5 Steps for VARs to Differentiate, Demonstrate Value Through Social Networking

If digital and social are the new platforms prospects are leveraging, VARs must increase communication via these online platforms and social networks.

Channel Partners

November 29, 2013

4 Min Read
5 Steps for VARs to Differentiate, Demonstrate Value Through Social Networking

By Charlie Van Pelt

Over the years, shifts in technology have required VARs to dramatically change their business models to keep pace with the competition. Recently, there have been major industry moves that justify a significant change among VARs to remain profitable. One of the top and most impactful changes is the rapid adoption of cloud computing.

It is no surprise why customers are quickly running toward the cloud. Cloud computing provides a reduction in capex and opex as well as increasing the speed at which companies can adopt, deploy and scale new applications. Because of this, VAR revenue is directly impacted revenue from servers and networking equipment that once was part of the rollout of new applications is moving away from VARs and turning to cloud service providers. This trend increasingly is becoming a reality for many VARs and, to remain competitive, they must either enter the cloud service provider market or find new ways to differentiate.

A recent report by CEB’s Marketing Leadership Council, in partnership with Google, found that the average B2B buyer gets through the purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales representative. From this data, it can be concluded that prospects are doing their own research online and using social media to help in the decision-making process. Sales representatives no longer are the first go-to source of information when prospects are evaluating their options. If your company is not part of the evaluation process or doesnt show up in initial research, it becomes even more difficult to be viewed as a trusted partner. If digital and social are the new platforms prospects are leveraging, VARs must increase communication via these online platforms and social networks.

Social networks offer VARs a real opportunity to connect in the first stages of the sales cycle. Used in the right way, social networks can play a key role is setting VARs apart from the competition, and become trusted advisors to their customers and partners. There are steps to make it easier for customers who are searching for information online to find your company. Here are a few simple ways to get started:

  1. Encourage your customers and prospects to follow you on Twitter. Whether you are just starting out on Twitter or trying to build your following, this is an important first step. During daily interactions with customers and prospects, let them know you share valuable information on a regular basis. Include your Twitter handle and links to your other social platforms in your email signature, marketing collateral, website, etc. to help spread the word.

  2. Identify your key topic areas of technology expertise. Play to your strong points whether thats on the data center, virtualization, mobility or storage. Select the topic you want to own” and start seeding information into your social networks. Offer valuable opinions on those topics (not necessarily about the products or services you offer) and you will be looked at as an industry thought leader and an expert in the field. 

  3. Define customers areas of interest and pain points. In addition to topic expertise, you want to be able to understand the customers you are trying to reach. What is keeping them up at night and how can your company help? Is it BYOD, management complexity, etc.? Understand these pain points and work them into your social networks and prospects will start paying attention.

  4. Host

    tweet chats  on important topics and issues. This can be done with an executive of your company or an industry leader, such as a journalist or analyst. Host the chat on your own Twitter handle, use a Q&A format and create a designated Twitter hashtag so everyone can follow along. The process helps drive followers and demonstrates that you are a leader who can foster collaboration and provide differentiated value.

  5. Establish a daily routine to ensure consistency. Once you are established as a curator of valuable content, it is important to maintain a consistent cadence of communication to remain top of mind.

These social recommendations offer tangible and concrete steps to become the curator of the content that modern buyers are searching for. By offering valuable content, VARs can achieve trusted advisor status, and when prospects are ready to engage sales, their name will rise to the top of their list. If used properly, social networks can be the vehicle to engage earlier in the sales process while still providing prospects the time and space they need for independent research. With the very real loss of revenue from the adoption of cloud services, VARs must find new ways to differentiate, grow and demonstrate value. Using social networks in the right way can and should be a vital part of the strategy.

Charlie Van Pelt is director of North American channel for Extreme Networks. He has worked in technology channel sales and sales leadership for more than 20 years, at companies including Cylink Corp. and ProLink Systems. He can be reached at @CharlieVanPelt.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like