IT channel sales and marketing strategy for the digital era
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In your clients' eyes, what differentiates your business from your competitors' may come down to the details seemingly as small as your marketing and sales collateral. This was the central message of "The Writing Side of Sales," a CompTIA ChannelCon session presented on Tuesday by Andra Hedden, chief marketing officer and owner at St. Petersburg, Fla.-based IT services marketing firm Marketopia.
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"Right now, more than ever, marketing is a huge differentiator" for channel companies, Hedden said. "Obviously, we had years previously where marketing kind of fell off a little bit. … Now, we are in a pendulum swing … where marketing is truly what is going to lead your differentiation between you and your competitor," she said.
Hedden and Marketopia define collateral broadly. According to Hedden, it's any of the materials used during the sales process and that describe your company, including proposals.
Before a partner creates or revamps its marketing and sales collateral materials, the company needs to have a clear understanding of what it provides its customers. Additionally, a partner should understand what types of problems it solves, what its business goals are and how they help its customers. "You need to have a good handle on exactly what you're doing, and what product and services you're providing before you can even put a pen to paper," she said. If done right, marketing and sales collateral should instill comfort and confidence in your clients.
Marketing and sales checklist
Hedden provided the following checklist of sales and marketing elements that all partners, regardless of company size, should have in place:
- A website. While it's unlikely many partners today don't have websites, Hedden emphasized how important those websites are. She also said partners should have a website, as well as a search engine optimization strategy and promoted search engine marketing.
- A brochure. Your brochure should be "a depiction of what you sell … in terms that your clientele is going to understand," Hedden said.
- Business cards. According to Hedden, partners should optimize their business cards for the sales process. Ensure each employee's business cards will clearly show whoever receives them what they can call on that employee for.
- White papers and e-books.
- Industry and solutions sell sheets.
- Client-facing presentations. "It's extremely important to have items in your arsenal of sales support that are very specific to whom you're selling to," Hedden said.
"When you're talking to customers, they need to know you understand the rules and regulations of the vertical that they're in. They need to know that you really get the infrastructure that they have in place right now so you can actually implement this new solution," she said.
- Quotes for hardware and software.
- Proposals for services, including hourly, managed services and cloud. Hedden recommended partners prepare every type of proposal template they'll need ahead of time, so when an opportunity presents itself, their sales reps can quickly customize the template for the client and move forward with the sales process.
"Proposals make you more trustworthy," she said. Proposals should contain all the information that's going to protect your company, as well as the details that show clients "you know not only their business, but [also] what they're after and what they need so you can solve it for them."
"[Clients] can go back and revisit [the proposal] any time they want to ensure that everything is on paper and they feel very comfortable that they're going to get what they're looking for," she said.
- Network assessments and audits. Network assessments are a "form of marketing" and a great way for partners to show their expertise, according to Hedden. She suggested offering network assessments and audits "in a consumable fashion so [clients] understand what it is you're trying to portray to them and why you're giving them this audit so you can in turn sell them whatever the product or solution is." Marketopia often advises partners to have network assessments as a promotion within their marketing collateral, she said.
- Marketing campaign elements. "If you're not doing marketing campaigns, you should be. … Yes, you can be found online, but if no one hears from you, if you're not getting top-of-mind [attention] in campaigns, it's really tough for your sales reps. Your sales reps need to be having warm leads out there," she said.
Each of these elements weaves together into a portrait of your company, contributing to your customers' perception of who you are, Hedden said. It's important that everything you do across your business is consistent, precise and "a reflection of whom you are."
She added everyone in the partner business needs to be on board in terms of branding and messaging, so when they're speaking to customers or prospects, "they understand what they're portraying … and they are a good representation of your company."