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118 | Strategic partnering for optimal ROI

48 min listen

Maximise growth by prioritising alignment, visibility and connection with your partnerships.  

On this week's podcast, we're joined by James Houselander, Director EMEA Marketing HPE Aruba Networking and Amanda Fitzgerald, Head of Global Distribution and Marketing, as they discuss unlocking the value of strategic partnerships.

The inclusion of partners throughout your programme not only strengthens those partnerships, but it also empowers those marketeers to truly become ambassadors for your brand.

Tune in and listen as we expand on this strategic insight, and others including:

  • Is it possible to have full visibility on MDF spends?
  • Encouraging marketing to become advisors of sales in order to better align those teams.
  • The importance of having a value proposition outlined to partners in order to foster new relationships. 

Has this episode piqued your interest? Get in touch for the opportunity to take your channel partnerships to the next level! Alternatively, see how we've done this for other vendors by reading one of our case studies.



We'd love to hear from our listeners whether this is something they've explored yet - get in touch and let us know!

View the full transcript here

Jon Busby: Hello and welcome to the Tech Marketing Podcast by Together. We're here to bring you the latest insights, trends, and innovations in B2B and of course, some fantastic guests. I'm joined on the sofa by two people that are no strangers to the Tech Marketing Podcast, James Houselander from HPE Aruba Networking and Amanda Fitzgerald, Channel Chief from formerly at Red Hat.

You Let's start off with a little bit of introductions. Amanda, let's start with you. You're joining me on a few podcast episodes recently. I

Amanda Fitzgerald: have. It's one of my passions. Amanda Fitzgerald 25 years IT partner marketing guru. Ex IBM, was there for 15 years. I was head of global services, partner marketing at IBM, but more recently seven years at red hat head of global distribution, partner marketing and commercial partner marketing.

So disties huge go to market strategy with the disties, but commercial where the growth is going to happen. So that's my passion. And delighted to be part of this podcast today. And James?

James Houselander: Yeah, hi. So yeah, James Houselander, currently running marketing at HP Aruba Networking. Worked in the tech sector in various marketing roles for coming up for 20 years.

Started my career at IBM and moved on to EMC and more latterly, via a small acquisition that HP Aruba Networking made. Always been in hybrid roles between field and channel marketing. So I see it from both sides, but have also increasingly spent more time and focus on the channel marketing side over the last five, six years.

Yeah, for us at HP Ariba Networking roughly 95, 96 percent of our business goes through a channel partner. So they are really important. Partners are really key to our business today. So again, very passionate about the channel. As I say, work very closely with channel partners and yeah, hopefully can provide some of my thoughts and insights into what we see working and not working and what we're trying to do.

Amanda Fitzgerald: So the dream team today,

Jon Busby: and we're here to try and figure out that big question of how do you make sure you're maximizing the ROI on your partners? Let's start first, firstly at the strategic level. What's, how do you bring. What kind of strategy can you put in place to make sure you are maximising the ROI?

Who do you need to bring along on that journey? A commander, you would have done this at Red Hat.

Amanda Fitzgerald: I think selection of the partners, that's the starting point. And typically it's the sales people, the partner account managers, that are going to identify not just who brings in the revenue, but who's got the skill, to grow the revenue.

It could be in a new solution area. Red Hat, REL, our flagship product. They know how to sell, our flagship product. It's the OpenShift partners and the Ansible partners that we want to grow, and that's where the growth come from. So in gate marketing, engaging with sales to identify who those growth partners of the future are is a critical starting point.

And in the commercial sector, especially at Red Hat, we had our commercial focus partners. So we had to go deep into every of every geo. I was at Global, you're at Amir. So going into the geos, asking them to engage with the field to find out who are your growth partners in every country. And then is a question of mapping.

We're spreadsheet gurus, aren't we? Mapping Those profiled partners and selecting because we ended up with over 300 commercial focus partners across the four geos. And we have to select who are we going to invest time and effort in before we start building content. So I think that close collaboration with sales is critical and selecting partners is critical.

James Houselander: Yeah, I'd agree with that. I think that's the main starting point is engaging with sales. But I think where I've seen marketing evolve over the time is actually being that, almost that consultant, that advisor to the sales organization. And that comes through leveraging some of the data and the tools that we have at our disposal rather than just relying on the input purely from the sales organization.

And the reason being is we actually use a couple of different models to do that. So we actually have a quadrant that we use. It's actually a six box quadrant now we've evolved it. But really it shows you where your high growth, high potential partners are aligning to where you see in that business growth.

So it's taking data from across Previous quarters that yes, you have to take as a guide because there may be skews in there around previous years where there's been big up deals or with recent challenges around some of the supply chain backlog has caused some exponential growth or declines because tech products haven't been available.

