Category: Channel

Buyer personas are the key to channel partner marketing.

Channel Partner Marketing: Who Are You Targeting?

Buyer personas are the key to channel partner marketing.Powerful channel partner marketing begins with a clear understanding of who you’re targeting. You want to identify your ideal buyer personas, so you can more easily attract and capture those types of people as leads and customers.

To help illustrate this point, let’s look at an example.

Who done it?

A crime has been committed, and it’s your job to find out what it was and who did it. You hire two experts to gather all the info they can on the crime and the criminal, and you ask them to share their findings.

Expert A presents this information:

  • The criminal is a male age 40-45
  • Height: 5’10”-6’; weight 210 lb. with a muscular build
  • Bald with a goatee
  • Drives a black Honda Civic
  • Wears Oakley sunglasses
  • Lives in Lorain County, Ohio
  • The crime was a stolen 100 Grand candy bar from an employee’s cubicle
  • The crime was committed out of revenge for someone taking the last donut

Expert B presents the following:

  • Crime was petty theft
  • The criminal is a human, most likely male
  • He has a pulse and enjoys eating, sleeping, breathing, and short runs on the sidewalk

Which expert would you hire to help you solve the case? Hopefully the answer is obvious.

To be successful, “profile” your target audience

While this is an extreme (and silly) example, it isn’t far off from many of the telecom channel partners we speak to about their marketing. When we ask, “Who are you targeting?” they usually answer, “We can help anyone!”

While of course you can service anyone with a pulse, it doesn’t make sense from a marketing perspective. Without a focus, your message, campaigns, and overall marketing strategies will lack the punch they could have.

So before you spend another dollar on anything channel partner marketing related, complete the following exercise. This will help you define your buyer personas, or like in our example, “profile your criminal.”

Discover your buyer personas

Take a look at a list of your current customers. Use your CRM or an Excel spreadsheet to help you track each contact and the quantities of each category.

  • Who are the decision makers?
  • The influencers?
  • Researchers?
  • Anyone else involved in the buying process?

At this stage, we want to cast a wide net and analyze everyone involved and what their involvement is. This will help you immensely later on.

Next, let’s add your top 25 prospects to the list. There could be some overlap here with your current customers, but if you’re targeting a new market segment, this could be totally different. Ask the same questions as above and keep track of your answers.

Finally, group the similar types of people together, and this should help you identify your personas. Most channel partners we work with have the following common personas:

  • SMB owner
  • IT Director / CIO
  • CFO

Not surprisingly, the IT / telecom buying process is increasing in complexity with more people involved than ever before. Check out this guide to attracting IT buyers for step-by-step info.

Research each buyer persona

Once you have your different personas identified, get to know as much as you can about each of them. Remember our criminal profile? Follow the same pattern and go both wide and deep on the information you gather.

  • Demographic dataAge range, gender, nationality, primary language, educational background, etc.
  • Behavioral data: Likes and dislikes, brand loyalties, interests, and hobbies.
  • Marketing dataBlogs they read, newsletters they subscribe to, how they stay up to date with market trends, conferences they attend, social media outlets they use, etc.

Hopefully you already know some of these things by virtue of your relationship with your customers, but other items may require further research. You can research via online surveys, or you may want to conduct in-person or phone interviews.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What are your biggest pain points, questions, and concerns as they relate to your role?
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What types of Google searches do you do?
  • What problems, if solved, would make your work easier?
  • Can you quantify how much it would help you (time/money saved, etc.)?
  • Where do you get your info? Magazines, events, or social platforms you participate in?

Add questions as you need to. Learn as much as possible about your personas, their pain, their preferences, and their behaviors. Armed with this information, all your future marketing strategies will be more targeted, and therefore, more powerful.

Here’s more in-depth information on creating buyer personas for the telecom channel.

Stay tuned next week as we discuss the next step in your channel partner marketing journey: using this buyer persona information to create stand-out messaging.

Using digital transformation to improve channel partner sales.

