Often referenced but rarely understood, in-channel marketing has long been a contentious issue among partners, distributors and sellers – a swirling pool of money disappearing down the ecosystem hole on a yearly basis.
On paper the supply chain is in sync, but in practice the problem goes deeper than the old adage that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the problem is I don’t know which half”.
Vendors rely on outdated practices and complex procedures while partners remain entrenched in the traditional belief that technical expertise and word-of-mouth alone are enough to acquire net new customer logos. In the middle, distributors are desperately trying to combine the best of both worlds to create a cohesive strategy that can deliver a strong return on investment.
A bit stereotypical and harsh assessment perhaps, but stripping the rhetoric, marketing remains the soft underbelly of the tech channel.
For Patrick Aronson, recently appointed chief marketing officer at Westcon-Comstor, the path to building a modern marketing organization begins at the data point.
“How do you capture it, store it, secure it, analyze it, and ultimately leverage it for growth?” asked Aronson, also speaking in his capacity as executive vice president of Asia Pacific.
Representing “nearly all” of the top 50 cybersecurity, networking and cloud vendors worldwide, in addition to thousands of VARs, systems integrators and managed service providers, the distributor is currently located at a crossroads of valuable information. in the channel.
“We are in a unique position,” he acknowledged. “We have spent so much time and money over the past five years to deploy a fully integrated, single, global platform, we have a treasure trove of data at our fingertips.
“My goal as CMO is to develop new ways to use this data to help our partners – channel partners and suppliers – drive growth through new customer acquisition or better adoption methodologies. “
In theory, such an approach leads to increased levels of partner success, cited as a key priority for Aronson going forward.
“For a modern marketing distributor to drive partner success, we need to use digital automation tools and processes to quickly move the channel – and sometimes the vendor – towards adopting a subscription methodology. and service,” he said.
Aronson assumed the additional role of CMO in early February, responsible for leading global marketing strategy and a division home to 130 employees worldwide, supported by a strong focus on analytics, marketing automation and partner success.
Continuing in his current role as Executive Vice President for Asia Pacific, Singapore-based Aronson will also retain overall responsibility for business performance in Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Korea, in Australia and New Zealand.
“I know firsthand from our partners that they rely on us to deliver the right tools, processes and structure at scale so they can adapt their business models to deliver recurring value to each of their customers,” added Aronson.
Priority to the success of partners
For Aronson, partner success is one of the distributor’s top priorities in 2022, with a revamped marketing strategy key to driving market growth in the months ahead.
“Partner success is at the heart of our traditional customer value proposition,” he noted. “It is the culture, expertise and mindset of our employees that have made our suppliers and distribution partners successful for over 35 years. Partner Success is also the transformative new methodology, digital tools and data-driven processes we use to drive customer success through the channel to end users.
Assessing both the regional and global landscape post-pandemic, Aronson referred to an “accelerating” pace of change from a business model perspective as customers revise their purchasing practices in favor of subscription.
“This creates immense opportunities but also puts significant pressures on the whole ecosystem,” he explained. “For channel partners, moving from a resale model to a service or subscription model is a major challenge that places immense pressure on nearly all established systems and legacy partnerships.
“In response, we provide an established Workflow Methodology – Solution Management Lifecycle [SLM] — that helps partners succeed in software as a service [SaaS] world where adoption models are critical to success.
Such a shift also forces partners to re-evaluate vendor alliances and areas of specialization, as well as billing and transaction platforms and sales commission models.
“Marketing is perhaps the most impacted, as the new models reflect the shift from a one-offer to a customer success-focused approach,” Aronson noted. “This means ongoing discussions and customer interfaces require a systematic, marketing-driven, data-driven focus with some level of marketing automation.”
On the other hand, Aronson said vendors also face a similar challenge in transforming business models, especially in the context of a two-tier ecosystem.
“Vendors are often further removed from the end user and their data is even less accurate,” he added. “We can solve these challenges with data and analytics to help partners achieve more, backed by scale and processes to help transform existing marketing focus areas.”
To achieve the goals set, Aronson recognized the importance of people, including the task of finding strong talent, retaining top performers and developing future potential in 2022 and beyond.
“Restrictions on immigration and labor movement during the pandemic across Asia-Pacific – combined with the rise of the hybrid work industry, cloud migration, proliferation of cybersecurity and digital transformation – have placed us in the enviable position of constantly seeking more talent to support our growth,” he said. “There is definitely a lack of talent in our industry, we must therefore be extremely sharp in our programs for recruiting, retaining and developing people.”
Looking to the future, Aronson remains “optimistic” about the opportunities materializing across Asia-Pacific as businesses emerge from the shadows of COVID-19 to launch transformation plans.
“COVID-19 attached like a spike protein to all of the pre-existing transformational events that were already in motion and catapulted them forward with almost lightning speed,” he observed.
“This includes the shift to hybrid cloud, world-eating software, and the growth of SMBs, as well as e-government modernization, rising cyber threats, and demand for skilled security experts. The list is long, but despite the challenges, as the world recovers from the pandemic, partners face great opportunities. »
In an effort to capitalize, Westcon-Comstor has enhanced the capabilities of its solution portfolio through a “hand-picking” process of selected vendors to meet custom customer needs. This includes expanding alliances with Cisco on the Comstor side of the business, alongside Westcon-specific Palo Alto Networks, F5 Networks, Splunk, Pure Storage, Tenable, Juniper Networks and Amazon Web Services (AWS).
The distributor also entered into new agreements with Broadcom, Zscaler and Aruba, while strengthening DevOps and DevSecOps expertise across HashiCorp, Checkmarx, Mirantis (Docker) and SumoLogic.
“Second, we have further developed our centralized support capabilities around Partner Success, which includes enhancements to our Partner Success Center in New Zealand,” said Aronson. “This provides regional concierge services to partners migrating to the cloud.”
Meanwhile, the distributor’s new Kuala Lumpur Technical Center (KLTC) provides Tier 1-2 support capabilities to partners in the region specific to cybersecurity, enabling vendors to move up the value chain by putting the focus on managed and professional services offerings.
“Finally, our new Singapore Center of Excellence operates as an advanced cybersecurity and hybrid cloud demo lab that is available to our partners across the region who need assistance in running white-label demos and proofs. concepts with end users,” said Aronson.
The final piece of the puzzle centers around the continued development of Partner Success Propositions to help Partners scale beyond traditional resale.
“This includes our flexible financing solution which offers the ability to convert purchases from traditional vendors into subscription models or as a service,” he said. “Our smart request service provides access to our data analytics platform to help understand market opportunities that may exist within customer bases.”