So we use that that approach together with our sales organization to almost advise and validate what sales are saying, or actually to start that constructive conversation with sales to say why we shouldn't be making certain investments. So we use that as a start point, but then also we have to take some of that qualitative feedback from the sales organization in terms of Where do they see maybe some of those high potential partners based upon the conversations that they're having at a business level or potentially where they feel is that partner ready to go to market with us?

Do they have the right certifications? Do they have the right enablement and training in place? Which actually, In some instances, we're making more significant investments to make sure we've got partners that are ready to go to market. And that's because we're transitioning a little bit as a business into new areas.

We have new technology we're trying to branch out into new markets, whether that be verticals or taking new solutions to market, which means we need to sell to different buyers and therefore our channel becomes key. So that's where we need some of the qualitative feedback, but we're trying to very much start with that quantitative approach to really focus our investments.

And that's a journey we've been over on over the last three years. And actually over the last three years, we've seen a 20 percent reduction in the number of partners that we're investing in yet. We've actually seen an increase in budget. So for us, that means we're heading in the right direction. Now it's about how do we measure the success of

Jon Busby: that's an increase in budget and partner channel performance as well as a result in investing in less.


James Houselander: So we've been on a steep growth trajectory over the last five, six, seven years, which is great. And with that obviously becomes our channel. continues to grow and we see our channel managed business grow as well. So for us, yes, it's a growth of a business and also as a result of that, which means we've invested more with our channel.

However, we're really focusing who and where we make those investments. Being selective is key. Going back to your start point.

Amanda Fitzgerald: What's interesting, the profiling of the partners is critical to the selection of which partners to engage with. What we did for the very first time is look at their marketing capability as well, because it's always been focused on what their solution capabilities and how does that match with the vendor growth strategy.

But now we're filtering in what marketing capabilities do they have? What ability do they have to actually build pipeline? Because partners do want pipeline. It's not just that joint go to market strategy. So I loved what you just said about, marketing needs to be a trusted advisor, not just to the partner, but to the sales community within your own organization.

So bringing everyone around a table and having those grown up discussions very early in the planning process. And we started like in August, the previous year to the calendar and financial year. So how does that manifest itself in HPE?

James Houselander: This is the main reason why we've gone down more of the focused route, because we want to make sure that it's scalable for our own people to manage.

So if you've got a channel marketeer in region and they're investing with a hundred partners, there's no way that they can Spend the right time to make sure they've got the right plans and then ultimately the right plans that delivering the return to the business. So we've really gone down that focused route.

So we're guiding each of our channel marketeers to have it, to be investing at least 80, 90 percent of their MDF. Yeah. Into 10 to 15, maybe 20 max partners of which they're then having that seat around the table, and we've also actually brought new people into the team that brought new skills. So we've actually brought more experienced people into our channel marketing organization that come from that partner, that distribution landscape or potentially in more senior roles outside in other vendors.

And in one instance, we've actually brought someone who came across from a sales role. into channel marketing. And the reason we've done that is we've then got people that can have that credible conversation with the partner at a senior level to ensure that we have the right business plans, the right programs, the right activities in place.

So that's really been the approach we've taken is focus and then enabling the resources and actually to evolve that to the next level. We do it in our own business. Marketing has a different role in the last year, 18 months in our own business where. We're very much an enabler of sales. The same thing's happening in the channel side.

We're not just enabling them from a technology and how to sell and where to sell, but we're making sure a region and country level we're enabling our partner marketeers. So really making them become ambassadors for us within their own business. But also making sure they're getting something back from us.

So we run take the UK as an example. We run a partner marketing community where we bring them together on a quarterly basis. Not just enabling them. Music to our ears. Not just enabling them with our campaigns, our materials, but actually bring in third parties in to talk about how's account based marketing evolving?

What are we seeing in the digital world? So that's something we've done with our partner marketeers. And we also provide a service to our partner marketeers and our partners, in fact, through an agency model. So we have agencies that can support our partners right the way through the complete end to end from putting something into our tool systems to execute in a measure in the return, or actually potentially just supporting them with running their digital marketing.

And we've seen the adoption of those agencies since COVID really pick up because some of our partners realized they didn't have the skills, the expertise within their own businesses. They now leverage our marketing service agencies as well. This is

Amanda Fitzgerald: a great segue into getting visibility because we're very good as vendors.

We're very good at investing MDF with our partners. Getting visibility, so we know what they've executed, but getting visibility of outcomes is the holy grail. It's the holy grail. So you mentioned the agency model. So you, so partners who don't have an in house marketing capability isn't necessarily a barrier to entry.