Improve Your Channel Partner Sales with Digital Transformation

Using digital transformation to improve channel partner sales.Improving channel partner sales is MicroCorp’s focus, and digital transformation can actually boost opportunities for partners. This process of moving from a hardware-focus to more of a software-focus is bringing with it some great new opportunities to make sales.

How Can I Use Digital Transformation to Drive Sales?

Since there are several facets involved in digital transformation, there are several ways to use it to make improve channel partner sales.

SD-WAN. One of the biggest digital transformation moves around, software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) is a great fit for businesses with multiple locations. It takes what’s already worked with WAN operations and expands on it by taking the focus off hardware and putting it more on software.

Unified communications. Unified communications systems incorporate voice, video, conferencing systems and more, it’s an excellent all-in-one package, and also provides a great opportunity for sales by offering the basic infrastructure points—or even the limited hardware required—to do the job right.

BYOD. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) doctrine is a great cost-saver for businesses as employees bring their devices of choice to work. It takes some advance preparation to do correctly, though, so this is a good opportunity for channel partner sales in network security, Wi-Fi connectivity, and more.

Cloud services. While unified communications is a major cloud service, it’s not the only one. The cloud is increasingly offering a range of services from analytics to disaster recovery. Having these services on hand can mean excellent partner sales for businesses looking to branch out, better protect themselves, or perform a wide range of functions without having the hardware on hand.

Data center functions. Whether it’s on-premises, cloud-based, or a hybrid of the two, businesses are taking advantage of having their data immediately to hand and readily shared out throughout the organization. Channel partner sales benefit here, particularly for targets that have no data center or want to change the current one.

How Do I Get Started with Digital Transformation?

If you see opportunity in digital transformation, then the way to take advantage of it to start making more sales is to start working with a master agent, like us at MicroCorp. We can provide options for several stages of digital transformation. Plus, our Ultimate Partner Training program can help keep you on the cutting edge of new developments. So don’t let digital transformation pass you by; get in touch with us to get started making new channel partner sales.

Channel Partner Marketing: Your One-stop Resource

Channel Partner marketing is often a big source of stress for telecom agents, VARs, and MSPs alike. You’re a salesperson and a business owner, so you want your time to be focused on what you do best.

At the same time, you’ve probably noticed how the sales process has changed over the last few years. The old sales and marketing tricks just don’t work as well as they used to, which is both frustrating and expensive. Your prospects are making decisions without you, and more and more people are involved in the buying decisions than ever before.

For all of these reasons and more, it may seem like doing marketing well is a lot like hunting unicorns.

Introducing a Channel Partner Marketing Blog Series

That’s why we’ve put together this blog series specifically focused on effective marketing for Channel Partners. Each week, we will post a new blog covering topics like:

  • Clearly defining your target audience for more effective prospecting
  • Crafting a compelling message that clearly communicates your value proposition
  • Creating a lead generation website 
  • The do’s and don’ts of powerful lead generation campaigns 
  • Why and how to nurture leads through your sales funnel
  • LinkedIn sales prospecting
  • Leveraging content in your sphere (there’s lots of free stuff available)
  • Video marketing: how to use it in prospecting and sales
  • Social media tips & tricks
  • How SEO works, and more importantly, what not to do 
  • Must-have telecom marketing tools

As the industry’s first exclusive telecom marketing agency, we’re looking forward to sharing some no-fluff expertise that will get you real marketing results.

Please let us know if there are topics you would like covered that you don’t see here…we’re all ears!

Lastly, if you’re shopping for a marketing services provider, check out MarketRight, MicroCorp’s exclusive marketing program for its partners, powered by us at Mojo Marketing.

How do you build a WAN for your customers that can function today but scale for tomorrow?

How to Build the WAN that Can Take on Tomorrow

How do you build a WAN for your customers that can function today but scale for tomorrow?Building a wide-area network (WAN) isn’t as easy as plugging in a few cables and routers. It’s a safe bet that someone’s asked you about what to consider when building a WAN by now, because you’ve been working hard to establish yourself as an expert. So when your customers start asking you about a WAN, you’ll have an idea ready to go of what to keep in mind, and how you can fill that need.

