By: Kimberly Clark, Managing Director – The Spectrum Services Group
Considering that the majority of Spectrum’s clients are in the technology/software services arena, we get to see first hand what is working for them and what isn’t. Below are the top trends we’ve seen with the Value Added Resellers that are surviving and thriving in this market.
Trend #1: Focus on Being the Trusted Advisor First
Value Added Resellers (VAR’s) have sought to move from being considered transactional providers to trusted business advisors. The reason for doing so is that the advisory relationship is deeper and harder to dislodge. It also places you in a position to provide solutions to a greater range of needs across your client’s business, thereby delivering greater value. Advisory relationships make the most of every client relationship, which is critical in today’s world.
Communication vehicles that fall into the “trusted advisor” category are often presentations, webinars, surveys, white papers, and newsletters. Throughout the professional services sector, this is where much of the long-term marketing game is won or lost. The challenge, is that initiatives are often more difficult than they look. This can lead to inconsistency and ultimately giving up the communication vehicles all together.
Our clients who are most successful with their trusted advisor communications share several traits. They have made a commitment to a plan, participate in producing communications that show their expertise, and find a way to execute the plan regardless of their circumstances. Clients who have not been successful have been inconsistent and/or constantly changing direction and/or have panicked at lack of sales. This later group abandoned the trusted advisor philosophy, and revered back to getting the sale at all costs. This ultimately cost them more in the long run with unhappy clients, disenchanted leads, and a diminished reputation.
Trend #2: Make the Most of What You Have
In addition to keeping up with their trusted advisor communication campaign, our clients who are seeing success today have made a focused effort to keep current clients happy and existing prospects in their pipeline. Something as simple as a follow-up phone call to check on how an upgrade is working out – or – to offer a free webinar on a topic that might be of interest to a prospect goes a long way.
Our clients who are making the most of what they have understand that new leads, and therefore new clients, are very hard to come by these days. Keeping what you have and making the most of it can really pay off. These clients have invested time and money with their customers and leads in a friendly, unthreatening, un-sales like way. This Value Added “Relationship” building has paid off. Not only are they keeping current clients, they are selling services, upgrades, and new products to those clients. Prospects in their pipeline are slowly coming forward expressing a need to do “something” in the near future, and they’ve seen an increase in referral leads.
Trend #3: Making the Most of Your Marketing Efforts
For those clients who are still actively marketing for new leads, they haven’t changed their marketing tactics, but they have likely cut back on the volume by being more focused. For example, instead of sending out 1500 direct mail pieces to a broad spectrum of business types, they’ve narrowed their focus to one or two industries, and tailored the message and the offer to meet that groups specific needs. They are still sending direct mail pieces and making follow up phone calls on the offer, but they may only be doing it to a select group of 250 suspects. What’s not working is casting a wide direct mail net with no follow up.
The offer which is working best? Webinars hosted by industry experts on a relevant topic (these are NOT demos) are seeing a very good response rate. The best we’ve seen so far was 22%, although 7% is the average. Even though the leads generated by these offers are not typically “hot”, they are at least prospects for your pipeline, and give you someone to nurture along in trend #2.