Lunch And Learns: Time for VARs to Change the Menu?
Twice in the past week, The VAR Guy has heard from channel sources who say “lunch and learns” — educational customer gatherings at local restaurants — are losing their appeal. Is it really time for VARs to scrap their lunch-and-learn efforts, or is it simply time for a menu makeover? Here’s some perspective from The VAR Guy.
The chatter started during a June 23 MSPmentor webcast, when one MSP mentioned his Windows 7 quandary. On the one hand, Microsoft was offering co-marketing dollars for the MSP to host a Windows 7-centric lunch and learn. But on the other hand, the MSP believed such a gathering would be a waste of time and money, since end-customers aren’t very interested in operating system pitches these days.
No doubt, Windows 7 has been well-received by consumers and many businesses. From its launch in October 2009 through June 2010, Microsoft says Windows 7 sales have topped 150 million units. And generally speaking, The VAR Guy continues to hear positive buzz about the operating system.
Still, small business owners and entrepreneurs have other things on their minds. Like, um, running their businesses.
That’s why some solutions providers are shifting their marketing and lead generation dollars away from lunch and learns and toward vertical-market conferences. One prime example involves ConnectWise‘s IT services division meeting with target customers at a local CPA-centric conference in Tampa, Fla. ConnectWise President David Bellini explains his thought process in this blog post.
Lunch And Learns: New Menu?
But are lunch-and-learn meetings really dead? The VAR Guy thinks not. Instead, it’s simply time to change up the menu. Instead of hosting educational discussions about commodity products (i.e., operating system upgrades), VARs should be gathering with target customers to discuss ways IT can solve business problems and automate processes to speed daily activities.
Plenty of small business owners want to understand how Google Apps, Salesforce.com, Microsoft BPOS and other SaaS apps can potentially benefit their organizations. For Microsoft partners, that means declining Windows 7 co-marketing dollars and asking about Exchange Online and SharePoint Online co-marketing dollars — assuming they exist, and assuming you’re willing to let Microsoft host your customers…
The VAR Guy realizes partner opinions about Microsoft’s SaaS business vary widely. But there are plenty of other business-centric technology topics you could cover instead… like online backup, business continuity and data protection.
Either way, the old Windows upgrade pitch seems like it’s ready to get retired from the lunch and learn menu.