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It’s that time of year where everyone makes some sort of New Year’s resolution about improving their business only to see it go by the wayside inside of the first two weeks of January.

Given the fact that many solution provider companies are run by people who turned a technology avocation into an actual vocation, many solution provider companies find themselves short on business skills, and chief among those missing tricks is marketing.

The skill set often goes ignored as the business grows, as technologists can easily measure and justify the return on investment for an additional sales person or engineer, while marketing is viewed more as an unreliable black art that is difficult to quantify.

If done right, marketing efforts can lead to increased sales. Click here to read more.

And yet as we get set to enter 2007, the one thing that nags at the back of most companies in the channel is not only how to get the company noticed in 2007, but how to differentiate themselves in a field where just about everyone expects to see fewer, but stronger players.

Those needs mean the days when you could rely on your wife’s cousin to help out with marketing or some college kids willing to work on lead generation activities in exchange for college credit are pretty much over.

What solution providers need today more is a systematic approach to marketing where every activity is designed to simultaneously drive brand awareness and lead generation as a set of hand-in-glove activities. Unfortunately, the number of experienced marketing people with those kinds of skill sets is pretty limited, so even if most solution providers had the will to improve their marketing, there is significant scarcity of resources.

This is why channel executives might want to take note of a new set of outsourced marketing services for the channel that are being launched in the new year by Circa 65, a consulting company in Denver that has a long history of working with solution providers.

Spearheaded by company president and chief operating officer Jim Markisohn, who, prior to joining Circa 65, earned his channel marketing stripes working for distributor Arrow Electronics, the new service takes a structured approach to marketing and gives VARs access to experienced marketing professionals at a fraction of the cost of hiring their own staff. The service not only lets solution providers systematically measure their marketing activities, it allows them to leverage a more targeted approach with marketing professionals.

The end result of this is that marketing services are only deployed on demand rather than having to add the costs associated with full time employees to the payroll.

Of course, outsourced marketing is nothing new in the channel. Exponential Marketing Services in Clifton, N.J., has been billing it out for years and distributors such as Ingram Micro have extensive practices to provide the service. But the on-demand services approach from Circa 65 mirrors a software-as-a-service approach to billing for those services that may prove to be more attractive than approaches that bill by the hour regardless of what was specifically accomplished.

Whatever approach solution providers ultimately take in 2007, one thing is clear: It is high time solution providers took a more professional systematic approach to marketing efforts that will not only create sales leads that can be easily monetized, but also increase the overall value of the company by expanding the base of customers that regularly do business with the company.

Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media’s Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at