By Dawinderpal Sahota
As the Middle East market becomes increasingly competitive, the marketing resources that vendors provide for their partners take on an ever important role. New and compelling programmes are vital to channel evolution. Channel Middle East sat down with a selection of the region’s marketing-savvy vendors to discuss how they are empowering channel partners by using innovative marketing tools.
|~|Spurgeon,-Katie200.gif|~|Katie Spurgeon, Symantec|~|As the Middle East market becomes increasingly competitive, the marketing resources that vendors provide for their partners take on an ever important role. New and compelling programmes are vital to channel evolution. Channel Middle East sat down with a selection of the region’s marketing-savvy vendors to discuss how they are empowering channel partners by using innovative marketing tools.
They are: Tolga Altinordu (addressing the OEM division), OEM director at Microsoft Gulf (TA); Ibrahim Alaeddine, partners business manager, IPG focus Gulf at HP Middle East (IA); Samer Malak, channel manager at McAfee Middle East (SM); Deena Habib, marketing manager at Sun Microsystems (above) (DH); Katie Spurgeon, channel and alliances manager at Symantec MENA (KS) and Ned Jaroudi, VP partner marketing EMEA at CA (NJ).
CME: Talk us through the importance of giving partners the marketing tools and resources they need to prosper.
DH: We have a go-to-market budget within Sun that is allocated to our partners. We sit with our distribution partners on a quarterly basis and discuss what Sun’s direction is and what message we are giving to the market. Then we go through a set of deliverables for the campaigns that we run. At the moment there are 57 campaigns that Sun is rolling out worldwide, but for MENA it wouldn’t make sense to roll out all 57 campaigns — maybe three or four at any given time — so we advise partners on this. We’re saying, ‘instead of going and doing your own thing, give us your expertise and knowledge and add value to what we’ve already got and let’s localise these campaigns.’ Then we’re all on the same page delivering the same message.
KS: Marketing is one of the most important collaboration points between Symantec and partners. The tools and resources of marketing take advantage of those strengths to extend markets and raise awareness and knowledge levels.
NJ: The pillar of our growth strategy is in alternate routes to market, as well as organic growth, acquisitions and international expansion. So we thought what better way to kill two birds with one stone than to pilot a new channel approach in an emerging market and achieve international expansion, as well as establish alternative routes to market. So for us, giving marketing tools to channel partners is very important.
SM: Marketing is crucial for our partner operations. Marketing is a very important selling tool, just like rebates, incentives and technical assistance. It underlines our commitment towards the partner, helps deliver the message and assists the partner to adequately portray value-add to the customer and display their product portfolio more effectively.
TA: It is extremely important, especially for the OEM division in Microsoft. This division is really a partner division and all our business is done through partners. We enable them to grow their business and reach new customers, and we get them ready and competent with new technologies. We work with our multinational accounts, named accounts, distributors and mobile partners to and through their channels. So channel marketing, for us, is a very broad topic and also a very important one.||**|||~|Alaeddine,-Ibrahim-200.gif|~|Ibrahim Alaeddine, HP|~| CME:What kind of marketing tools do you offer your partners?
NJ: The tools that we’ve been able to develop in the Middle East are now being rolled out worldwide, not just in EMEA. One of the tools is called the Enterprise Solution Provider (ESP) Campus. This is an integrated suite of assets that a channel partner would have access to, just like our internal sales force. In the past, channel partners had been considered as completely separate entities so would not necessarily have access to all the tools, but we want them to feel part of the CA family. It’s as if they were going to college — they graduate and become a bonafide CA partner. From a demand generation perspective, we’ve created the ‘channel marketing centre’, which is a set of deliverables that allow partners to extend the CA brand with their own activities. So if they want to advertise on behalf of CA, such as run seminars, roadshows and e-mail campaigns, we’ve defined templates for these elements with specific brand guidelines, which the partners will then take and use in their marketing to customers.
IA: We provide partners with access to our creative library and artworks and we also send out a monthly newsletter, which contains datasheets and information about products.
