Mastering marketing

Do resellers pay enough attention to how well they market themselves?

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Mastering marketing IT resellers generally do an excellent job of promoting third party brands, but are they paying enough attention to the way in which they market their own organisations? (ITP Images)
By  Andrew Seymour Published  June 27, 2010

How good a job does the Middle East channel do of marketing?

It's a question that can be interpreted in more than one way. If you're talking about the ability of resellers to market the vendor brands they represent then the verdict tends to be pretty positive. But if you're referring to how well resellers market their own brand and their own services to customers then it's likely to be greeted with a degree of hesitation.

That's probably because it remains one of the major ironies of the channel business that while resellers are the masters of promoting third party brands, they often fail to pay enough attention to the importance of creating a focused marketing model for their own organisations.

One vendor I spoke to recently suggested that just 30% of resellers give proper consideration to their own marketing strategy or follow a detailed marketing plan.

There is no way of verifying how close that 30% estimation is to the truth, but judging by some resellers' websites it is probably more accurate than you imagine! Of all the criteria out there, a website might sound like a dubious thing on which to base an assumption, but in this online age - when the first step any prospective customer will take to learn more about a company is to access its web page - it is the most basic marketing tool at any company's disposal. Unfortunately that still seems to be lost on plenty of organisations.  

Of course, the market is full of many transactional resellers which don't really need to worry about their brand visibility quite so much because the price and availability of their products does the talking for them. For everybody else though, dismissing marketing as an unnecessary device can have painful consequences.

The good news for the Middle East channel is that the resources available to them are more comprehensive than ever before. Pick any A-brand vendor from any market segment and the chances are they will possess a bank of materials that resellers can access to drive awareness of their own brands, not just the brand of the vendor.

The biggest problem for most resellers is that they are constrained by budgets and simply don't have the funds that are required to drive any sort of constant, major campaigns. That's why these resources - which can include anything from being given the opportunity to be referenced on case studies to logo inclusion on e-mail shots - have to be exploited.

Perhaps vendors haven't done a particularly great job of articulating the sort of collateral that is sitting there waiting to be used. I certainly agree that this could be part of the problem. Whatever the case though, there can be no complaints that the channel is being starved of support.

In the forthcoming issue of Channel Middle East, we'll be taking a closer look at how a number of resellers in the Middle East are endorsing the services they offer, as well as seeking opinion from vendors on how the channel can improve its marketing communications.

What's clear is that there are wildly different attitudes towards how resellers can make marketing work for them. Make no mistake about it, there are many VARs and systems integrators out there which are adopting a very dynamic approach to marketing, and the visibility of their brand in the market place is better for it. These companies tend also to be the ones that understand the need to build their marketing position around the wider corporate strategies of their organisation, rather than viewing it as an autonomous and sporadic function.

Interestingly, several big name players based in the region are showing a desire to blend traditional marketing techniques with up and coming methods, particularly on the web and social media side.

"Brand recognition for resellers is as important as it is for vendors, and that is sometimes forgotten," said one channel executive this week. "If it is built on the right base of qualitative services, reliability and professionalism then it will facilitate the acquisition of new accounts and extended relationships with customers."

Given the competitive nature of the business, it's certainly food for thought for channel companies that have so far given marketing a wide berth.

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