Thursday, August 08, 2019
Putting buyers at the heart of all we do
The Amigos Network's vision is to build sustainable and long-term relationships between buyers and sellers, but where the primary focus is on the buyer. To be frank, it seems obvious that the customer should be our main focus and yet so many times when we engage with our selling customers their value proposition doesn't evidentially put their customers first. Paying only lip service to this notion then has a knock-on effect to every piece of content and piece of the sales process thereafter.
Why do we expect our buyers to engage with us if they don’t understand our point of difference? If they don't 'get' it we look uninteresting, irrelevant, and only focused on the next quarter.
Playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order.
“A while ago I saw an old Morecombe & Wise sketch with Andre Previn when, after playing an unrecognisable rendition of Grieg’s piano concerto, Eric tells Previn he’s playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order” said Hirst. “It just seemed to sum up how the majority approach business development right now – a lot of good stuff going on, but just not quite hitting the mark”.
(for those of you who are too young to remember, or just fancy a chuckle, here's the clip from the comedy genius)
These days it’s not just about creating some clever visuals, combining it with hard hitting copy, spreading it far and wide and following up with a bit of telemarketing. OK, that might sound generalist, but I’ve ceased to be shocked about how prevalent this approach is in channel sales and marketing.
Have you ever actually asked an End User what they think?
If you think about the term "end user" for a moment. The term itself trivialises their value. They are potential customers - real people who are more than a line on an excel spreadsheet. Not time-wasters because they're not ready to buy from you yet, or no-shows at an event, but the future of your business.
Having worked for many vendors, distributors and resellers over 30+ years in the IT & Security channel, she decided to go out and ask them about their experiences.
“We talked to them. IT Buyers want more from their technology partners than a bit of speed dating and a short-term engagement” says Shelley. "They're looking for help and support in making business critical decisions".
Campaigns are too often built for short term gain, which means considerable time, effort and £’s are put into engaging new prospects, only to discard them if they don’t respond within the campaign time-frames. We believe you need to establish relationships, not just engagement, that builds awareness, understanding and authority for when the buyer wants to buy. You can’t achieve this if you don’t know your customer or prospect.
Data is the new currency
The combination of both trust and relationships is where markets are made, but they take time. If you think about it, it makes absolute sense that content has no value at all unless it can be delivered to the right people at the right time in the way THEY want to receive it.. If it's tracked and measured using the right systems to deliver marketing qualified engagements firmly into the sales process then everyone benefits from the intelligence.
The sales process is fuelled by information that's been gathered throughout the prospect journey – perhaps over many months – enabling warmer conversations, better relationships, lasting business. This then actually makes data the new currency – content is what gives it its value.
Time to shake things up
What we’re saying here isn’t earth shattering. Many of our larger players already have these systems in place; the vendor community especially, invest in enterprise grade automation and engagement platforms. However, the minute they want to invest MDF for activity with their channel it falls apart as they can only measure what’s happening in a snapshot in time – such as an event – to decide when there has been a return on investment.
We know 'one and done' activities are a thing of the past and don’t deliver value, yet we encourage this behaviour in our resellers by the way MDF rules are structured, when we should be encouraging them to engage in relationships over the longer term.
Some resellers also have those automation systems in place, many more can’t afford that significant investment on top of the need to raise their profile through content creation and delivery. In any case, where do you stop when it comes to building customer intelligence? In CRM, automation, SMS, Apps, AI? Next big thing?
Some of the value added distributors offer lead generation to vendors and resellers as part of their offer, but again, often resort to short term tactical campaigns as they are ill equipped to do much else. Their role of distribution as “market makers” for their vendors to offer true value-add, could also do with a make-over.
Hirst helped form The Amigos Network earlier this year, backing up her long-held belief that the channel needs radical change to meet the demands of a modern technology sector with extensive research and focus groups within end user community. The Amigos Network is a new market making consultancy providing a managed market-making service for our selling brands to establish to our selling community which will be swiftly followed by an information hub for buyers early in 20/20.
The Hub of IT
So what are we looking at here?