KS: Symantec has a partner portal online for accessing collateral, branding, advertising, campaigns and e-shots. In addition, we have a local marketing team, which conducts 70% of its marketing activity together with partners. Such activities include events, workshops and seminars. As part of the Symantec partner programme there is a point-based system where partners earn points based on their investment and results. These activities include marketing events, media announcements, telesales and marketing, customer reference testimonials and other forms of lead generation.
TA: We have different initiatives and it’s easier to divide them into three main classifications. Firstly, co-marketing; doing joint ventures and incentive schemes together. Then there’s readiness and educational activities that we do and the third is the general awareness side through brochures, catalogues and promotional items.
SM: We offer the right to use logos, graphics, and artwork to the partner once they join our partner programme. Marketing funds are allocated quarterly and used for events, campaigns, PR, promotional material and product marketing. Partners also have access to leads generated through McAfee events, the web and other means. They also receive periodical e-mails, documents and promo materials about marketing and market info, product and competitive updates, and selling and operation guides. Partners are also included in McAfee sponsored initiatives and customer events.
||**|||~|ned200.gif|~|Ned Jaroudi, CA|~| CME: Should marketing tools only be limited to Middle East partners that belong to your channel programmes?
TA: We have a tendency to do joint activities with every reseller in the channel. However, we have to have a different value proposition for our managed partners — whom we work with at high volumes — and those who we have a certain level of understanding of their business and strategies so that we can contribute and run marketing activities jointly in a much more effective manner.
SM: Naturally, resellers who are part of the partner programme must have an advantage over other resellers in terms of access to marketing tools assistance and funding. This should be a part of the value-add offered to channel partners.
NJ: If a partner is not registered, we don’t provide marketing support to help them grow their business. We classify resellers into three categories: high touch, medium touch and low touch accounts. For the low touch accounts, which do less than US$5,000 of business with us, we cover them mostly through our distributors, and we give marketing funds to our distributors for this. But for the medium touch and high touch accounts, we have dedicated people at CA to cater to them.
KS: Any partner can take advantage of it, but the more they commit to marketing with Symantec, the more Symantec will commit to supporting them with resource, funding and joint activities.
DH: If you’re trying to drive a message to your market through your channel and your trying to be consistent in the message that you’re driving, then I would say yes, only give these marketing tools to your channel partners. If you’re not driving the same message, there’s no consistency. The only way to do that is to just provide it to the people that you can plan with and that you can give the message to in order to carry it forward.
CME: How marketing-savvy are partners in this region?
KS: Partners are hugely committed to marketing, and we are continuously supplied with excellent marketing plans from our managed partners. Their understanding of local conditions and knowledge of their sector add to a rich marketing pool of activities.
DH: Partners in this region are very brand conscious, very big on advertising and marketing. But, what I’ve seen in the past is partners wanting to sponsor events without a clear idea as to why and what the return on investment is. Sun’s direction is very clearly on ascertaining the return on investment so we try and get the partners on the same mindset. Also, gone are the days of partners holding events to get hundreds of people attending and hailing it a success. They’re starting to see the value of having smaller roundtable meetings with maybe 20 people and giving a more focused message that consequently gets a better return on investment.
TA: I think this region is a little bit behind on marketing. I find resellers are more focused towards selling and making quick transactions as opposed to driving longer term strategic marketing or demand generation activities. However, once we approached them and talked about the programmes we have, we see a huge interest from them and they’re willing to co-operate with us. We are pleased because now we’re driving a lot of joint activities together with our channel partners.
NJ: Some partners were traditionally very reactive, they were just taking orders and not really providing much else so we had to handle them at the beginning to say this is how you can extend your business by marketing with CA. Others knew how to do marketing, they work with other vendors and did marketing with other vendors. Now we’re actually going to start running marketing courses online for partners to go through. ||**|||~|samerM200.gif|~|Samer Malak, McAfee|~| CME: Vendors are increasingly putting marketing tools and resources onto web portals for the channel to access. Is there a danger that this type of approach will reduce the amount of face-to-face engagement between vendor and partner?
KS: Quite the reverse. The online element takes care of operational functions, freeing up both partner and vendor to engage at a level which delivers more effective planning, more targeted activities and therefore a better result.