In years past, the WAN was about connecting sites to other sites and work stations to other sites. As technology delivery models evolve, and cloud and mobility solutions become more widespread, it is more critical than ever to stay connected to those applications, see the health of your connections in real time, and be able to change at the speed of businesses today.

What Should I Keep in Mind When Building a WAN?

Keep these in mind to prevent the need for costly replacements and upgrades as long as possible. Basic design principals include resilient connectivity, visibility into the network, security, flexibility to make changes, and agility to add new sites rapidly.

Basic design. Some parts of the WAN are so basic they should be first off the bat.

  • Discovering new elements. Proper WAN architecture can determine quickly and effectively when new components are added to the network. This helps later in expansion or replacement if something goes wrong.
  • Performance measures. Establish means early on to measure network throughput, bandwidth, and latency. When you’ve done this, you’ll be better able to tell the difference between a network that’s slow because something’s wrong, or a network that’s slow because it wasn’t designed for the level of use it’s seeing. Having tools to analyze this data is critical to ensure optimal performance of applications running over the WAN.

The overall environment. The next point to consider is the overall environment, and how this new network fits into that. Design the network around your environment, not your environment around a clunky inflexible solution.

  • Current use levels. No one wants a network that’s already underpowered when it goes online. Consider your current staffing levels, the existing applications the network will run, and current access requirements to make sure what you’re building will even work with today’s needs.
  • Future use levels. With today’s demands in hand, start immediately looking at tomorrow’s. Look at likely future applications—especially those that are already planned—and immediately planned changes to staffing and use levels. Consider deliberately overbuilding to provide some future wiggle room.

How Do I Get Started Building the Best WAN?

Keeping these points in mind will go a long way toward designing a great WAN, and when it comes to making that design real, start by getting in touch with us at MicroCorp. With a wide range of partnerships across several key areas, we can help take that construction plan and make it a reality. Just drop us a line to get started.

How does a partner ecosystem improve your business?

How a Partner Ecosystem Can Move Your Digital Transformation Goals

How does a partner ecosystem improve your business?Digital transformation is one of the greatest goals of many companies today, and though its ultimate form may look different, it’s still one of the biggest single-direction pushes around. Thus, companies are putting a lot of resources and investment behind such development. What if, however, there were a way to achieve digital transformation without the enormous expense? It may be as simple as the use of a partner ecosystem.

What Is a Partner Ecosystem?

A partner ecosystem is a group of firms that have decided to partner, to work together, in pursuit of common interests. These partners—some of which are even competitors—might do such things as share innovations or create mutually-interoperable systems to become part of a larger-scale ecosystem.

How Can a Partner Ecosystem Help Advance Digital Transformation?

A partner ecosystem can deliver value on several fronts to improve the pace to digital transformation.

Less concurrent development. Instead of having five companies spend huge amounts of research and development capital trying to invent the same thing, some have found that it’s better to let one company focus on one point, while someone else focuses on another. The result is a partner ecosystem that’s developing the same project, but different parts.

Greater focus in development. Major companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google have all been putting partner ecosystems to work for some time now, using open-source libraries to both contribute to and derive insights from them. By working in a partner ecosystem, while there’s some giving away of insights and development, there’s also plenty of receipt, allowing companies to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and instead take advantage of what’s already known.

Improved supply operations. While ecosystem partners have long been counted on in terms of supply and demand, partner ecosystems provide improvements to the supply chain by opening up the individual data silos that companies represent, and allowing everyone to take advantage of the information contained within. A major example of supply technology improved by partner ecosystems is blockchain, which allows every company in the ecosystem to share data and verify what’s going on.

Partner ecosystems allow you to address technology outside your wheelhouse.Partner ecosystems can enable you to provide a complete solution for your customers even if you lack the expertise in a particular area. For example, if you need to provide infrastructure, having a trusted IaaS expert in your ecosystem allows you to become the trusted resource for your customer while working with your expert colleague in the background.

