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August 14, 2020
MeiLee Langley has only been Nextiva’s director of channel marketing since February 2019. But clearly she’s made a big impression in the channel, achieving recognition as a Top Gun 51 award winner.
Nextiva’s MeiLee Langley
Her track record as a top marketing executive at companies such as 8×8 and RingCentral – and non-tech organizations prior to that – created a solid skills and communication foundation that landed her at Nextiva. And, key to her success, is her love of the channel.
But more than that, Langley listens to partners and is willing to be flexible.
Nextiva recruited Langley to build out its channel marketing department and channel marketing program. The company also asked her to help Nextiva’s channel leadership rebuild its channel partner program, specifically around its framework and scalability. The latest Nextiva partner program launched July 1.
A big milestone for Langley was the launch, in January, of CoNEXtion, Nextiva’s end-to-end-marketing program.
Three criteria were considered for this year’s Top Gun 51 winners. They are channel advocacy; commitment to partner business success; and dedication to earning the channel’s trust. To come up with the list, we solicited input from those who know channel executives best — distributors, master agents and industry analysts.
We chatted with Langley about channel marketing and more in this Q&A.
Channel Partners: How important is marketing for partners today?
MeiLee Langley: It’s more important than ever. In telecom, our partners never had to be marketers. Up until recently, their businesses would be hugely successful just based on renewals and referrals. They could be salespeople, and they were very successful at that.
Then telecom shifted to cloud. Partners no longer had the hardware to rely on, and line prices were compressing to $10, $15 a seat. These partners realized they couldn’t rely on the contracts that they had up until now. They had to cast a wider net and start fishing and become partner marketers. And a lot of them don’t know how to do it.
Nextiva’s MeiLee Langley is part of Channel Partners/Channel Futures’ 2020 Top Gun 51. This program recognizes today’s channel executives who build and execute channel programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. See the full list.
CF: This is a big opportunity for you to make a big impression, or not.
ML: Partners are salespeople. So they rely on the marketing teams at the vendors to make marketing simple for them and to make it something they can do quickly. CoNextion is a full partner demand suite that lets these salespeople get an email campaign out the door, or a landing page set up or a social campaign set up in five minutes. There’s an initial setup of the platform, but that takes 10 minutes.
Everything is fully done for them. They can customize if they want, but everything is prepopulated for them. We’ve had 350+ partners jump on board since launching it in January.
CF: Agents/partners don’t just become marketers overnight. It isn’t in their DNA. What’s your secret sauce for this early success?
ML: I think the mistake that marketers often make in this space is that we put all this hard work into creating these programs, menus of marketing programs for partners — but we forget to listen to them.
So what I do, or anyone on my team does, when talking to a partner, is listen to them. If the partner has something that works or has a system that’s effective, let’s not force them into our programs. Let’s put fuel on the fire. Offer them money to help them accelerate what they’re doing if that works for them. Let’s listen to them and …
… meet them where they’re comfortable.
CF: Listening to partners and showing flexibility seems to be working.
ML: I think so. Partners appreciate that. One of the things I hear from partners is that they appreciate our flexibility. To me it’s common sense, but it tells me that other programs aren’t flexible.
I’m always willing to take a gamble on a partner. If they come to me and they’re genuine in their desire to make something successful, I’ll go to bat for them internally. I’ll even go to the company leaders and fight for it. That’s if I believe in the partner and they lead with us and believe in the partnership.
Sometimes things don’t work out, but that’s OK. The ones that do, it’s like betting on a dark horse. Partners appreciate that.
CF: Listening to you talk about your work as a marketer, it sounds like you’re just getting started. So what’s next?
ML: There’s still work to be done to make sure we get our top performing partners into the CoNEXtion platform.
Where I’m shifting this year is twofold. One is enablement. I want to make sure that it’s easy for partners to do business with us and they know how to do it. From a marketing perspective, I’m going to hyper-target partners, picking those from our ecosystem and going really deep with them. Sit at the table with them and create a six- and 12-month marketing plan.
Together we’ll look at this new COVID-19 world and get really creative and figure out what we can do that’s not just a webinar. At the same time, my team will still be generating new demand-gen-type programs fit for this virtual world for the rest of the ecosystem.
The other thing we’re doing is strategic partner recruiting, bringing in new blood. That’s also something you have to do. We’re launching a $50,000 bonus program — that’s for a new partner that does $50,000 worth of business in six months.
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