Touchy feely tactics

Pushing product into the channel is only part of a vendor’s job. Making sure that relevant push and pull marketing exists at every level within the channel structure is becoming an increasingly important contributor to Middle East sales growth.

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By  Stuart Wilson Published  March 30, 2005

Pushing product into the channel is only part of a vendor’s job. Making sure the relevant push and pull marketing exists at every level within the channel structure is becoming an increasingly important contributor to Middle East sales growth.

It is encouraging to see more and more vendors committing real resources to conveying their marketing message across the Middle East. When handled correctly and implemented fairly, channel partners view vendor involvement in activities such as lead generation and subsequent lead allocation as an overwhelmingly positive move.

Intel’s recent decision to appoint Raya Contact Centre as its business-to-business contact centre partner in the Middle East and North Africa region demonstrates the importance that major vendors now attribute to building up a picture of both their channel landscape and their end-user customer base in the region.

Raya will work for Intel in a variety of roles including the provision of support services, developing Intel’s channel sales programmes and handling Intel’s channel conference events in the region.

Karim Fahmy, Intel country manager for Egypt and Levant, underlined the importance of Raya Contact Centre’s role: “The type of services provided by Raya Contact Centre are essential for the development and growth of Intel’s business in the region, fulfilling our corporate objectives of broad channel outbound calling programmes, campaign management and inbound support activities.”

Raya’s contact centre offering incorporates a wide variety of services including telemarketing, telesales, telesupport, campaign management, product information, cross-selling, advertisement response, database building, profiling and validation and even events traffic generation.

The major vendors appear to have decided en masse that the Middle East channel can take a significant step forward in 2005 in terms of programme deployment and is ready for the introduction of advanced sales and marketing tactics.

Outbound sales calls handled by the vendor are a fantastic way to improve channel enthusiasm and boost sales. This sort of activity does increase the cost base but allocating qualified leads to channel partners keeps their motivation levels high and increases vendor loyalty. It also builds the long-term foundations for sustained growth.

At the moment, it is the major vendors leading the way in building closed loop marketing models that incorporate channel partners. And when I say major, I really do mean the big names such as HP, Cisco, Microsoft, Intel and the like.

When these call centres pop up and vendors start phoning small and medium end users directly to generate leads, you always see some local resellers getting a little bit twitchy. They fear that such a move is a prelude to direct sales engagement by the vendor or, alternatively, that the leads will be farmed out to another reseller and they will be frozen out.

Sorry to say it, but some resellers probably will be frozen out as vendors develop a better understanding of the customer pain points that exist in the market and how well they are being served by their existing IT suppliers. Suffice to say, those partners that are dumped by the side of the channel road, will be the ones that have not made a concerted attempt to be proactive in their sales and marketing efforts, and have certainly not made themselves indispensable in the eyes of their customers. They will be frozen out in favour of better-performing partners that are more in tune with the vendor's goals.

Vendors realise the significant first mover advantage that can be gleaned from taking the initiative and building these relationships with partners and end-users at a relatively early stage in the market development. The idea is to take the committed partners along for the ride as investment is ramped up in closed loop sales and marketing activity.

It is not about reducing the channel’s role, but it is about ensuring that marketing funds are allocated in a way that increases vendor loyalty and encourages partners to become more proactive in their approach to sales and marketing.

For those vendors that shy away from this sort of activity — preferring instead to let the channel perform these functions without assistance — the decision is typically based on cost. Rather than questioning whether they can afford to do this, these vendors need to start asking themselves whether they can afford not to.

Advanced sales and marketing tactics driven by closer channel engagement will become all the rage in the as vendors become increasingly touchy feely in terms of their interaction with the Middle East market.

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