Channel Call

Marketing Expectations: It Takes Two to Tango

Tips and tricks for getting the most out of your vendor partnerships

After I told my children to clean up a mess the other day, one said, "Dad, it's not my job; I didn't make the mess." My response was, "Cleaning up is everyone's job!"

The same holds true for demand generation between vendors and their partners. When it comes to vendor relationships, success hinges on both sides doing their fair share. With this in mind, let's look at the different perspectives of the vendor, the Microsoft partner and, most importantly, the team.

The Vendor
It's very important to understand the vendor's perspective when it comes to marketing. The vendor has three options: Sell direct, sell through partners or use a hybrid approach -- something most vendors do. However, a vendor's selling model is likely different than the marketing approaches that it will take. Microsoft partners need to pay attention to where a vendor is investing its marketing dollars.

Very often, the vendor will invest in marketing-but only for generating leads that ultimately wind up in the hands of its direct sales force. Ask the vendor what demand-generation tactics are in its plans and how the results of those efforts will be distributed. If you don't focus on demand generation for your company (which, in my opinion, is the kiss of death for your business!) then you need to do a lot of homework because you'll be relying on someone else -- the vendor.

Now, you might see situations where a vendor invests heavily in brand awareness. This is good news for you-but only if you do marketing in your particular region or vertical market. That's because you're now leveraging the vendor's awareness in the marketplace and fine-tuning that awareness as it relates to your business. While you might not see a lot of direct leads, you'll definitely benefit in an indirect way. The best vendors have figured out the appropriate balance between building awareness and generating leads.

The Partner's Role
As a Microsoft partner, you benefit tremendously from the Microsoft brand. Customers and prospects have no problem recognizing that brand. However, most vendors lack such a recognizable name. So as they build up their exposure in the marketplace, you as their partner must do local, regional or vertical-based marketing. While you may receive a few leads from the vendor, you must maintain the mindset that it's your responsibility to develop business. Neglecting this responsibility will hurt your own business because many things can happen to cause vendor-supplied leads to dry up. My recommendation: When you run marketing campaigns, leverage the entire stack of vendors in your portfolio. Show how each of these vendors complements the others.

It Takes Two to Tango ... or Tangle?
When it comes to marketing with vendors, the best approach is to think of it as a dance.

If you keep in step with your partner, and respond with the right steps of your own, the dance goes smoothly. If you decide to wait and see what your partner does, you'll always be a step behind. You need to communicate.

Spend some time discussing marketing plans with your vendors, making sure that you map definite action into those plans.

Vendors typically focus their marketing on brand awareness, with some attention to lead generation. However, partners should always focus on lead generation, regardless of how many leads they receive from vendors.

Recognizing this dynamic will result in good marketing relationships with your vendors -- and that's a formula for success that even kids will understand.

About the Author

Keith Lubner is Chief Business Strategist at Sales Gravy, the sales acceleration company, and managing partner of C3 Channel, a global consulting organization focused on channel strategy, design, enablement, outsourcing and training for growing companies. For more information about Keith, visit www.c3channel.com, www.channeleq.co or www.salesgravy.com.

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