IT resellers may be a little unsure of how to drive a marketing campaign, but their understanding of customers and focus on targeting profitable sectors appears to compensate for any shortcomings.
These are the latest findings of market research commissioned by online content streaming company, Elateral.
"The overall perception is that resellers are excited about the prospect of expanding their marketing power but are anxious about creating a black hole that sucks away their money," said Richard Watney, CEO of Elateral.
Having conducted similar research throughout the US, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, Watney believes Australian resellers have an advanced awareness of the market, they understand who their customers are and their needs. "Australian IT companies recognise the value of the channel, unlike the US, which experienced a largely unsuccessful phase of channel disintegration," he said. "Australian resellers know about being there for the long-term relationship and selling the customer experience."
Watney believes the US plan, where vendors tried to bypass their dealers, was a dismal failure and essentially saw the same dealers reinvented as "partners". While Australia does tend to follow the US, I think they'll miss out on that particular trend," he said.
From the other side of the fence, the study revealed that vendors have little understanding of their partners and resellers. "There is a general perception that the big guys have the money to spend on marketing therefore they do a more thorough job," says Anna Price senior consultant of Bright Marketing. "However, in reality we were surprised by how small the marketing departments were - even in the larger firms they averaged five or fewer staff."
The good news for small resellers is that, according to the study, effective marketing is not dictated by company size or turnover. "This proves smaller resellers can compete very effectively on a resource level with their bigger brothers," adds Watney.
Based on the findings Watney said the major room for improvement is a need for education and investment to stimulate the market. "The study exposed an uncertainty about the full extent of a company's marketing tools," said Price. "A large number of resellers didn't include their Web sites as part of their marketing strategies and most companies surveyed the sales function as quite separate from marketing. By comparison, the sales departments are much larger, ranging from five to 125 representatives throughout the organisations surveyed."
"Resellers' participation in the two hour interviews, which formed part of the research process, was driven by a genuine interest in the findings," she said.
Watney adds this eagerness is driven primarily by a struggle to survive in a tough market. "The problems faced by Australian resellers are mirrored in every market around the world," he said. "But you are talking about a US population of 250 million versus an Australian population of 18 million so Australian companies have to be smarter about the way they do business."
Price said the study revealed no gaping holes in IT reseller marketing strategies and plenty of room for growth on all fronts. "Because it's not a mature market and it's technology driven, IT will sell itself," said Watney. The clincher for resellers is to push their own brand identity, something that ties in neatly with Elateral's locked loop streamlined marketing service.