Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Channel marketing is about value propositions, but the devil is in the definition of “value.”

For example, “terabytes of solid-state storage with gigabytes of cache buffering” may seem to some tech people like a high value proposition.

However, it may not sound that way to your customers. In fact, they may not even know what it means.

What does value mean? This may sound like a foolish question with obvious answers, but the ineffectiveness of the marketing coming out of many channel partner companies suggests otherwise. Think “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” or “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It’s all a matter of perspective.

If your customer is running a growing retail operation and their point-of-sale system is bogging down because it can’t keep up with the influx of transactions during peak periods, then the aforementioned solid-state-storage may indeed be of high value to that customer. But they may never know it because of the way it was stated.

What about “plenty of storage that takes in and sends out data plenty fast enough to keep up with your business”? Now that’s a statement of value that your customer can relate to, and that’s the whole point.

Channel Marketing Is About the Customer

Most technology-oriented people are so enthusiastic, so passionate about the technology that they tend to just go on and on about it. Unfortunately, they usually go on in a language we and our colleagues may understand, but your typical customer may not.

The decision makers to whom you are selling are more often business or financial executives these days, rather than technologists. These execs are thinking about the operational wall they’ve hit, the hole they found in their processes that needs to be patched, or how they’re bleeding money to cost overruns. If you want them to perceive your services as valuable, the outcome of your services must address those kinds of concerns.

Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Don’t talk about speeds and feeds. But do talk about improved operations and safeguards.
  • Don’t talk in bits and bytes. But do talk about people, processes and procedures.
  • Don’t talk about performance specifications. But do talk about profit and loss, and profit and more profit.

Channel Marketing: Finding the Value Proposition

For the first few decades of the channel’s existence, most salespeople made the mistake of identifying all of the value as coming from the hardware, software and other products. This was a mistake because the customer could obtain exactly the same value from any other reseller who sold the same hardware, software and products.

Today, as more and more channel partners make the all-important transition to service provider, it is critical for them to remember to promote the value of the services they deliver to their customers.

Here are some additional dos and don’ts.

  • Don’t talk about network monitoring and management. But do talk about seeing that router about to fail, and fixing it before it does.
  • Don’t talk about cloud data backup. But do talk about how good it was that there was a backup when the customer’s server failed.
  • Don’t talk about printer duty cycles. But do talk about how great it was that the customers could get their mailings out on time.

In short, even when it comes to your services, it isn’t so much about what it is, as it is all about what it does for the customer.

The litmus test? If what you’re talking about doesn’t directly correspond to saving your customer some money, or helping them make more money, you probably need to rethink and rephrase.

Howard M. Cohen is a 30-plus-year IT industry veteran who continues his commitment to the channel as a columnist and consultant.