If they've got the potential to sell customer solutions that embed the vendor product or service, you're offering your partners the marketing capability.

James Houselander: And actually, one of our partners in the UK, in fact, probably one of our, if it's not our top two, so our top three partners, one of them actually uses the Marketing Services Agency as their outsource marketing team to do exactly that.

Love it,

Amanda Fitzgerald: yeah. So the whole theme for today is how do you get visibility of outcomes? So we had 90% MDF spend as opposed to sales had 70%. So spending money, we all know how to do that. Partners know how to do that. So how do we get better visibility of outcomes?

James Houselander: Yeah, this is the tough one, right? And I suppose historically, probably like a lot of other vendors we've taken a tagging approach.

So we go and tag opportunities, whether that's opportunities already that the partner has in the system with a marketing campaign code, or the partners tagging new opportunities. And we support them in the back end to make that happen from an operational perspective. What we've learned actually within our part of the business, but also as part of the broader HP organization is actually tagging takes a huge amount of back end operational work.

In some instances, maybe we're not driving the right behavior or tagging of certain opportunities. What we're actually doing at the moment is contemplating doing away with that tagging of our opportunities. However, that leaves you with a big gap of how do you measure the dark art? How do you

Amanda Fitzgerald: attribute revenue to a particular type of business?

James Houselander: Yeah, so that's something we're actually looking at the moment. So what we're teasing around with the ideas is if we've got those top 20 partners that we're investing by country or by region. And we know that's where the lion's share of our investments going. If we've got the right engagement with the partners, we've got the right engagement with our channel sales teams, we've got long term strategic plans in place, we should be able to measure, over a period of time, how does our pipeline and how does our revenue grow with that partner.

Are we penetrating, new markets. Are we taking on new technology areas to market? And are we seeing the pipeline in those solution areas or those product areas grow? So that's something we're just working with channel sales operations at the moment to look at. How do we get that data and how do we then use that data at a regional

Jon Busby: level?

Is the problem there, because what you're talking about is almost partner sales and marketing alignment. We talk, often talk about sales and marketing alignment inside vendors, but really whenever I see that, that lack of ROI or visibility inside a, an organization, it's because partner marketing inside a large partner isn't talking to partner sales, and they're not using marketing codes, and they're not, Changing that behavior for them to start using them is normally very difficult.

That's quite a bold approach to go, essentially, to partner sales ops and start pulling that data. Is there any early signs you've seen that could work? It could mean that you have a big gap for quite a few months whilst you're able to analyse the impact of marketing campaigns.

James Houselander: Yeah, I suppose we've got a gap at the moment because if we do away with tagging, we're not actually measuring anything on our direct marketing attribution. You're measuring closure rather

Amanda Fitzgerald: than pipeline, yeah. You

James Houselander: can, yeah we're just not tagging any direct attribution back to our campaigns.

We're actually just about to implement some channel reviews where part of those reviews with the channel leaders is to discuss how do we demonstrate the return on investment that we've got and how does the channel sales organization? But be part of that because I think it's a three way play.

It's not just the marketing engagement between us and our partners or us and our sales team. It's actually a triway play. You need the partner marketing and sales alignment to us as a vendor marketing sales alignment. And I always use the analogy with the team to say, if you're a partner business manager that has a weekly, a monthly review with your partners, surely one of the conversations you're having is not just.

What deals are going to close and where are they? But you're also looking at what new pipeline have you put on and where's that pipeline come from? So if they're having those discussions and marketing's part of those regular reviews with the partners We should be starting to get a feeling back from the partner in terms of how our marketing investments are Contributing to that overall business pipeline and we're actually doing it in one of our areas at the moment where we measure sales initiated partner initiated and marketing initiated pipeline The marketing initiated comes from what we do from a direct engagement with a customer.

The sales initiated is obviously sales generating opportunities into their accounts. The partner initiated comes from the partner and that could be either directly from the partner or it could be through investments that we've made with those partners. So we're actually looking at that, that we call it PIO, that PIO number for that technology area and then aligning our investments to those partners today.

So we're piloting it in one of our.

Amanda Fitzgerald: What I love about James's approach here is it's all numbers based, it's all data based and getting close to your marketing operations team is really key. So we talk about sales and marketing alignment within the vendor, but also marketing alignment with marketing operations

Speaker 4: because

Amanda Fitzgerald: getting that data, looking at pipeline, regardless sourced, whether it's sourced by the vendor, the partner, marketing, it's visibility.

It took me three years to get visibility because sales want to hold on to their data, marketing, direct marketing want to hold on to their data. I was sitting in channel marketing and I was knocking on people's doors desperately trying to get data. So in the end I got their data and was able to analyze it.

