Hey VAR, You Workin` My Side of the Street?

By Chris Gonsalves  |  Posted 2008-05-09 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Before you get too down on the news business, keep this in mind: If you're a solution provider, you're a reporter too.

I’m not old enough to be this old school.

The truth is, I’ve worked in the technology trade press longer than I’ve done anything else in my life, but I still don’t trust reporters who don’t have a requisite number of car wrecks and house fires and lost kids and city council meetings in their ratty, yellowed notebooks. It’s a dues thing; a trial-by-fire thing.

Or maybe it’s just like Happy Bunny says: "I like it sloppy and weird."

When me and my friends get together, we do like cops and firefighters and doctors and lawyers all do. We tell war stories. It makes pressing your face up against the glass between us and human misery seem like a decent job. Yeah, most of my friends are reporters, too. It’s not as bad as it sounds.

I tell you all this because I love this gig. I love the news business. And it has come to my attention that you’re in it now, too. Welcome. Let me show you around the newsroom and help you settle in. If you want to tell me that the news business has changed; that the kind of journalism we practiced 20 years ago is dead, go ahead. It’s nothing my own boss doesn’t tell me. Daily. You no longer need to buy ink by the barrel to have the biggest voice. But before you get too down on the craft, keep in mind: We’re in this together now, you and me.

I came to the conclusion that we’re two of a kind, after talking to end users about how they get the news they need to make business decisions. I wanted them to say that they got it from me—in long-form features and pithy columns—and no place else. None of them say that.

What they do say is that they get their cues from websites and magazines like ours, but they almost always seek out people they trust to talk things over, hash out the word on the street and vet vendor claims. They talk to their peers, they’ll talk to their vendor reps, they’ll even occasionally talk to competitors. But the source many of the folks I talk to mention first is their solution providers. Channel partners are the go-to source for learning what’s happening in technology and how it affects their businesses.

And it’s not just me saying so. According to Channel Insider’s IT Executives Service Provider Study, fully half of end users say they depend on solution providers to give them advice on technology and business trends. And 32 percent say they want even more of that information from you, along with the skinny on emerging technologies.

So you, my friend, are in the news business.

And since you are, let me give you a few pointers from having been around this game for a while.

Keep it Simple.

Leadership Guru Dr. John C. Maxwell says "academics take simple things and make them complicated. Communicators take complicated things and make them simple." Be a communicator. Speak the language of business and benefits and ROI, not speeds and feeds. Focus more on "why" than on "how." Remember, you’re not trying to train customers to be VARs, you’re trying to help them grow their businesses. Stay on topic.

Play it Straight

If there’s one message that comes through loud and clear from talking to end users, it’s that they trust you. They probably trust you more than they trust scribes like me, in fact. So while you’ll be tempted to spin information in a way that promotes your interests in the short term, don’t do it. It’s an unsustainable model. Be a straight shooter and you’ll discover what the biggest VARs already know. A customer that trusts you for a decade is far more valuable than one who merely buys from you for a day.

Shout it Out

The icon for this business is rarely a rumpled reporter or a blow-dried news anchor. It’s the hawker with the newspaper bag shouting headlines on a street corner. Extra! Extra! Be that kid. Don’t wait to be asked. Understand that users depend on you to keep them up to date. Assume they are not reading the same trade mags and websites that you do. Be the first guy to mention the new trend, the hot technology, the innovative solution set. Being seen as a source in the know is step one to becoming a long-term trusted partner.

That’s it, my friend. That and a little Strunk & White and a spell checker and you’re officially working my side of the street. When I see you on the road, have a war story ready, and remind me to tell you about the time I covered a fire so big that ….

Channel Insider editor-in-chief Chris Gonsalves wants to hear your war stories. Contact him at chris.gonsalves@ziffdavisenterprise.com

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
























 
 
 
 
 
 

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