How Do I Get Started Using a Partner Ecosystem in Digital Transformation?

If you’d like to take advantage of what a partner ecosystem can do for you, then all you need to do is get in touch with us at MicroCorp. We have a complete ecosystem community we call the Solutions Alliance that brings together agents and other independent providers to help you move along the path to digital transformation.

Digital transformation can take business to the next level, but it must begin with the right foundation.

Internal Networks: The Right Foundation for Digital Transformation

Digital transformation can take business to the next level, but it must begin with the right foundation.No one puts up a building without first considering its foundation. Whether it’s a concrete slab, reinforced concrete over a basement, or even just a level patch of ground, what you build a building on is just as important as what you do it with. While plenty of businesses these days are considering digital transformation strategies—and with good reason—there’s a lot to do before then, and that means a great opportunity for those looking to supply businesses with the right foundation for digital transformation.

What Should Businesses Know about Preparing for Digital Transformation?

Current phase of growth. Businesses must consider just where they are already in the overall market space in order to determine where to transform to. A December study from CompTIA found that most businesses are currently in the process of transformation to either a moderate or high degree, and that’s going to fundamentally impact just what kind of digital work should take place.

Ultimate goal of growth. Businesses also need to consider where they’re ultimately growing to. Businesses considering a more consultant-style role will need different growth points than those considering a recurring-revenue model. The ultimate goal of the digital transformation requires different elements to reach.

Complexity of current operations. Some may even be considering a digital transformation to address issues of complexity. If complexity is the primary driver behind growth, it too will require new elements. Very few businesses are already seeing business get less complex, which prompts key insights about overall growth.

Profitability of growth. That earlier-mentioned CompTIA study had one common element: all surveyed were most concerned about leaks in profit margin. Being able to present information and projections about the profitability of a digital transformation track can be a significant help in overcoming objections and driving further development.

How Can I Help Businesses Get Ready for Digital Transformation?

Building your foundation to help other businesses get ready for digital transformation starts by getting in touch with us at MicroCorp. We can help you get the right tools that you’ll need, thanks to our status as a master agent for a substantial lineup of firms. With us in your corner, you can offer your clients the tools they’ll need to get their foundation started.

Partners can collaborate in an educational ecosystem at Ultimate Partner Training.

Get Inside UPT: A Day by Day Account

Have you ever wondered what Ultimate Partner Training is really like? Two MicroCorp Strategic Partner Managers — David Burgeson and Monica Lester — journaled their experiences during UPT last year to give you a taste. Read their real-time, day-by-day accounts to get a feel for what’s in store this year for partners!

Day One:

David:
We kicked off Ultimate Partner Training today, and the classroom is full of attendees from all over the country. The excitement and desire learn about the data center, colocation and security businesses is off the charts! The talent among this group is clearly evident for best practices, and new ideas are being shared as partners are forging new relationships. Looking forward to a great Day 2.

Monica:

As a trusted advisor to many MicroCorp partners, I made the commitment to invest in my own data center and cloud computing education by spending a week engaged at Ultimate Partner Training. It’s day 1, and already I can feel the energy and enthusiasm to learn and succeed in this space of technology from everyone. Looking forward to diving in to the history and evolution of technology, and learning how to assist my partners even better in this space. We will all be chanting, “I love data center” once we see the ROI from our training investment. 

Day Two:

David:

AM session

Day 2 started with Todd Smith presenting on the various business and pricing models within data center providers. Whether the business model is wholesale, retail or both, Todd Smith emphasized that properly negotiating power, space and cooling costs is a must between the customer and provider.  

Paul Carrico continued the training to cloud where everything is “as a Service”: Hosting-aaS, Infrastructure-aaS, Software-aaS, Platform-aaS, and Infrastructure-aaS. When architecting a solution for a public, private, hybrid or hyper-converged solutions, scoping the right requirements is a must. Client engagements begin with what applications are they using and why. 

PM session

Cyrus One, VxChnge, Cologix, Telstra, Level 3 and Greenhouse Data are sitting on the Hot Seat Panel. Tough questions from the audience! Usually providers talk about their strengths, but a question was asked what their weaknesses are. I can’t go into detail here but it was rather interesting.

