the joint solution messaging, it’s time to roll it out through the sales channels of both companies. This is where we’ve seen many clients hit a roadblock—not because they lack the ability to sell, but because they haven’t properly shown either sales force how the solution can benefit their common customers and prospects.
While brochures and data sheets may come to mind first, be sure to include white papers and case studies—which can often move a customer to a buying decision faster. In addition, solution selling guides for both companies will help the sales teams understand the total solution and best describe it to their customers.
One Launch client, a storage networking market leader, created a selling guide for the sales force of its largest OEM alliance partner. The solution messaging was developed to leverage the server vendor’s current messaging. Meanwhile, the joint solution was positioned as the premier choice for the companies’ mutual customers. Early feedback from the sales force has been very positive, and we’re exploring additional solution selling resources for this client.
This isn’t about maintenance services; it’s about maintaining communication with your various audiences. It’s simply not enough to create the solution and expect the sales teams to go forth and conquer. Like any other solution marketing initiative, audiences must be continuously cultivated and reminded of solution messaging, benefits, and value propositions.
Ongoing communications like email and social media can further reinforce your messaging and help customers and salespeople better understand your solution in specific contexts. Be sure to find a new or original hook in the marketplace as a reference point for your solution. For example, compliance, security concerns, and ROI are recent hot buttons in the industry press. Figure out how your joint solution can best help your customers solve these challenges.
Launch International used security management as the angle to help a large storage and security services client combine their messages with a software alliance partner. The joint solution leveraged strengths from both companies, truly differentiating their solution in the marketplace. In fact, a large analyst firm posted the thought leadership materials Launch International created for the client on its website and in subsequent webcasts.
While alliance marketing will never be easy, you can increase your effectiveness through the “Triple Play” of Messaging, Mindshare, and Maintenance.
Posted: July 21st, 2011 | Author: Eric Nitschke | Filed under: Channel Marketing, Content Development, Content Strategy, Demand gen | Tags: channel marketing | No Comments »
Being in channel marketing means you’re used to living quarter to quarter. Your budgets, programs and daily life are all tuned to driving dollars NOW to fulfill this quarter’s sales target.
However, that kind of tactical thinking is contrary to contemporary integrated marketing strategies, and can hinder partners’ long-term marketing opportunities. Those are the challenges we highlight in our “Pitfalls of Partner Marketing”:
- Pitfall #1: Leading exclusively with vendor messaging. Many channel partners try to mimic a vendor’s identity, messages, and value propositions. Be careful when doing so in a competitive market where customers are looking for specific value-added services and offerings they can’t find anywhere else. We always encourage channel partners to develop their own voice and identity separate but complementary to their vendors.
- Pitfall #2: Relying on one-off product campaigns to drive ongoing business. MDF is a dual-edged sword. Vendor products and brands fund quarterly one-off campaigns, but that’s not a marketing plan. Instead, help your partners use your product-led campaigns as part of a multi-touch marketing plan that continuously reinforces a business solution with new and exciting offerings.
- Pitfall #3: The “set it and forget it” static website. Partner websites are simply too important to have stale, static content anymore. There are many great content management systems that can help your partners update their own content without HTML or programming experience. It will help them get in front of their customers, and it will help YOU keep your channel partners using fresh, updated messaging.
The key to avoiding these pitfalls is to help your partners develop a nine-to-twelve month marketing calendar that promotes specific solutions on a quarterly basis. That way you can apply specific vendor and brand MDF dollars as the partner promotes a specific offering within their solution-focused campaign. For example, a business continuity campaign targeting CFOs can still include product messaging as supporting information for the partner solution. The partner gets a chance to show strategic value and grow long-term relationships, and you continue to drive market awareness of your solutions.