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As vendors catch on to the idea that marketing with their solution partners yields better results than marketing around or through them, solution partners are suddenly faced with a choice: How should I prioritize my investment in (and even choose to work with) leading vendors based on their channel marketing acumen?

Top vendors such as Cisco, HP, EMC and others are beginning to get it. No longer leading with cold leads or programs that an SP can download (self-service model) from a Web site, these vendors are extending their marketing prowess and process to the SPs to create compelling SP and vendor marketing programs.

So how’s an SP going to separate the wheat from the chaff to ID the vendors who really get it and can make a difference? Here are our top seven indicators that SPs should be on the lookout for when evaluating current or prospective vendor channel marketing efforts. Any vendor doing at least five of the seven items on the list below warrants greater investments from SPs, at least from a marketing point of view.

  • The vendor offers prepackaged, SP-customizable marketing campaigns (e.g., e-mail/telemarketing or other campaigns for a particular offering to a particular customer segment aligned with the SP’s key strengths). “Prepackaged” means that the campaigns allow the SP to easily add more than just a logo—more importantly, to include general and specific messaging so that the marketing effort is no longer generic, but SP-specific.
  • The vendor offers a centralized “concierge” function (and a process) that walks the SP through the selection and customization process. The concierge helps the SP coordinate mailing lists, integrate logos and text, etc. This is not a Web site; this is a human being who can quickly and efficiently get the required information from the SP and customize the campaign. If a vendor sends you to a Web site and tells you this is a la carte, then the vendor doesn’t get the fact that a lot of SPs don’t have marketing departments waiting around to customize vendor-generic collateral!
  • The vendor helps build traffic for the SP on the SP’s Web site with processes and tools to improve the prospects’ experience (and desire to return).
  • The vendor channel account managers are rewarded for promoting and monitoring the SP’s utilization of these channel co-marketing processes, tools and campaigns.
  • The vendor offers (and incentivizes the SP to utilize) a lead management system/portal that allows the SP to automatically track and manage vendor-SP common leads. The vendor uses the system to track pipeline if required on the SP’s behalf.
  • The vendor has an automated way to track and debit MDFs (Market Development Funds) so that SP marketing plays can be paid for and monitored against allocated marketing dollars.
  • The vendor understands the SP’s objectives regarding customer targeting and acquisition and has designed its marketing initiatives to help the SP ID and pursue the right customers with the right message. The vendor’s demand-generation program and process then allows the SP to deliver the right SP-specific message to new prospects through the vendor’s demand-generation engine.

    What it really comes down to is that the vendor needs to demonstrate that it is willing to step up to the plate and support the SP with marketing initiatives, rather than just asking the SP to conform to the vendor’s marketing vision. Effective co-marketing is only the first step in this process, which also relies on effective partner enablement and support.

    Allan Adler and Dylan Charles are partners at Crimson Consulting Group, a marketing strategy and implementation consulting firm serving technology vendors and service providers.