Rules of the road

Vendor roadshows are part and parcel of life in the IT industry. There's nothing quite like a few hours of face-to-face contact to oil the channel engine, especially when the pressure of lofty sales targets and simplicity of technology have transformed account management into an e-mail- and telephone-based activity these days.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  November 1, 2007

Vendor roadshows are part and parcel of life in the IT industry. There's nothing quite like a few hours of face-to-face contact to oil the channel engine, especially when the pressure of lofty sales targets and simplicity of technology have transformed account management into an e-mail- and telephone-based activity these days.

We seem to have reached that inevitable stage of the year when vendors are shifting their marketing machines into overdrive and embarking on various roadshows across every major city. There is logic to this madness of course. The channel is a people-driven sector and vendor executives are painfully aware that they need to make time for bonding with the individuals and companies that hold the key to their performance in the market, and most probably their bonuses.

Vendors which are prepared to organise dedicated partner roadshows on a sub-regional level, such as the Gulf or Levant, or more commendably on a country level, give themselves a much stronger chance of cultivating relationships with the channel than those who send their partners off to some far-flung European destination every year to attend a broader EMEA conference that rarely puts any emphasis on the Middle East.

Local channel roadshows remain a vital component of the overall vendor-partner sparring process, but if manufacturers are to persevere with them then it is fundamental that they keep a careful eye on the content they are offering partners.

A lot of vendors entice 20 or 30 of their most powerful allies to a hotel conference room only to bore them senseless with two hours of corporate presentations crammed full of obscure market data that doesn't really leave anybody feeling enlightened, let alone enthused enough to go away and bang down the doors of their customers. Worse still, they make the mistake of delivering a load of marketing drivel that is so far removed from the reality of the reseller's daily grind that its impact is negligible.

I know for a fact this happens because I've seen it with my own eyes.

Resellers appreciate some insight into the size of a market, but unless it has a direct bearing on how they can make their business more profitable, it doesn't really serve any purpose but to fill a gap on the schedule. The same goes for exhausting lectures on a new piece of technology that in reality is nothing more than a regular addition to the portfolio. It just doesn't matter. Resellers work with technology every day. They know what is good and what is not without being insulted by a series of PowerPoint slides.

What they do want some assistance with, however, is how they can sell it and what it will do for their business. This is where a vendor's thoughts and advice really add value. Too many roadshows are operated as a self-promoting marketing vehicle rather than as a forum to explain, in layman's terms, what the channel needs to be doing to stay ahead of the curve, grow sales and generally put into practice the things that will help their business develop. More importantly, vendors need to be explaining what steps they are taking to make these processes less daunting.

I accept that vendors organise roadshows because they have a specific message to spread or a certain technology area they want partners to understand, but I believe many are missing a trick by failing to address the issues that really matter to those in the trenches. It might mean these roadshows assume a different format to the usual approach, but if that means vendors are forced to discuss why so much grey market product is flooding into the region or why their RMA policies just don't work then I'm sure that many resellers will agree that it was worth their time.

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