Jennifer Anaya, vice president, North America, is responsible for the leadership and direction of all Agency Ingram Micro (AIM) activities across the United States and Canada. AIM offers resellers end-to-end services in five key marketing categories, from planning and consulting through execution and reporting. Dennis Crupi is director of creative services. They both spoke with ChannelPro-SMB's Associate Publisher Joel Zaidspiner about marketing basics for SMB partners.
ChannelPro-SMB: What are some basic rules of marketing for SMB partners?
Jennifer Anaya: They need to focus in on the business objective they're trying to accomplish, and not try to do too much all at once.
ChannelPro-SMB: What kind of a marketing plan would you recommend to them?
Anaya: A plan is as simple as four things. It's what, who, how, and when. What are you trying to accomplish-what are the business objectives? Is it to grow by X percent? Do you want to get into a new market? Who are you trying to target? Are you going to go after the customers that you work with today and introduce new things to them, or are you going into a new market with new customers? How is what's the best way to reach them? So where are they learning-online, through discussion forums, through colleagues? That's where to focus your marketing effort because that's going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. And the when is holding yourself accountable to a timeline.
ChannelPro-SMB: What are the top reasons and tactics for partners to market their services?
Dennis Crupi: One reason is to stay in business. [Another is] to grow your business in your market or [in a] new market. It's important to differentiate yourself. Every plumber can stop a leak. Branding yourself is critical in a level playing field of expertise. Otherwise, you're just racing to the bottom of a price. I don't think the best way to market yourself is to say [you're] cheaper than the guy down the street.
Anaya: There is a huge percentage of SMBs that don't care about price as the first [criterion]. What that customer is truly looking for from [their IT provider] is a relationship.
ChannelPro-SMB: What's the best way to shape your message and gain that trusting relationship?
Crupi: The successful marketer is the helpful marketer. If you want to be [the] expert, limit what you're talking about. Don't try to be all things to all people-you don't have to boil the ocean. It doesn't have to be complicated.
Anaya: Don't try to do too much. I think that our partners-because they tend not to be marketers or salespeople-are not sure what to focus on, so they either don't do it or they try to do too much. They [should] just focus on who their customer is, and the customer isn't always the IT buyer now. There are a lot of other customers that are influencing that technology purchase. They may not be writing the check but they're a huge influence on that decision. A smart way of doing the marketing is know who you're selling to and focus in on where they're at.
ChannelPro-SMB: What is the message to IT business owners or managers who do not have the time or the resources to launch a marketing campaign?
Crupi: It's not an option to say you don't have the time. Either hire somebody to look after that for you, [or] if you don't have that budget, appoint somebody. This is so basic-anybody in the professional world can handle the four-part plan of what, who, how, and when.
Ingram Micro has a full-service marketing agency that can help [SMB partners] plan their marketing and then execute against their marketing. We'll help them build [a marketing campaign] but they have to invest in the appointment of a person to look after that.
Marketing doesn't happen as a one off; it doesn't happen in a vacuum. None of these things that we're mentioning are isolated items. It's cross marketing-it's a process and you can't just do it a little bit this month and think you're good for the year.
ChannelPro-SMB: Where is a good place to begin your marketing efforts?
Crupi: The consumer is so much smarter now. These days, people are looking for you. Your website is one of your best assets to allow them to find you, and then part two is, what are they going to find when they find you? Is your brand value proposition clear?
Anaya: Focus in on your website. That's the number one thing that they can really do to help build a presence. I think our industry gets enamored with lead generation. We all need it, but I think [instead of starting] with lead generation we need to end with it. Start with who are you, what you are educating those new buyers about you, and how can they build a trust relationship with you. Don't start hitting them with lead emails and offers and pricing. They're not ready to do that yet. They're trying to figure out who, what, when, and how, so give them that.
Selling doesn't start with "sign the contract right now." It starts with building trust in a relationship and understanding what people are trying to do and how you can help them. Partners are going to save a lot of time if they have that figured out first.