The marketing challenges for IT resellers, Part Two

In Part One of this article, we looked at two key marketing problems for IT resellers: keeping on top of the technology and finding the right marketing/sales staff. In Part Two, we look at two more current marketing challenges.

A change of audience

Marketing analysts Forrester consider that the way IT is purchased is bringing major challenges for the way that resellers market themselves.

This view argues that there’s a growing trend for Line-of-Business decision makers to sideline the IT department during purchasing decisions. Increasingly, resellers are having to negotiate with business managers, including C-level executives, and this often requires a rethink of their marketing strategy.

This can be a challenging adjustment for resellers. For many years, they have been familiar with addressing IT professionals, but their new audience requires them to use a different language. They need to understand and directly engage with the priorities of the decision-makers; priorities that will inevitably relate to growth and business targets. The hard-pressed marketers now need to add business acumen to their long list of skills.

Not every reseller agrees with this analysis, with some suggesting that they have always talked directly with management. But at the least, it means that resellers need to be increasingly sensitive to the fact that a proportion of their audience — the most important proportion — may be more concerned with what the vendor’s solution can do for them, rather than its technical specifications.

The ongoing challenge of SaaS

A few years back, life was a bit simpler for resellers. They were the people who sold third-party software and hardware, usually to larger organisations. Their services were time-limited: they would advise in the purchase, configure and customise, and after a month or two, their involvement was over. Resellers were relatively distinct from MSPs (managed service providers). MSPs effectively acted as outsourced IT departments, providing services on long contracts. Typically they worked for smaller concerns.

These neat divisions have been eroded by the rise of SaaS (software as a service). Now resellers are obliged to offer ongoing services, stepping firmly into traditional MSP territory. This shift is not new, but as businesses move to the cloud, the process is accelerating. As Alex Hilton, CEO of the Cloud Industry Forum comments:

As opposed to a single transaction, cloud computing’s as-a-Service model requires a level of continuity in the relationship to maintain customer satisfaction. At the very least, it necessitates a level of servicing… and this means providers need to adjust the structure of their business and their teams accordingly, which has been challenging as some don’t make the grade.*

For the marketing teams of VARs, this again requires a different strategic approach, as they put together messages emphasising their company’s responsiveness, reliability, cost-effectiveness and levels of customer service.

Marketing challenges, but growth opportunities

It’s true that these are challenging times for resellers, but it’s worth remembering that times of change are also times of opportunity. Agile reseller companies will adapt quickly to the new territory and stake their claim. Buyers are currently looking for guides through IT’s Brave New World. If marketers can pitch a strong and relevant message, in the language of their audience, they will continue to win new business.

CEC Marketing work extensively with IT Value Added Resellers. Backed by two decades of experience, we offer a full range of marketing services, including strategy and campaign planning, data services, email marketing, B2B telemarketing and lead generation. To discuss your needs further, please get in touch.

*You can read this quote in context in Trevor Traherne’s article at channelweb.co.uk