This is our community of channel sellers. On a managed basis, they’re offered access to a full systems & analytics suite, strategic direction, content creation, messaging and delivery, plus marketing management for a single monthly payment. They get to promote their brand and build trust and engagement with their future customers. All this at a fraction of the cost it would be to do it themselves.
They run campaigns out to their own data, using their own brand identity via multiple channels which drive interested buyers to them. Content will be rich and plentiful of the right type as it's the buyer's choice whether or not to engage. Systems will offer strict profiling criteria to ensure GDPR compliance, but offers the benefit of knowing exactly what individuals are looking for so the right content can be presented.
Managed “Market-Making” Service Provider (MM-MSP)
As most of the channel are selling managed services these days and the consumption model is on the up, we think - why not marketing? It makes sense, surely, to leave the heavy lifting to the professionals and only worry about what to do with the leads delivered under your own SLA.
myamigos.net - coming Q1 20/20
We are creating a community of end users – “myamigos” – and will provide them with access to information, all manner of content, peer to peer networking, the ability to prioritise how they receive it. These people are time poor and information hungry so it’s a waste of time sending them information that’s irrelevant in the here and now.
They’ll be offered an array of content – created, curated, syndicated, and sponsored – that they can tailor to their exact requirements. We’ll also gradually profile them, understanding the types of events they like to attend, hobbies and interests they have and make sure they only receive what they ask for without fear their inbox will be flooded with emails and their phone will ring off the hook the minute they download something. We’ll also let them compare services and solutions for themselves so they can “favourite” items for future reference.
For example, there’s no point bombarding them with firewall information if it’s not a project they’re interested in now, or anytime in the future. What they need is information based on projects within their remit. And this may not be via email, but are happy to receive a daily news feed based on topics of interest to them. Alternatively, they may want to receive notifications via the App. What it won’t mean is that they get jumped on the minute they so much as sniff at a white paper – unless they ask for it. But they will be tracked and scored through every step of engagement and encouraged towards contact with compelling content.
The Amigos Network don’t refer to sales and marketing, preferring to talk of Market Making and growth strategies. Max Sherwood, another founding partner, believes that this traditional separation of the sales and marketing disciplines is one of the greatest causes of the current failure to achieve sales objectives. “If you accept that customer engagement has radically changed, it’s not enough to just fiddle with the current acquisition models. We don’t believe you can separate business strategy, sales and marketing and still expect to achieve your objectives. We need to work harder and seamlessly to provide better quality leads. This may mean less leads overall, but they’ll be more valuable and your investment will deliver far greater return”.
Sherwood says Market Making should address propositions and how these differentiate companies up front. “Many companies believe they have a strong value proposition, but does it meet the demands of today’s market? We challenge pre-conceptions to ensure they’re robust and sustainable”.
Customers don’t want to hear the same message all the time, they want to be excited and convinced we’re the right partners. Success will only come from getting the right message, to the right place, at the right time”.
Technology at the heart of what we do
Our CTO, Steven Grosvenor, has a reputation for delivering best-in-class marketing technology to the IT sector and has spent his career designing and deploying systems both in B2B and B2C environments. He’s fully conversant with all aspects of GDPR policy and will ensure our policies and processes are compliant.
There’s an impressive technology stack that includes marketing and workflow automation, content distribution in the form of social, web, app, mobile with CRM backed by an analytics suite that measures and reports every activity and interaction at every stage, as well as a channel enablement portal to manage all aspects of reseller activity.
Standalone/add on Services
If you’re a Vendor looking to build channel direct and not go through distribution, we have a huge and growing list of partners we’re already engaged with from years working with them. We can put together channel recruitment and enablement programmes to suit your needs. We can also resource channel account management on your behalf.
Need some extra strategic or operational marketing resource for specialist projects or at times of peak loads? Take our Virtual Marketing Director or Virtual Marketing Manager expertise for as much time as is needed.
If you need to set up your own sales and marketing systems in-house and/or need to integrate them with existing business tools, we can deliver this for you.