Scott Kelly with Windstream is now talking about SD-WAN, and he says “All roads lead to the cloud:  Rapid growth in data, apps and connected ‘things’.” 

Some great things about SD-WAN:

  • Money to be made with SD-WAN:  $6B by 2020 per IDC.
  • Gives complete visibility
  • Real-time control
  • Plug and Play ability
  • Active/active connectivities
  • Any type of access
  • Scalable
  • Goal of 100%

But the realities are that SD-WAN:

  • Will not replace MPLS
  • Cannot guarantee QoS
  • Is not WAN optimization

Monica:

Not all data centers are created equally. Today I gained a better understanding of the differentiators amongst our data center providers. Telstra, Cologix, Xchange, Greenhouse Data, Level 3, CyrusOne….just to name a few from our line card. Now I am empowered to help my partners better in matching the right provider for their clients. A fun fact I learned was the least expensive data center space can be found in Quincy, Washington. Why? Lowest cost for power at 3.5 cents!!! 

Day Three

David

AM session

A contest for How to Frame Questions and Team 5  is in the lead. This is proving to be harder than it appears….Teams 3 and 4 are catching up.

Jeff, founder of Bigleaf now talking about SDWAN. The SDWAN market is getting crowded with providers trying to position themselves uniquely. Jeff says get out of speed and feeds discussion, but what are the applications?

He says — though SDWAN is causing different conversations about MPLS, MPLS was disrupted by the data center and cloud. SD-WAN and network security are inter-related. To stay relevant, SD-WAN and security must be part of any technology conversations.

The agent channel has a great opportunity to be the trusted advisor for their clients with SD-WAN and to make money on it.

PM session

Windstream is doing a live demo of their SD-WAN service. The management portal is collecting data on everything and touching their network. 11+ Android devices are hitting a non-productive website. He just disconnected a circuit while on a live VoIP call, and the failover was seamless. This is a must-have for customers who run a lot of apps on the cloud.

Monica:

We have reached the topic of SD-WAN, presented by Bigleaf! This segment is most important to maintain my relevance in the marketplace. With the movement to the cloud, an alternative for MPLS was desired, and SD-WAN allows us to build a solid network to many locations, hosting vital applications and enhancing effectiveness. I endorse Bigleaf as a solid provider — they go the extra mile for my partners to help them gain comfort with this new technology and will do the heavy lifting to provide the solutions to the end-users. 

 Day Four

David:

Just completed our team role-playing competition based on actual customer situations. Each team consisted of 3 attendees and there are 6 teams. The objective was to dig for information from the judges and apply what we learned to identify SDWAN, data center, colo, security, hosting, and cloud applications. We are awaiting to see which team won. 

This was the most interactive training ever. Thoroughly enjoyed the people here.  As we conclude UPT, the spirit of partnership is alive and well. Relationships matter!

 Monica:

It’s the last day of UPT, and it’s the first training of my career where I can walk away feeling as though I have the knowledge, resources, excitement, and hunger to aggressively help my partners tackle this segment of the market and succeed in new revenue in the DC space.

Today was a competitive day where we displayed selling skills coupled with knowledge gained on solutions in a real-world customer scenario. As part of Team 5, we came in 2nd place. Practice and experience leads to success in all aspects of life. The practice I’ve learned from UPT is priceless, and — not to mention — what a great group of folks to spend my week with!

Contact MicroCorp today to learn more about Ultimate Partner Training.

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.

Channel Partners: Learning Leads to Selling

Being a part of an educational ecosystem is the best way to ensure ongoing sales.Every sales rep has a go-to tool to help make sales. Maybe it’s an emotional pitch. Maybe it’s a close relationship or spending time building trust. These are useful enough, but there’s one tool that’s often overlooked, but never should be. It’s ongoing learning, and every sales rep and channel partner out there should know how valuable it is to keep as current as possible on what’s being sold. If partners do not stay relevant and up-to-date on technologies and how to sell them, another technology advisor will step in to take their place.