But so We become analysts ourselves, don't we? We're data analysts. I

Jon Busby: think what I'm hearing here, though, which is very similar to what you achieved at Red Hat, Amanda, I remember you talking about this a couple of years back at the channel meetup, is it's not just about data. James, you've mentioned quant versus qualitative.

This is about building relationships and using some of the softer points of data in order to measure and prioritise partners. Because if we rely just on purely the hard data, we're only going to be investing in the CDWs, the soft cats, the really large partners. So it's, you did essentially did exactly that, went around knocking on doors.

Like what are some of the, what are some of the softer points that we forget when we think about building those relationships?

Amanda Fitzgerald: I think James mentioned this as well. What value Am I adding to the conversation and what value can I offer the partner?

Speaker 4: As soon

Amanda Fitzgerald: as you start talking about value, this is what I can help the partner with build because partners are very good at building a joint go to market strategy with the vendor.

That's what our partner account managers do. They plan that joint go to market strategy. What the marketeer comes in and does is help build that joint value proposition with the partner and vocalize that and get that value add out into their customers. So that's where the value out of marketing. So having those conversations with the partner account manager, getting the field marketer or channel within country channel marketer to have a seat at the table with the partner facing conversations on a quarterly basis builds the relationship, builds the trust, but you have to add value.

And as soon as the partner hears The vendor marketeer, the field marketer, or the channel marketer is going to help you build that joint value proposition and help you build assets to get into the customers. That's when you have partner engagement. You build partner engagement, you build partner trust.

And this is why it's so useful, even though I was at global level. I did the field marketing job, I did the geo marketing job, and then I landed in global. Having that full understanding of what you're doing, where you play to everyone's strengths and but you do have to build trust within your team and then they'll let you speak to a partner.

But it's all worth it. It's a huge investment of time but that investment of time building trust will get you the end results that you're looking for and you're helping the sales team. At the end of the day we're no longer in those silos. Marketing used to stay in their lane. Sales used to stay in their lane.

We've been around for, several decades. Marketing has changed. Sales do trust us, partners trust us. And that is where I get my biggest satisfaction from turning up to my job every day is building that trust and getting greater results. When you look at the. Incremental growth, having come together, having a marketer in the room when you're doing your joint go to market planning, building assets, the partner actually uses the partners will looking at their year on year growth, you'll see that year on year growth without necessarily at tactical level tagging because you're right, we went through three years of pain at a mere level tagging every single MDF activity, right?

But that doesn't close till three quarters down the line.

James Houselander: Or they take the opportunities that close next week. Yes. Or sales removes the

Amanda Fitzgerald: tags because marketing can put tags on, marketing can put tags on but sales can take tags off.

James Houselander: Yeah, I would also just add two things to that as well. There's a couple of areas of focus that we've had, that particularly the last 12 to 18 months, but also for the last 2 to 3 years.

And I'll give you two examples. The first one is we've actually, as a marketing organization, been fully aligned with our Amir strategic team. So our transformation office in building out the vision and mission that we have as a business. And we communicate that to our sellers, But also out to our partners as well, so that everyone's singing towards the same goal, the same mission, the same objective.

So that's the first thing. And then a byproduct to that is we've actually carved some of our MDF out into a more of a strategic investment fund. We call it actually our business development fund, and we've aligned that to the areas that are going to be key to the future growth of the business.

So what we've been doing at a regional level then is asking the regions to come forward with those partners that we see as the highest growth most strategic partners for us as a business. And we're then sitting down and building 12 to 18 month plans with those partners that have KPIs assigned to them and goals around pipeline and revenue.

And that therefore means that you're getting away because the perception of channel marketing was seen as that MDF admin number one. And number two, when you look at MDF investments, they were very tactical. And then we had hundreds of activities with a significant amount of partners.

So by taking this approach, you're now actually changing the role of channel marketing to be more strategic with the partner and within the business. And you're also making those longer term investments that are fully joined up to the business plan. So there's a, there's just a couple of examples.

And that all aligns back to the vision and mission of the EMEA business that marketing was part of creating for our fiscal year.

Amanda Fitzgerald: And James has touched on something that's really dear to my heart as well is getting partner buy in to the vision. Because MDF is very tactical and very event driven and campaign driven.

But getting the partner buy in to the vision is key.

James Houselander: Yeah, and understanding the vision and feeling that they're part of that vision and mission that we're trying to drive as

Jon Busby: a business. That's something that really speaks to me as well, about, we talk about values and vision and mission.

