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Marketing homework key to success

Marketing homework key to success

The purpose of marketing is to improve the probability of business success and reduce risk. Despite many IT industry failures, we might ask just how many resellers have responded in appropriate ways?

Like understanding and employing best practice in marketing and selling.

Being better at marketing, ideally better than competitors, is one key area of business advantage.

Like I said last time, it seems some resellers either haven't got the message, or aren't doing much about it. Some want to leave planning and indeed thinking aside and just do it - probably influenced by the Nike ads.

The `give it a go' mentality is alive and well in Australia. There might be some link between this ethos and the high proportion of business failures. I illustrate with a case that happened recently.

A nationally `branded' reseller of mainly Hewlett-Packard computer and networking products was also appointed a dealer for another vendor. This decision complemented the reseller's existing range of offerings and the reseller was excited about the envisaged new opportunities.

The vendor's high-end product was aimed at medium-to-large graphic design and production operations, including advertising agencies.

I asked the reseller how it planned to tackle the market. After all, it was a market in which the reseller had very little experience. Even the vendor had a limited track record with this product, as it is better known for other products.

It was clear that no strategy or plan had been developed for this new product. A random sales target had been set.

But the reseller did not seem perturbed by a lack of market knowledge. The managing director claimed that the vendor product was very strong and it fitted into an area where rival products had limitations. The benefits of the product were clear and the brand name was well known.

But he wasn't really prepared to spend time understanding the market and buyer issues. You can only plan so far, he suggested.

I decided to follow up the case a few weeks later.

The outcome: a very poor (zero) response from the targeted companies, with no hot leads, and hence not much for the sales team to pursue.

The assessment by the reseller: not clear on reasons for the result. He claimed that the product is expensive and not for everyone.

Was there any effort to examine the result and take some lessons? Probably not. Let us think about the situation.

Clearly, the reseller's lack of knowledge impacted on the campaign and subsequent results. Moreover, what does this reseller provide to a vendor? Feet on the ground? A prayer? Another number on their list of resellers? Someone had to put their hand up!

So just what are the major areas of value for the vendor in working with such a reseller?

They are market understanding, skill in achieving results with the target market, superior ability to sell to the customer, a demonstrable commitment and a long-term view.

How much of this did the reseller actually provide? Not much.

It is no surprise that vendors such as Compaq are going direct via the Web and other mediums.

Resellers like Harvey Norman are not happy about such decisions. However, in many cases, the vendor knows more about the target market and customer than the reseller. This is a key driver of the changes.

In my experience, not many resellers undertake any significant level of market and customer research. Some resellers may disagree with this interpretation; however, the challenge is on for resellers to demonstrate that they can and do provide value to vendors.

Adding value is a much-talked about concept. Often in conjunction with me-too box movers. However, becoming different, relevant and better can be done in a number of ways. It means considering how to provide greater value for vendors in the marketplace, not so much in the warehouse.

John Goslino is principal of specialist IT marketing consultancy Professional Marketing Assistance. Reach him at bongos@camtech.net.au


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