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Marketing is historically a second thought for the sales-focused world of technology advisors.

James Anderson

January 26, 2023

13 Slides

INTELISYS PRE-AMP’D MARKETING FORUM– More channel partner organizations are recognizing their need to formally engage in marketing efforts. And at the same time, they’re grappling with their limitations to do so.

A select group of agent leaders gathered in Newport Beach on Wednesday for a bootcamp of sorts on how to use marketing to expand their funnel. ScanSource-owned tech services distributor Intelisys, hosted the forum, which it described as a first-of-its-kind in the channel.

One of the reasons for its uniqueness is the historically disconnect between technology advisors (agents) and marketing. Many partners, particularly those under ten employees, openly admit that they don’t engage much in marketing. And in those cases staffing and capital are obvious factors. Hiring marketing personnel or an outsourced marketing firm is a costly endeavor that requires patience for return on investment, and agents are already playing the long game with their op-ex focused business model. And if they lack the budget, agent leaders can only do so much with their time.

Follett, Caitlin_Talkdesk

Talkdesk’s Caitlin Follett

“They’re focused on revenue, driving top-line and creating future pipeline,” said Caitlin Follett, senior manager of partner marketing at Talkdesk. “They’re not focused on a social campaign that can target CTO-speak or writing a guest blog that can increase their thought leadership.”

Those resource challenges explain why agents would turn to their vendor partners for co-branded marketing content and events.

“We want to enable and engage with all of you when you want to do marketing,” Lumen director of marketing Sam Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom, Sam_Lumen

Lumen’s Sam Sundstrom

Referral Cultural

And while part of the reluctance to do marketing comes from limited resources, it also stems from a cultural mindset. Many technology advisors have historically lived on referrals for their pipeline. And most say that model gives them plenty of fish.

But times are changing, Intelisys senior vice president of partner success Michael Sterl said.

“What’s fascinating to me is the journey we’ve been on since 2016. It was much easier back then. We had relationships, and we had referrals. We sold internet, we sold voice, and we moved on. And we thought, ‘Maybe we’ll have a website? Maybe not.'”

Sterl, Michael_intelisys

Intelisys’ Michael Sterl

Sterl warned partners that the buyer persona has changed. Chief among that trend is the emergence of business-to-consumer (B2C) platforms like Amazon that have deeply shaped the way business purchasers operate.

“The consumer model is what drives the business model,” Sterl said.

A New Generation of Buyers

And that consumer model taps deeply into the digital world. A 2018 Merit Marketing study found that 73% of digital natives were involved in purchasing decisions at their companies. No doubt that number has grown even larger. Thus, partners must learn to speak their language.

Rosales-Peterson, Mayka_INtelisys

Intelisys’ Mayka Rosales-Peterson

“Digital natives are the majority of folks in key purchasing decisions. They’re the ones deciding what platforms and software they want to work with and what partners to work with,” Intelisys senior manager of partner marketing Mayka Rosales-Peterson said. “What influences those behaviors is marketing. What are you doing right now in order for them to work with you?”

So where does that leave a referral-based business? For Ashley Hobson, director of empowering customer success at TelNet Choices, it’s not about departing from a referral model, but rather adding to that.

“I believe that in order to create a portfolio, you will need both referral and outreach. Referrals are invaluable, and trust is built easier, but they can only go so far in the chain due to your connections,” Hobson told Channel Futures. “However, when you have outreach, you have an endless amount of opportunities to help customers, and need to gain that trust through interactions, whether online or in person.”

For Joe Jonovic, partner and chief revenue officer at SOLUS Technology Solutions, establishing a digital footprint is table stakes. That means website revamps and LinkedIn profile updates. Even if business is coming from referrals, those referrals are going to visit your website and LinkedIn profile, Jonovic said.

Jonovic, Joe_SOlus

SOLUS Technology Solutions’ Joe Jonovic

“My business is growing organically, but you still have one chance to make a good first impression,” he told Channel Futures. “So it’s important that you have something that’s fresh and appealing to the appropriate audience that you’re targeting.

Channel Futures was on the scene, snapping photos of the workshop and happy hour. Scroll through the images learn more about marketing trends in the agent channel, and to to see who attended the event.

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email James Anderson or connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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