They're very internally focused things that businesses don't tend to publish openly. Have you brought, well with partners we talk about, you Building a JVP. Let's put a value proposition together. Like, how did you bring partners into that vision and mission process? Did that become part of the joint value proposition, or did that become How did you engage them in that?


James Houselander: firstly, it's part of our enablement to our partners. So we always start with that direction, that vision, the mission, so that everything we then enable them around is linked back to, ah, that's about going and driving those focus technologies, or that's about how do we go in, Drive new logos, then when it comes down to those go to markets and Those business plans need to be built around that vision of the business and yes to your point of then How do we create if it's about going?

Penetrating a new market or taking a new technology to market part of the investments We're making is not just around ensuring they have the enablement to go and do that all the certs We're actually looking at how do we create those go to market messages? is leveraging our content, our collateral that we have as part of our campaigns.

And then also then aligning to take that to the next stage is then more, how do you go and deliver that to their customers? So we actually now as part of these more strategic plans have funded heads, which are driving business development. So they're the ones that effectively other ones taking that message internally within the partner, but also then supporting the initiatives that taking that message to market.

So yes, the JVP becomes part of that strategic investment you've made with the partner. And we do see increasingly, especially as we're taking new solutions to market, that the partners are looking for help and support to create that. And we also lean on our agencies to support the partners with creation of that JVP as well.

Amanda Fitzgerald: What's interesting part of the commercial focus partner program that I was leading at Red Hat we actually offered our focus partners a joint value proposition video. So we actually got an agency to, we had 300 focus partners and a hundred of them took up the offer. So we actually gave them a fully funded, Promotional video, which actually talked about the joint value proposition to their end user customers, because we as marketeers, we know the value of having video content on social media, not just white papers to download and solution briefs, having that the CEO of a partner on camera

Speaker 4: talking

Amanda Fitzgerald: about the coalition with the vendor is powerful content.

Getting the right joint value proposition, but articulating that in a way that can be consumed by the customer. That now becomes something that marketing can help with and sales love it

James Houselander: It's interesting because we actually did a lot or we have done over the last three years a lot of work with some of the larger global service providers where we didn't really have a strong message to take to them around our Offering and how the potential joint offering go to market?

So we actually did engage an agency that worked with us to craft our value proposition to the general public And then we identified the top three or four that we wanted to engage and we've actually created joint value propositions with those partners. And actually that's now evolved with two of those partners that we're now taking that to market in joint activities to their partners.

customer base, which is actually taken off of an account based approach. So we've actually run an internal enablement program that leveraged the joint value proposition that we created. We created support and documentation. We use LinkedIn, we created sales presentations, et cetera. So that's a big piece of work we've been doing over the last three years to your exact point.

Jon Busby: What was the bit that stood out most for you when you created some of those, and I'm focusing here more on the internal elements, like which bit was most successful?

James Houselander: I think having to get to the point of having that joint value proposition meant that you had to engage the right people in the partner on that then really perked up the interest and you effectively then had sponsors to take you into the right relevant stakeholders within the partner.

And that really shifted the needle for us in terms of account engagement when we sat down and created that joint value proposition. And because we did it with a third party, it was that agnostic view. They saw it from both sides of the fence. So it wasn't us trying to create content and material that was being pushed in that didn't resonate.

We'd engaged the right people within the partner to come together to build that value proposition. And then it became relevant for the partner and therefore it spiked the interest. And we got great feedback from the partner and also from our own salespeople on that approach.

Amanda Fitzgerald: I think the partners, they have many vendors that they engage with.

So getting partner share of mind and being a partner's preferred vendor. I think that is another strategic thing that marketing can help sales with because sales definitely have that remit, how do you elevate your selves as a preferred vendor is a difficult one. But marketing can definitely assist.

James Houselander: And also, you're not going to always win, take share away from the competition. But it's actually about enabling the partner with the solution that they can take, the right solution they can take to their customers. And that could be done in parallel to other vendors that maybe we compete directly or indirectly against.


Amanda Fitzgerald: And that, those coalitions are becoming more and more frequent. So it's not just, Red Hat and HPE solution. It's a Red Hat, it's triangulated.

Speaker 4: Yeah.

Amanda Fitzgerald: It's a combination. It's an ecosystem. Exactly, that's why we use the word ecosystem these days. That, we never used that five years ago.

Jon Busby: No. I think what stands out really cleanly for me, and this is a podcast where we focused on ROI being our main topic, something that you normally expect to see on financial sheets and like lots and lots of hard data, but actually the softer side here, the emotional side is coming out to be just as important to generate that value.

To make sure that we're getting the most out of our partners, what I'm hearing again and again Just from you talking around the values and the joint value proposition there James is that we need to Find ways of building an emotional connection inside a partner Sounds very strange to say, because B2B selling is still emotional at its heart.

