The Digital Transformation Requires a Compelling Brand
If you ran a corporation facing disruption and sought a strategic channel partner to digitally transform your business, would you pick your company? If you’re a young tech talent looking for a dynamic job at a rising firm, would you pick your company?
Chances are potential customers and millennial workers come across your brand and hear white noise. Or worse, they see something old and stale. And so they go elsewhere.
In a digital world where every company is a technology company, opportunities for channel partners abound — at least for those willing to reinvent themselves. With new technologies and cloud services being pitched to emotionally vested, business tech buyers, it’s time to refresh your brand.
“There’s an opportunity for channel partners to say, ‘Hey, we’re your digital-transformation company,’ as opposed to, ‘We’re auditing your telecom extensions,’” says CEO Shawn Cordner of In2itive Marketing, a creative marketing and design agency serving telecom agents, value-added resellers (VARs), managed services providers (MSPs) and carriers.
At the Business Success Symposium preconference, part of the upcoming Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, April 17-20, Cordner will give a crash course on branding strategy and the components that make up a brand. In a session called “Transformational Power of a Compelling Brand,” Cordner will talk about why rebranding is so important today.
In a Q&A with Channel Partners/Channel Futures, Cordner gives a sneak peek into his session.
Channel Partners/Channel Futures: What’s driving re-branding in the channel?
Shawn Cordner: There’s been a lot of change and a really big shift in the industry, a lot of new technologies and opportunities for the channel. You can see the prevalence of UCaaS (unified communications as a service), SD-WAN, security, and other cloud technologies. They didn’t exist or weren’t in high demand just several years ago.
But partners’ current branding and messaging may not reflect the new products and services. They need to reconcile: How do we let our customers know what we do, how we’ve evolved, and where we fit in their IT and telecommunications strategies?
For instance, an MSP might have some brand equity in RMM (remote monitoring and management), help desk or server management, but not UCaaS. MSPs see a huge opportunity in UCaaS, where they’ll be competing with traditional telecom partners such as VARs, whom they’ve never really run into before.
It’s important for MSPs coming into the marketplace to have a brand that makes it clear to the customer that they offer UCaaS and how they differentiate from what VARs bring to the table. Right now, there’s a lot of white noise that customers have to sort through. Channel partners have very similar messaging.
CP/CF: Not a ringing endorsement. What else do you think about channel brands today?
SC: I’ve been part of the channel for nearly 19 years. A lot of channel organizations have been sales-driven rather than marketing-driven. Partners centered their brands around the products and technologies and took a features-advantages-benefits approach. As technologies evolved, their brands quickly became irrelevant, old and stale.
There seems to be this notion that B2B marketing needs to be very dry and robotic. But at the end of the day, there’s still a person buying from you. We advocate for partners to stop ticking boxes and start talking about the emotions behind the purchase. You’re selling a product that solves a problem, and there are emotions around that problem. Triggering those feelings can really help your brand.
The pace of change is accelerating, and it’s harder and harder to keep your brand fresh and make sure your marketing and messaging aligns with what you’re actually selling. If you focus on the emotion and business outcomes as opposed to the technology, then you’ll never be misaligned between the branding and what you’re selling.
CP/CF: It’s interesting to hear brands have become old and stale. Many channel partners are aging out as well.
SC: That’s why rebranding is really important. If you’re trying to attract top talent from the millennial segment, aesthetics along with the right message are important. What are the things you value? Where are you doing your marketing? Do you have a strong online presence? These are all things that people take into consideration when looking at their job options.
You need to indicate that you’re on the forefront and not an old, stale company. That’s not fun. Nobody wants to do that when there are other options out there.
CP/CF: What will be the big takeaway in your session?
SC: I’ve got four takeaways. One, a brand isn’t transactional but a philosophy that gets executed consistently across the marketing mix and even into the customer user experience. Two, a brand doesn’t need to be so robotic. Three, if you focus on the product or technology, you’re always going to find yourself behind. Four, a brand is very strategic with lots of components.