IA: The partner face-to-face engagement is essential and must always be there and this is why we have brain storming sessions with partners. However, we must also consider leveraging the IT infrastructure and bandwidth we have so that our partners can select from the big pool of marketing tools we have that suit their requirements of conveying their messages and ultimate goals.
CME: What input and influence do partners have in terms of defining and improving the Middle East channel marketing tools that you offer?
NJ: They have a lot of input, they know their customers. We’re not going to dictate to them which customers they should target. We’ll help them, assist them and give them leads and guidelines, but they know their market.
IA: At HP we consider a partner’s input to be very important. We take time to listen to them and enhance, increase or fine-tune the marketing tools or activities in order for them to be able to use them in a better way.
TA: Before doing something together, we always sit and discuss the guidelines and get their input. It’s not like we dictate anything, it should be a mutual agreement, and I think so far we have been successful at ensuring that.
SM: Partners need to be vocal in conveying their interests and concerns regarding the relationship with the vendor. We always stress the importance of receiving this valuable feedback because the partner is in the market and facing the customer. Given their experience with existing tools and need for other aids, it is something we take seriously.
||**|||~|tolga200b.gif|~|Tolga Altinordu, Microsoft|~| CME: How much influence should a vendor have over the marketing strategy of a partner that represents its brand?
SM: The vendor must make sure that its partners portray the vendor’s image and product portfolio adequately and according to company policy. That is why an annual partner business plan should always be paralleled with a marketing strategy. We also share in the decisions of organising events and campaigns, allocating funds, and outlay the PR and advertising plan for the next fiscal period.
NJ: A vendor should have a good amount of influence — the reason being that a vendor has spent many years building a brand and you want that brand equity to be represented by the partner. It’s extremely important that they are projecting the same image to the world that we are projecting.
DH: We set the direction and focus. We tell them, for example, what products we’re trying to drive and these are the messages we want to take to market, but we still leave them enough scope to get creative on how to do it.
CME: Which sort of marketing tools are partners requesting the most?
NJ: We see the most demand for our ‘ESP Campus’ — it’s the most comprehensive tool; it’s a one-stop shop for partners if they need anything around the solution set. E-mail marketing is also becoming more important nowadays. A lot of the campaigns we’re running centrally are e-mail based campaigns.
KS: They are mostly requesting support with marketing events, materials and speakers. Our platinum partners and distributors frequently seek support on customer awareness activities.||**|||~|Habib,-Deena-200.gif|~|Deena Habib, Sun Microsystems|~| CME: What role do third party marketing agencies play in helping develop tools to offer the channel in the Middle East?
IA: Third party agencies are important in terms of liaising with partners and ensuring their message is in-line with the vendor strategy and with the marketing guidelines such as messages, logos and colours. In addition to that, the third party agency has a pool of artwork and connections to the media so when the partner requires support on how to execute a campaign then the agency will lead them to excellent implementation.
DH: We don’t really use any third party marketing agencies because we’ve got our own in-house team. I know for a fact that our partners do and they do add value with creative banners and online marketing, but at Sun we use our own in-house developed tools.
TA: I think such agencies are extremely important for a number of reasons. We use their expertise and know-how in advertising and marketing. We just give them our objectives and let them express their creativity. Our partners also use agencies, sometimes they prefer to use ours to have synergy and consistency. They play a significant role and their contributions will enable us to take the market to the next level and make it more marketing-savvy.
CME: What new marketing tools, resources or support can resellers in the Middle East channel expect to see during the rest of the year?
DH: In the second half of 2007, we’re taking it a step further and we have actually done research for our partners in collaboration with IDC and Gartner. We’re giving our partners statistics on addressable market and go-to-market strategies for different segments, and this will all be available online. It’s not just the campaigns and deliverables, it’s ideas on how to go to market including recommended ISVs. Then they can start to see and think the same way that we see and think because when they see the statistics there is an even greater chance of them being on the same wavelength.
KS: We will be focusing more on selling scripts for our new solutions. We have a media outreach programme and will be pledging more creative and events support around our new products to be launched this year.
TA: We are introducing new programmes and will continue to invest in education, training, roadshows, seminars and exhibitions. Our partners can expect some great initiatives, especially on the co-marketing side.