Like you, and if you can get the partner on side with your message, with your values, with your proposition, and get them believing in it, it will help drive that mindshare that you talked about, Amanda. Definitely.

James Houselander: And that's part of the reason why we try and Influence the marketing people so that our vendor name is always at the forefront Ah, I want to go and work with that company and also because a lot of another example We use a we try and communicate a lot to our partners and sometimes that we've got to remember that we're one of many vendors So actually if you've built the right relationship with our partner marketeers then that Generally, they may own a lot of the communication strategy within their companies and also to their customer base, and that sometimes helps us break through the noise.

We leverage those relationships with partner marketing to amplify our voice and our noise within the partner so that we're communicating whatever we might need to get to their sales organization, to their technical organization, whoever that may be.

Amanda Fitzgerald: The two marketing, the two partner marketing communications becomes critical.

What you're just saying, we're not just pushing content to our partners, expecting them to push it out to their customers. That's through marketing assets. The two, why? Why should the partner even care? Yeah. So there's a huge piece of work there as well. But it makes marketing more integrated.

Yeah. The whole partner approach.

James Houselander: And we've taken that approach with our campaigns, actually. If you go back three years ago, we were spending a lot of time and money on repurposing our campaigns up to give them to partners expecting them to take them to market, whereas actually they're taking elements of it.

But what we've also incorporated into our implementation guides with our partners is actually the value proposition to our partners. So why should they take this? What is it? What's in it for them? So we really demonstrate. What the market opportunity is where the opportunity is for them to take this message to market and why they should do it.

So that's something we've incorporated into our campaign enablement to our partners as well.

Amanda Fitzgerald: And another topic that we might want to explore is how do we map partners to accounts? Because the customer is king. And this is a conversation I've had many years with direct marketing versus indirect marketing.

Direct marketing at vendor level is all about the customer. So having that conversation yes, it's all about the customer, of course it is, that's where the revenue comes from, the customer. But how do you map partners onto that customer base, that is a real challenge. And it's only done at country level.

Yep. You're closer to the countries than I am these days. So, how do you tackle that?

James Houselander: It's again a data approach. And actually for us as a business, today as I said, 95 percent of our business goes through a channel partner of some description. 30 percent nearly of our business today is actually owned by our partner.

So the remaining 70, just under 70 percent of our business could be where, in some instances, it could be partners fulfilling, it could be partners collaborating and driving a true relationship. Co operative sale together with our own sales people But what we're trying to do when it comes down to an account level is we have Rostered and unrostered accounts named and non named so the non named is purely owned by the channel the named obviously has an account manager from our side, which will Know who that incumbent or that preferred partner is into the account.

So should be and do engage their partner It's team as well. But what we're trying to do again across the broader marketing and sales organization is actually leverage data. So we've gone through an extensive exercise of propensity modeling. So we've looked at internal and external data sources. We've gone to media partners, data houses.

We've taken data from as well. Salesforce system. And we've looked and mapped that against where we've done revenue over the last three years across the broader HP organization and also where our pipeline exists today. And what it effectively does is stack ranks your accounts into different tiers.

So you have gold and silver the gold, obviously are the high propensity ones with the largest addressable market opportunity. And we know where that sits against the technology areas of our business. So that's really those top gold accounts should be the ones that we're focusing our direct marketing efforts on.

Now there's no harm in our partners also targeting those accounts as well, because that amplifies and starts to drive our brand into them. But what we're now in the second half, we just had a new channel sales leader join us recently. And one of the focus areas that we have together with her is. Not only reviewing who the partners are investing with, but now saying once we've identified who are top 100 partners are, for example, do we then know who the accounts are that we want to target with those partners?

So we're effectively evolving our marketing approach into more of an account based approach through our partners. And that way, if you've got that strong collaborate, going back to the discussion earlier, the strong collaboration with the sales and the partner sales organization, and then we start to provide data insights to them around who are high propensity accounts are that we want to go after.

We can then align that marketing plan and our investments, and that should yield us the best return on investment because we're targeting those accounts where we know. They have the largest addressable market opportunity. And have you had much, and you're sharing that propensity modeling with partners today?

So we haven't got as far as that. We've been going through the last probably nine months trying to get our own sales people to adopt it, which is a challenge in itself. Now we want to shift that on to get our channel sales people actually adopting and using and taking those data insights. And what that should fundamentally do is actually bring field and channel sales even closer together and naturally field and channel marketing closer together, which is one of our marketing objectives.

So we haven't got to a point of we're using that data with our partners yet

Jon Busby: because I think that's where we're seeing a big shift, especially in internal sales with some of the technology they can apply like we are going to see that them accelerate significantly and when we can start to bring that to channel.

