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IT channel sales and marketing strategy for the digital era

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Targeted customers help partners live up to brand promise

Channel partners can learn from YouTube channel stars: Develop a specialization, focus on a market niche and give customers more of what they want.

Bethany Mota is a teenager who likes to post videos about hair, makeup, fashion, DIY projects and "basically anything...

that I love." What's special about Bethany? Her YouTube channel has 9.45 million subscribers, a rapt audience of teenage girls -- her targeted customers -- who not only watch Bethany's videos, but provide her thousands of dollars in revenue from ads and a best-selling clothing line.

I learned about Bethany's success from Mitch Joel, who is president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency, and a featured speaker at INBOUND 15, an event for sales and market pros I attended in September. Joel's talk was about the new realities that force businesses to rethink their commonly held beliefs about what works in business today.

What exactly can we all learn from Bethany? Quite a lot actually. Bethany's success shows us what's possible when we take the time to build a relationship with a targeted set of people, learn from them and give them more of what they want.

Zero in on your targeted customers

Let's apply that lesson to an IT solutions provider business. You need to focus on all the people that are making IT buying decisions inside the businesses in your target market. However, you cannot do that if you are focusing on every business of every size in every industry. You have to zero in on the specific business type you are serving.

The promise of your brand, which I have blogged about in the past, must not only specify "what," "how" and "why," but also "who."

Yes, I am talking about specialization -- not around a specific technology, but around how technology is used by specific business types. It's not about being a security specialist or a storage specialist; it's about being a healthcare technology specialist or a retail technology specialist who delivers an exceptional service experience.

You need to focus on all the people that are making IT buying decisions inside the businesses in your target market.
Jennifer Anayavice president of marketing, Ingram Micro North America

Ingram Micro recently helped a small and medium-sized business partner, based in Florida, who connected with our healthcare vertical market team, take a second look at his customer base where he found a majority of his customers were part of Florida's booming healthcare market -- doctors, hospitals, clinics, among others. He dove head first into the healthcare space, learning not just the technology, but how it's used, by whom and its impact inside those organizations. He developed his specialization and put a signature to his service.

This understanding was critical to his ability to talk to the true decision-makers. In healthcare companies, it's not just the IT guy; it's nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and so on, who are making IT buying decisions.

Don't give in to FOMO

While some solutions providers are similar to our Florida partner, you or your company execs may be reluctant to focus in on a narrow space -- even one as large as healthcare. Most likely it's due to the fear of missing out (FOMO) on other business that may come your way.

But that's an emotional reaction, not a logical one. Becoming an expert in the businesses you are serving actually will bring you more business because more customers will come to you for your expertise, not because you are nearby.

It follows then that you will be able to expand your business beyond your current geographic market to include the entire country or even the world.

If your business is small, that idea may cause you some trepidation, but it just requires some creative thinking about how you are going to deliver technology services besides rolling a truck. Maybe it's a managed service or remote monitoring play.

As Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, advises, businesses need to rethink how they do business: "In the old world, you devoted 30% or your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts."

Focus on the work you do best and perfect it. Don't try to be everything to everybody. Be something great to someone special.

And, like Bethany Mota, build a direct relationship with your newly targeted customers. They will want more from you and they will tell others about you. At the end of the day, you will do more of what you are really good at and live up to your brand promise.

Next Steps

Find out how digital marketing is the key to partner revenue growth

Read how channel partners have rebooted their sales and marketing strategy

Get insight into how marketing has become a key channel concern

Learn how marketing collateral can help partners differentiate

This was last published in November 2015

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Essential Guide

IT channel sales and marketing strategy for the digital era

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