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Some channel players view marketing in the same way as my father: It’s a namby-pamby sector with not a lot of industry grit or skills around it.

Marketing—what does it actually mean? Is it just an excuse for creative types to brainstorm while sitting in an overly trendy office on brightly colored bean bags? Or rather is it an essential part of what every single company, large or small, should be using to help drive sales?

With metronomic regularity, channel players insist that they are doing marketing. And they are. In fact, according to Ziff Davis Enterprise Research’s Outlook 2008 study, 84 percent of VARs surveyed believe marketing is either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ important. But it just isn’t working. The problem is there is a disconnect between what VARs think marketing is, what it actually is, and most vitally, the amount of cash this costs and how vendors view their MDF pots of gold.

Vendors unfortunately don’t really help in this scenario. While most hand out marketing development funds like soup to the homeless at Christmas, it will only feed that VAR for a single campaign, or even a single advertisement. And real marketing is a long-term play.

Vendors funding a three-month marketing campaign is all well and good, except that three months is simply not long enough to have any perceived benefit at all. Therefore the vendor, having seen no outcome of its dollars, simply cuts them back. It’s understandable; why pay for something it doesn’t see any benefit or outcome from?

Except that this is the worst possible way to conduct any kind of marketing strategy. And vendors, who employ probably some of the best marketers in the industry, should know better. When Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, or any of the rest launches a marketing campaign, it lasts for a six-month minimum, and more than likely a year. The campaign should be reviewed after every quarter, adapted and tweaked as necessary, but certainly not stopped.

The second problem for VARs is that for those who do have the longevity of thought to run a timely and well-thought-out marketing campaign, nine times out of 10 they do not have the resources to cope with the outcome. And, as many VARs still see it, they can actually count the dollars they earn through employing a new engineer, but not so with a marketing person. And when money is tight, most will get drawn to where they can see the dollars.

And this is where the vendor can really help VARs. Big changes are occurring in our industry with the move to managed services, making marketing for VARs ever more important, and this means campaigns will need to be delivered strategically and over a long period of time, with consistent messaging and follow-up campaigns.

But realistically, how many VARs have the time, money or inclination to do this? None. Therefore, to really see some kind of boost and benefit to their marketing funding, vendors need not just to look at the readies, but look also at the resources; it is pointless having the greatest marketing campaign on the planet if there is no one inside the VAR to follow up, drive the leads and maintain communication with the outside world. Helping to fund a marketing executive inside a VAR will prove more fruitful for the VAR and ultimately the vendor than just throwing money at the problem.