Jeanne Hopkins, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Ipswitch, joins me, Jen Spencer to discuss respecting partners’ time, the downfalls of un-aligned sales and marketing teams and more on this episode of The Allbound Podcast.
It sounds like there’s a lot of co-selling or collaboration that’s happening between your internal teams and partners. Is that the way it’s always been at Ipswitch, or has that evolved over the years?
It’s not new. I think that we had some hiccups last year, where there were product introductions that were back to back to back to back – and you just don’t do that with partners, right? We have updates to three very important products of ours coming up. I was looking at the timelines and one was early June, mid-June, and then end of June. I thought, “You know what, we can’t do that to our partners. It’s got to be a bundle.” If it’s going to be 2017 plus and it’s going to be all these software upgrades, then we need to release it and be able to tell our partners all at once; because a channel partner has a lot of other customers.
We’re important and valuable to our partners, but then on the other hand we might only account for $20,000, maybe $50,000, maybe $100,000 worth of revenue. They have big partners that they’re working with and we can be an afterthought in many respects. We need to respect their time, we need to respect their need for communication in a very concise way and not keep them from being able to be successful with all the other businesses that they’re dealing with.
I’m seeing this line blur between what’s considered marketing and what’s considered sales enablement. A lot of times I’m seeing people refer to sales enablement tools or resources and I’m thinking, “That’s marketing.” But it’s a revenue focused, lead generation focused, demand driven focused marketing.
For a marketing team, you’re creating all kinds of content, you’re trying to get your direct team, your internal teams to engage and use them. That could be really magnified when you’re talking about a channel. What are some of the challenges that you face at Ipswitch with getting partners to actually engage with those tools and resources that you’re providing? You’re doing a lot for them, are they using it all? Are they only using part of it?
Within our sales team we have a team of sales enablement people, who create videos and demo.
When I joined this company I noticed there were a remarkable amount of marketing projects or programs being done by the sales team. The very first thing that I saw when I joined was a 61 page catalog of 40 products – it was quite a big project. It was presented to the marketing department; they were told to print it. Our marketing team was looking at it saying, “What is this?”
Additionally, sales has their own e-mail program that they use. So they were sending this direct mail piece, sending e-mails to customers … a whole host of things. It was this whole shadow marketing organization.
You have to ask yourself, “Why were they doing that?” It wasn’t malicious. This shadow marketing was happening simply because sales was feeling that marketing was not helping them to achieve their objective. I’ve heard that there was a lot of “we can’t”, and now we have a lot more “we can”, in terms of helping sales. I’m trying to grab hold of marketing and own it as a team.
I think back to this particular catalog that was printed in the middle of November. On the cover it said 2016. I said to the salesperson, “It’s the middle of November. Why wouldn’t you put 2017 on this?” They were trying to get something done, but they didn’t have the marketing experience. It wasn’t a bad thing, they didn’t do anything wrong. However, if they had given us some visibility into the project ahead of time, we might have been able to help. Because after you print 5,000 of these things and suddenly it’s 2017, what are you going to do? Put a sticker on all of them?
Think about all the things that you try to do as an organization, in terms of helping. What I’ve noticed is that we have North America field marketing, we have rest of world field marketing and then e-mail field marketing. They’re not necessarily aligned with each other, so we’re not necessarily getting the scaling capabilities.
Channel partners are channel partners and they all need the same thing. They want margin, right? They want co-op dollars or some sort of MDF to be able to help them run their programs. They want leads. So, it’s not necessarily content, Jen, it really is a financial relationship. But the inverse of that is what are your quotas? What are you delivering?
Sometimes the channel partner is used to being successful on their own and not necessarily tying it to the goals and objectives of their partner. One of the things I’m trying to help partners understand is that we are all in the business of sales. How are we going to help them be successful going forward?
What advice do you have for fellow marketing officers whose companies have partner programs and really want to increase their channel partners’ contribution?
Get involved. What I’ve observed is most chief marketing officers don’t get involved. As a CMO, I’ve offered to be in meetings, and even if I can only dial in having the credibility of having a C-level person at the table gives the channel manager or the director of channel management so much more power in the relationship.
Often you’re working with a lower level person and the channel partner is holding all the cards, beating the bejeebers out of that poor manager of yours. But if you’re able to be on these calls with these billion dollar partners or distributors and say, “We’re investing in this program and this is what we’re going to do”, you can help. I was able to help the director of channel management for North America in a conversation with a partner, where we were making an investment.
We received a spreadsheet with options “two of these, and one of those, and three of these…” and so we’re going through it and saying, “That has no value, that has no value, that has no value. Can we trade two of these for one of those which is definitely going to have value?” It was something Joan, our channel partner manager, wouldn’t have thought because she didn’t think she had enough power. But for me to be able to say, ” I want to help you Joan and I want to help us be successful with this relationship.”
Whenever you make these investments in programs whether it’s with MDF, co-op dollars, whatever, you want to make sure that they’re used. So many times marketing people have no problem spending money, but don’t figure out how to use money that is being handed to them on a platter. If you can make use of those dollars and make them more valuable, if that makes the channel partner happy, that is important as well.
I’m going to go back to the two words, get involved, be present, show support. Those are six words, but just trying to make a statement here. As the chief marketing officer, the channel is important to you. To actually be a part of it, is what’s going to make a difference for the organization.
To learn more about running a successful agency partner program, tune in to episode 17 of The Allbound Podcast.