Marketing: The Achilles Heel of Solution Providers
Today’s solution providers do a lot of things right. Most of the ones I have spoken to understand their customer’s business challenges, are entrenched in their IT planning and are building reoccurring revenue streams around hosted and managed services. They truly are value-add and, in many cases, are entwined with how successful their customers are ultimately.
But today’s solution provider not only needs to be on top of the technology tower but also have vision to see what is coming in terms of mobility, security, virtualization, business analytics and so on. They need to have the in-house expertise to stay one step ahead of hackers, spammers and other security risks. They need to be able to partner and enter into joint ventures to supplement skill sets in technological and geographic areas where they may not be as strong. They need be up to speed, not only on emerging technology solutions but also their customer’s industry trends. Oh, and by the way, they need to grow and manage their own business. A tall order indeed.
And with this full plate of needs, some things fall between the cracks. Covering this industry for the past 20-plus years, I’ve realized the common area solution providers overlook always seems to be marketing. This is their Achilles heel. Solution providers are notorious for doing a poor job when it comes to pounding their own drum in any meaningful way.
Most solution provider executives I speak with say they are just too busy to think about their marketing efforts, even in today’s age of digital social everything. This is a big mistake and smart solution providers realize that by promoting themselves, building community and creating industry awareness, bigger opportunities will come.
Here are four basic areas that every solution provider should be considering, and it doesn’t take too much time either:
1. Have a professional corporate website. First impressions are just that. When someone hears about your organization, their first course of action is always to go to your website. This isn’t so much for lead generation and recruitment as it is for professional appearance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve went to a channel partner’s website only to find something that looks like my nephew threw it together. It needs to be professional, informative and resourceful.
2. Have a social media presence. These are brand extensions and a great way to build community. Embrace LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and not just for personal networking but also to get the word out about your company’s skills, services and wins. Be seen as a leader on industry trends, technology news and vertical businesses. Develop a following and you will develop more business relationships.
3. Embrace industry consortiums and events. Get out from the office, or even your customer’s office. Network with your peers through venues provided by CompTIA or the vendors and distribution partners. This will keep you current and open doors for partnerships and new relationships.
4. Talk to the press. Yes, that’s right. The trade press, that is. And my advice would be The VAR Guy, if I must say so myself. Believe it or not, the trade press in your industry really does have your best interests in mind. And you can’t wait around for them to find you or call you. If your expertise is security, when a big breech happens and it’s all over the news, be proactive and call to add your thoughts and expertise. Be a resource and the press will continue to come back to that well. If you’re pushing mobile integration services, get ahead of the new iPhone news and offer your thoughts on how you are preparing your customers. This is a great way to get exposure, develop relationships and be seen as an expert in your field.
Again, these may sound simple enough but many solution providers simply avoid marketing like the plague. Fully embrace your industry and leverage the tools you have at your fingertips.
Knock em alive!