Why Should a Channel Partner Take Ongoing Learning Seriously?

A channel partner that keeps up with learning allows several important advantages to take hold.

No costly stops-and-starts. Those who try to pack all their learning into one blast every so often incur substantial costs, and not just in course tuition. Having to stop other activities while getting caught up on the latest developments represents an opportunity cost, allowing competitors to make inroads while the partner in question is busily cracking the books.

Better chances at sales. It goes without saying that knowing one’s product is one of the best ways to make sales. The benefits of being educated are two-fold:

1)  It allows the partner to more effectively demonstrate a product’s value and illustrate the value proposition at hand. When customers object—and there’s almost always an objection somewhere—the partner is better equipped to take on that objection head-on and walk out the other side.

2) Staying educated about technologies enables partners to feel more confident in their conversations with customers, and allows them to stay a step ahead of their competition. Guiding customers through new technologies will be the clincher for recurring sales.

Developed relationships. While this relates to the last point, there’s something to be said for developing a reputation for expertise. When businesses discover their sales reps are knowledgeable about a certain point, it opens up a path for those businesses to consult sales reps about technology strategy. The astute channel partner will, naturally, be ready to upsell.

Improved Learning Quality. Some might say that it takes time to be an expert anyway; what’s the difference between spending 10,000 hours all at once or 10 hours a week for a thousand weeks? For technology, the difference is simple: technology is what’s known as “auto-catalytic.” New developments follow from old ones, so the more that’s understood about old developments, the faster the new ones can be internalized and capitalized upon. It becomes easier to learn new technologies when old ones aren’t foreign.

How Can a Channel Partner Best Keep Up With Ongoing Learning?

Keep up with all the changes in a product line by joining a product ecosystem. MicroCorp, for example, has The Solutions Alliance, a portfolio of vetted IT service professionals to help keep channel partners in the loop and to ensure they deliver your customers top-notch service. For those who want to keep up and keep ahead, just drop us a line to get started.

Why an Ecosystem is Crucial for the Survival of the Channel Partner

Any company today is consuming IT on a recurring revenue basis. All solutions are delivered on recurring revenue bases. That means partners that have relationships with end users have immense opportunity to sell them various technologies on an ongoing basis. You can sell your customers a network, and stay with them to sell a host of other things. The waterfront of opportunity is getting wider and wider. But in order to sell a variety of solutions, you have to know what you’re talking about.

That is where partners get hung up. So we’ve provided a solution.

A Play Store for Partners
The Solutions Alliance is essentially a play store of solutions made available to our partners. Just like how your smartphone comes with apps you can download, the Solutions Alliance provides offerings for partners that come together to help them grow including training and education from experts in a variety of areas such as IT maintenance, asset management, domestic and international IT project management and other critical services.

One of the ingredients in this secret sauce is the contracts we put in place for members to ensure proper service delivery and commission payment. We make sure that members of the Alliance play well together. If someone misbehaves, we make sure our partners get paid no matter what.

Partners get access to a range of service providers — some of whom offer hundreds of solutions. Some providers offer a few specific solutions and help partners educate themselves on these niche technologies. We contract with both broad and focused service providers so they are obligated to provide solutions and pay our partners.

Auto-catalytic Technology

It took 50 years for everyone to get electricity. It took 5 years for everyone to get smartphones.

Never in my career have I seen the channel poised to change so much. Technology is now auto-catalytic, meaning it is changing so quickly that it is feeding off itself and changing even faster. You can’t train your way to learning about every solution anymore because technologies are accelerating on themselves.

The channel is going to look more and more like a selling organization leveraging recurring revenue contracts delivered from the cloud by manufacturers and providers. Creating an ecosystem — or being part of one — is going to be vital. It already is.

If you do not diversify your business, and learn from others in your market, you will not have a business in 5 years. That fact is becoming more and more apparent.

To learn more about the Solutions Alliance, and how you can future-proof your business in this ever-changing channel, talk to MicroCorp today.