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Marketing on the cheap: Pointers for channel partners

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: IT channel sales and marketing strategy for the digital era

Cisco’s Marketing Velocity event, held last week in conjunction with Cisco Partner Summit in San Diego, racked up its ninth year of effort to help channel partners on their marketing journey — no small nut to crack. One attractive session for attendees, Grow Your Business without Spending a Dime, was presented by Joseph Jaffe, a popular marketing consultant and author.

The presenter’s message: Too many people are interested in chasing the next big shiny thing — the next marketing fad — and, he contended, there isn’t one. The next best thing is now.

“How about we recognize that we all suck at email, customer service, search and our websites. Why aren’t we all taking care of the basics?” he asked.

With that, he plugged his latest book, Z.E.R.O.: Zero Paid Media as the New Marketing Model, asking, “Why pay for attention when you have attention?”

The attention he referred to was that of existing customers, an invaluable marketing resource. It made sense, then that Jaffe, the founder and CEO of Evol8tion LLC, had a couple of key tips: Don’t lose customers because you forgot to care or check in on them, and there is no acceptable level of customer churn.

“In a perfect world, if you had enough customers with enough efficacy, with enough word of mouth, enough referrals, enough data, enough passion, enough relationship, why on earth would you ever need to rent media when you could monetize the ultimate asset which is you, your people, products, packaging, stores, data content, your innovation …?” he suggested, referring to his third book, Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones.

For starters, Jaffe noted that at most companies the bulk of marketing dollars goes toward acquiring customers while the customers who bring in the bulk of partner firm revenue see a small percentage of marketing dollars.

The first thing many channel partners have to do is first figure out where the marketing dollars are going — most companies haven’t done this — and then spend more marketing dollars on those customers who bring in the revenue. Even more specifically, Jaffe recommended drilling down further into those customers who bring in the revenue, and are likely a smaller subset represented by a larger percentage of purchases, and focus on them.

Losing a customer is unacceptable, said Jaffe. But if you do, conduct an exit interview and find out why they left. Spurn the churn, is how he phrased it, and grow your business from the inside out.

Jaffe laid out several hypotheses:

Retention is the new acquisition. With the cost of new customer acquisition exceptionally high, tap into customer referrals from your loyal customer base: The cost of referral is about one-third the cost of new customer acquisition. “Not only does it cost less to bring in a new customer by referral but they’re significantly more likely to be loyal and longer term customers because they came in through a credible source,” Jaffe said.

These existing customers are credible advocacy for your business.

Some action points:

Acknowledgement: Say, thank you.

Dialog: Have a conversation with your customer about life, love, content, context…it doesn’t matter. “It’s about two people just coming together, not two corporations coming together,” Jaffe said. What it’s not about is solving problems and not about up sell or cross sell.

Incentivize: Recognize or reward customers. Acknowledgement is sweet reward. How about a customer of the month, similar to the way a company may have an employee of the month — celebrate them.

Financial reward is also sweet. Jaffe used Tesla as an example. If you’re a Tesla customer and you refer a customer that buys a car, Tesla splits the cost of a new customer acquisition between the two. Figure out the cost of new customer acquisition and reward and recognize your customers.

Activation: This is about creating community and bringing it to life. Create the shared impact of people that care about the same thing and bringing them together.

He used American Express as an example. American Express has something called the Open Forum, a place for entrepreneurs to help other entrepreneurs by connecting to each other.

Customer service is the key strategic differentiator. Jaffe offered his ten rules of customer service. They went something like this:

  • Customer service does not stop at 5 p.m. on Friday.
  • Customer service has a memory.
  • Customer service is alive and proactive.
  • Customer service anticipates.
  • Customer service is empowered.
  • Customer service is not about solving problems.
  • Customer service lives in the now.
  • Customer service can be a revenue generator.
  • Customer service lives in the public domain.
  • Customer service is an ongoing commitment.

Channel partners should come up with their own unique rules for customer service and experience and make it part of the organization’s DNA.

The real role of social media is customer retention. Social media is a way to be connected, responsive, empathetic, accessible and human. This doesn’t mean that social media can’t be used to acquire new customers.

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Retention is the new acquisition. Spot on! This has been a mantra of mine throughout my last few career positions, and a rising theme in the marketing sector. The most value revenue source available is continuation of customers that are already in place. Acquiring new customers is integral to growth, but you are looking at a one-time onboarding as a guarantee and then spending resources and man-hours to ramp them into a position to resell on services or long term contracts. Existing customers already have a cadence of revenue going and good relationship building keeps that revenue flow coming in. So, it is imperative to have excellent relationship management assets and resources in place to finesse that. Often times, the wrong reliance is put on existing infrastructure to get that done. Use the right tool for the right job. A proper PRM solution is the best investment into longevity, and the historically implemented CRM solutions used by most companies today don't always cut the mustard. ZINFI Technologies has an excellent article to this point and effectively points out why CRMs often fail to work as a Partner Relationship Management system.
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Thanks for the insight, ZINFIChris. Marketing is still an area that new to many channel partners.
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I agree, Lynn. Thanks for the value statement! Would love to get your take on the difficulties channel partners have in finding an effective marketing relationship to their network, and what disruptive things ZINFI is doing to provide a leading solution.
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