I think it's going to be a big game changer. But of course, it's got to be one step at a time.

James Houselander: And actually, through our direct approaches, we leverage digital marketing and LinkedIn to surround those accounts we've identified with highly personalized messaging. So we're getting good feedback from our own salespeople.

So we want to take some of the things we've done from a direct perspective and actually showcase those to the channel to say, here's some of the things that you can look to do within your organizations or get the support of our agencies.

Jon Busby: One thing I want to dive into, because we mentioned it a few times, And this really struck home with me last week that deal registration is a very one way, one way process.

I'm a single partner registering a single deal back to a single vendor. But Amanda, you just you mentioned earlier, like it's an ecosystem we're dealing with now. Have you started to see any change in how you might measure or incentivize or even explore partners when they operate as part of a wider ecosystem?

James Houselander: That's a good question. We've dabbled. I suppose we dabble and it comes back to the whole tagging game, I call it. Yeah, exactly. Which is, there's instances, I'll give you a nuts, flip it a slightly different way. We generate through our own marketing engine through the website.

There's a percentage of those that come into those unroasted space, which gets passed to partners. And here's a classic example sometimes where we would pass it to a partner and then they would go and create their own deal registration rather than convert the lead, right? Because There's a perception that they need to be the first through the gate to get the deal registration.

Otherwise they have potential risk to lose it. I think that's a behavior that we need to change. And if we get closer to our partners and we're investing with the right partners, we should naturally see the deal registrations going up because that's the whole goal. But actually, the deal registrations will be with the right, or from the right partners that are strategic to our business.

So I would flip it around that way slightly. I can't really answer it directly because I haven't necessarily seen it. It's

Jon Busby: a difficult question. I think it gets even more difficult when you have the hyperscalers, which Amanda, you will have been dealing with.

Amanda Fitzgerald: And also the ISV. So there's influencing partners and then there's fulfillment partners and it tends to be the fulfillment partner that does the deal registration.

But there could be three different partners involved, a GSI, an ISV, and a reseller and

Jon Busby: possibly

Amanda Fitzgerald: a DISTI as well. Awesome. Ingram Micro famously

Jon Busby: said, what, seven partners involved in the average customer solution?

Amanda Fitzgerald: It can be in one deal. Exactly. So that is a challenge. It's a challenge, but it's a recognized dilemma.

So we've been

Speaker 4: at, when

Amanda Fitzgerald: I was in EMEA partner marketing, we had that discussion. How do you reward partners for their involvement in a single deal where several partners are involved because The way we had our partner and sales organization structured, it was siloed by partner type. But what happens when you have a deal that goes across several partner types, where you have to work together, and how do you recognize and reward

Speaker 4: each

Amanda Fitzgerald: of those partner types involvement in that big sale?

And that is a huge discussion. And it's still going on and we haven't resolved it, but we have to recognize the partner's involvement. So the partner account manager, poor soul, has got to reward that partner in a way that isn't always monetary, but if you can write up a case study and give them airtime on this was a fantastic win, the win scenarios, a lot of my time in EMEA marketing was.

Amplifying customer, partner wins, big customer wins, but where there was a partner involved, amplify that story. So it's not a monetary reward to the partner, but it's, you get a lot of social media out of it, and that could, in turn, build a pipeline for them. So those success stories become quite valuable to a partner.


Jon Busby: highlighting a partner like that, to James's, your point earlier, it's also about building that ground for those stakeholders internally, That you can bring along on the journey that means that you do get their mindshare next time Which I think is incredibly important

Amanda Fitzgerald: recognition is a reward as well

Jon Busby: Yeah, especially for those non transacting partners like your that you say your influences and so on So it that's a fundamental problem that and it was a difficult question James I wasn't expecting you to have an answer for it, but it's something that I keeps me awake at night when I think about the channel is how do we start as these products get more and more complex, how do we start to recognise them?

And especially to coming back to the theme of today's podcast, how do we recognise return on investment if we can't see it, if it's not visible to us?

Amanda Fitzgerald: It's an ongoing discussion and it's an evolution as well because we're not going to have all the answers. But that willingness to address the elephant in the room, that willingness to have that, those painful discussions with sales and getting the right people around a table.

It's sometimes group therapy. However, it's addressing the challenge. And I think continuing those conversations, we're going to get closer and closer to the solution. We're not there yet. But this is why. I love my job because we love the challenge. It's continuously evolving, but the conversation has to move forward and even baby steps is progression.

So even though we're only taking tiny incremental gains, it's a gain. It's a step in the right direction.

