Channel Marketers Are Missing a Big Opportunity: The New VAR Mindset

June 6, 2019

The new VAR Mindset

More than at any time in history, marketers live and die by the numbers. As every move a customer makes becomes more trackable, 93% of CMOs say they are under more pressure than ever to prove ROI. This pressure to perform by any metric necessary is even more acute for channel marketers of VARs (value-added resellers), who are held to their own marketing objectives alongside those of key partners.

Here’s what we see often: Channel marketers are pushed to head to the bottom of the funnel while dealing with a complex marketing tech stack and struggling to develop long-term plans alongside their partner goals. So they try to do a lot. The volume of needs and opportunities at both a brand and vendor level pushes channel marketers to design the majority of their campaigns to generate a long list of leads...any kind of leads.

But this lead-gen-or-bust mindset has left channel marketers with plans that are inevitably and unfortunately stuck with short-term results. Most of these basic leads are one and done. As we all know, the majority of leads generated within any given campaign never convert and if you rush them through the process, they burn out fast.

Even those that do convert may not have a high lifetime value. Anecdotally, it can cost anywhere from 5 to 25 times as much money to acquire a new customer than retain one and existing customers are 60% to 70% more likely to purchase another product or solution. Those kinds of figures hit your bottom line: Customers who stick around are not only valuable when they buy again, but their endorsement may be worth far more than any marketing campaign.

This kind of volume play can be effective, but volume is only as good as the quality of the leads you get and your final conversion rate. So if channel marketers don’t start to think differently, they’ll continue to miss true long-term ROI opportunities.

The mindset mistake: Annual plans, annual vision, annual results

Unlike other tech marketers who can focus solely and primarily on their own business, VAR channel marketers have the opportunity and expectation to utilize vendor dollars in a partner marketing program or advertising spend. Their marketing practices and plans include or are often heavily structured around specific products or solutions. In many cases, these programs and marketing spend don’t align with longer sales cycles and bigger ticket solutions.

That’s partially the nature of the industry, but it ultimately sells VARs short. Many of these technology resellers are practically unknown except for a specific regional market or solution area, but they don’t have to be. These brands have unique stories, services and insights — they just need to find a way to develop that message and hit the right people with it. The lead-or-nothing mentality also means many VARs don’t have the time or energy to experiment and dedicate time to deep audience development and a long-term strategy. But channel marketers who aren’t proactive are forced to be reactive, and these reactive marketing strategies litter the field.

It’s also not what tech buyers want anymore.

Today’s tech buyers expect to be nurtured. To achieve this, you must develop an identity outside and alongside your partners that clearly highlights your value and offers expert content to targeted accounts.

Your brand needs to be part of the tech conversation happening online through educational content and thought leadership. Our research shows that 90% of tech buyers look outside their co-workers for counsel on B2B tech solutions — with reviews, surveys and usage stats from fellow technology users making up 51% of these trusted educational sources consulted throughout the buying cycle. In fact, 55% of B2B decision-makers say thought leadership is an important way to vet vendors, and 33% of customers say they have abandoned a business relationship because support, flexibility and personalization were lacking.

In short: Tech buyers want to see you demonstrate your value by being a key resource before the purchase process is even initiated.

A mindset shift: The lead long game

The mindset shift needed is straightforward, even as it’s difficult to achieve: Quality over quantity and value over volume.

Getting out of the lead churn means letting go of the ever-present pressure to produce leads RIGHT NOW, and having the patience and confidence in your campaign to know that better, higher-quality leads that produce customers with high lifetime value are coming down the road. It means deliberately selecting individuals from the IT buying committee, then thinking about the entire buyer journey and taking the time to build relationships with your nuanced target audience.

With the majority of tech buyers and influencers self-directing their vetting process for IT solutions during the crucial awareness stage, it’s imperative to leverage those mediums that offer relationship-building over long periods of time.

And LinkedIn is here for it.

We are laser focused on the ROI that matters most to you and have spent the time tailoring our product evolution and user experience to make LinkedIn both a valued and expected place for business to happen. Marketers who do it right are seen as useful, not intrusive. To this end, our lead conversion rates are three times better than any other major ad platform. Of our 610+ million members, 6 million are IT leaders, four out of five of whom are driving business decisions. Nearly every technology vendor and IT buying committee lives on our platform, from IT decision makers to CXOs and cross-functional leaders in marketing, operations, sales and HR. These members are all critical to specify, influence and approve technology purchases, and channel partners can target all these individuals through the buying process.

Then we can help you measure business impact through an integrated marketing program lens, providing the data needed to determine optimal partner investment and marketing program execution. Engagement with target end-user audiences can be tracked from first touch, through to nurture engagements driving final sale.

With LinkedIn, you can develop an always-on omnichannel, 360-degree targeted and layered brand campaign that tells your brand’s story and how it unites with your partners, and ultimately produces long-term leads. That’s a different mindset entirely.

Want more about how the mindset for VARS is shifting? Subscribe to the LinkedIn Marketing blog for more in this upcoming blog series.