It has been a busy year for global technology distributor Tech Data, which was acquired by private equity firm Apollo Global Management in early 2020. More recently, the company announced reaching a deal to purchase Innovix Distribution, a Singapore technology distributor with more than 8,000 partners in Pacific Asia, including Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.  We caught up with Sara Gemmell, Marketing Director Advanced Solutions Europe, to find out more about Tech Data’s partner marketing programme. 

Sara, tell us a bit about Tech Data. How do you approach partner marketing?

For most major technology vendors, distribution is their principal route to market. It helps to provide market reach and coverage, especially in fragmented and emerging markets. The most successful model of distribution is one of partnership. We have three types of Marketing. 1) “To Partner” – focused on recruiting new Partners for a vendor and Partner activation and enablement 2) “Through Partner” – supporting Partners with campaigns and assets they can take to market to create demand 3) “For Partner” –creating demand and vendor opportunities for Partners.

How do you offer partners the opportunity to generate leads in joint activities?

We help partners access vendor partner marketing budgets, and support and deliver vendor-led programs with partners. More tailored plans are developed for the more strategic partners. All our marketing is dedicated to either communicating to partners or driving partner differentiation and success. We find that many smaller partners have no marketing function, so we provide a centralised, agency model with marketing services resource available to support these partners.

How do you measure demand generation activities with partners?

Vendors are increasingly focused on the measurement of partner marketing. Measurement is important for us, but it is impractical for us to deploy all vendor measurement models, so at the most basic level we track by order volume and value for each partner. When we work with partners to decide which demand generation activities to invest in, we evaluate vendor expectations. It’s not unusual to see partners declining vendor funds because of the criteria. These can range from reporting complexity through to training and certification for a solution or product through to partner investment required vs. anticipated return. Partners may also be put off by the relative weighting of the vendor vs. the partner brand. 

How do you qualify and manage leads in joint demand generation activities with partners?

Smaller partners tend to be reliant on us to qualify and nurture leads. Nurturing leads over extended periods of time can be a struggle for partners. They really need to close deals within about three months. Vendors are often not aware that most partners are selling multivendor solutions with complex integrated vendor value propositions and the sales decision-making process can be complex and drawn out.

How do you differentiate when selecting partners for strategic high-visibility lead generation?

We sometimes work through a selection process to identify partners for co-marketing across vendors. This has typically tended to be with more mature partners, but we have recently increased activities around the Internet of Things, analytics and artificial intelligence with smaller partners too. For example Microsoft as a brand that is willing to invest in partners with high growth potential. Many vendors are guilty of using the same small group of preferred partners for lead allocation, and marketing activities. However, some vendors are inviting partners to tender for participation in activities. The best programs enable partners to see leads transparently, scored on their suitability, so that they can choose to accept or decline individual leads. We ask for feedback from partners on demand generation activities as part of our terms, and if they don’t give feedback, then they don’t receive any more leads. 

What part do case studies and thought leadership play in your co-marketing activities with partners?

We tend to generate case studies when we’re entering new markets and recruiting partners for vendors around the IoT, solutions, security and the cloud. Invariably these are from a technology angle.  All vendors have a strong appetite for case studies, and some have a strong focus on thought leadership. Our  thought leadership marketing is focused on next generation solutions; such as Data Solutions, IOT, Security and Cloud. For vendor driven activity the vendor would typically provide thought leadership content.

What alignment challenges have you faced when working with partners?

The greatest alignment challenges are for sales and marketing within vendor organisations. This can affect partners and present challenges. For the big vendors, the lack of alignment is most visible at the regional and country level. Vendors can also be guilty of feeding leads to familiar partners. This generates negative feedback from other partners who have invested resources in preparing to resell a vendor’s technology. There are often questions about whether the vendor lead distribution process is fair and equitable for all partners.

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