Jon Busby: Which in today's market is what many of our businesses are looking for us to achieve is to continually driving that. Progress is

Amanda Fitzgerald: progress, no matter how small, is never wasted and all the pain of having those discussions, it's not wasted effort, but it's a challenge because we do have to measure success, but there's a lot of soft skills involved as well and we cannot underestimate the value of building those relationships, building the trust, keeping those painful conversations.

on the table and inching our way forward to a solution.

Speaker 4: So

Amanda Fitzgerald: that's why people like me and James are so passionate about what we do, because it takes a lot of strength of conviction to actually move the needle. And that's why the channel meetups of this world, when you talk to like minded people across the vendor spectrum, across your partner spectrum, this is where you get that energy from because you need a lot of energy.

You need a lot of. Commitment as well as knowledge and experience. But you need that momentum, energy to move forward. And that's why I love doing these podcasts, I love doing the community, the channel meetups and we just give each other energy. Yep. Which is lovely.

Jon Busby: Just starting to bring us to a close we've talked a lot, and thank you for that summary there Amanda, like I completely agree.

This is In my head, being much more data focused, I tend to think about hard numbers and figures. But what we've learned today is it's those qualitative elements. There's surveying partners, there's base, there's listening to the relationships that a salesperson or partner salesperson may be having.

Conversations they may be having. So of all the tactics we've discussed today on selecting some of those right partners, like James, for you, which one stands out most that's driven the biggest impact?

James Houselander: So I think it's hard to pull out one single thing, right? But I would say Using data and being that advisor to the sales team has changed the conversation.

So therefore the byproduct of using the data to sit down and have a conversation is, then all of a sudden you're driving a different credibility with the sales, with our own internal sales people. And as a result, you're then having a more productive, forward thinking conversation with the partner as a result of that.

So I'd say data. still comes back to data,

Jon Busby: but

James Houselander: building

Jon Busby: that relationship with the

James Houselander: sales team. And actually, when you then have that conversation with the sales team, you then glean all of the qualitative information back because you've started with something factual and you start to get that feedback.

Whereas actually, if you didn't use that data point as a start point, you still sit there a little bit in the dark prior to having that conversation.

Amanda Fitzgerald: I totally agree. So credibility marketers have to. people's trust to get the seat at the table. We say data, but it's credibility. You have to be credible for them to trust you.

And if you can cite quote a fact, which is indisputable, then you have credibility. So I think those, they're soft skills, but they're based on hard facts. So it is that combination. You can't do one without the other. And then once you've built that trust, then you get the invitation to be at that partner meeting, be part of the QBRs with the partners, influence the partner in the strategy, the mission, and winning hearts.

But you have to win their head first.

Jon Busby: I, I completely agree with you there, Amanda. And actually we had someone at another, one of our other podcast episodes, talk about how marketeers need to essentially be more confident. Do you feel in today's world where You know, let's be honest, marketing needs to play a bigger role in the customer journey.

It needs to play a bigger role to educate them before they even speak to sales. I think I'm seeing that your point there being is we need to be more confident as marketers that we have an important role to play and we should be part of that conversation.

Amanda Fitzgerald: Absolutely.

James Houselander: And we're spending a lot of time.

We've done this recently with our channel marketeers. We're enabling them to be better at what they do. So we've taken them on a five, I think it was a five module program, which effectively makes them become strategic channel marketeers. And it's about, to your point, giving them that confidence, but also enabling them to talk the language of sales.

Rather than being the ones that are responding to the request, so I want to invest. 10, 20 K here because we already always have done with that partner. And we want to go to this event because we always have done with that partner, flip the conversation background.

Jon Busby: So just, and just now looking forward, looking for a moment, like where do you see the biggest missed opportunity or the biggest potential opportunity for growth?

Let's not call it a missed opportunity. Like Amanda where for you, would you focus your efforts now as a channel marketeer?

Amanda Fitzgerald: That's a very good question. Going back to that focus list of partners that we've spent time and effort building with the sales team it's engaging with those partners because the selection process has happened.

Now we need traction. Now we need engagement. So yeah just focusing in on those focus partners.

James Houselander: Yeah, I completely agree that it's about for us. It's about evolving what we've done. And we talked about taking more of an account based approach with our partners. That's where I think for us anyway, but I suspect for a lot of people it's taking more of a, not just an approach with the focus partners, but taking a focused approach through those partners so that you're investing in with the right activities into the right accounts.


Jon Busby: Thank you very much, James and Amanda, for joining me on another episode of the Tech Marketing Podcast. It's been a pleasure to dive into some of the depths of partner ROI and that relationship with sales. But we hope to have you as guests again soon. Thank you

Amanda Fitzgerald: very

much. It's been great.


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