September 25, 2013

10 Steps for VARs to Differentiate, Grow and Demonstrate Value Using Social Networks

Two major industry shifts are forcing VARs to consider changes to their existing business models  in order to compete and remain profitable.  The first shift is the erosion of hardware margin, and the second is the rapid adoption of cloud technologies.

In today’s ultra-competitive market of hardware sales and the continued commoditization that hardware experiences over time, it is very difficult to focus all efforts on selling “boxes” and remain profitable.  Many VARs are beginning to increase their focus on integrating higher margin services to supplement lost hardware revenue.  In addition, and in my opinion, much more impactful is the rapidly accelerating adoption rate of Cloud.

Customers are attracted to the reduction in capital and operational costs as well as the speed at which they can adopt, deploy and scale new applications.  This accelerating rate of Cloud adoption has a direct impact on VAR revenue.  The revenue from servers, memory, software licensing, networking equipment, etc that once were part of the roll-out of a new application is shifting away from VARs and moving to Cloud service providers.

This trend is today’s reality, and VARs must choose to either enter the Cloud service provider market, or find new ways to differentiate and compete.  This blog explores some new and simple ways that VARs can use Social Networks to set themselves apart from competitors and achieve trusted advisor status.

If it’s not bad enough that hardware margins are eroding and Cloud is shifting revenue away from traditional VARs, a recent report says that modern consumers are 57% of the way through their purchase decision before they engage with a salesperson.  This means they are doing online research and using social media to collaborate with peers to narrow their decision.

Sales people are no longer the primary source of information when prospects are evaluating their options.  If you are not part of the evaluation process, it becomes more difficult to achieve trusted advisor status, and more difficult to deliver differentiated value.  If digital and social are the new platforms prospects are leveraging, VARs should consider communicating with them over those platforms.

Social offers VARs a real opportunity to connect in the early stages of the sales cycle.  If customers are searching for information, you can make it easy for them to find it.  Become a curator of great content!  Here is how you can do it:

10 Steps to Differentiate, Grow and Demonstrate Value Using Social Networks

1.       Identify key areas of technology expertise where you want to focus.

 Examples such as data center, virtualization, mobility, storage, etc.

2.       Define prevalent customer areas of interest and pain points

Examples such as BYOD, management complexity, etc.

3.       Set up Google Alerts based on the topics defined in step 2.

This will allow you to receive daily emails with links to relevant content and articles.

4.       Create a Twitter account.

5.       Download and use a tool like Buffer.

Buffer allows you to, in only a few minutes every day, easily create tweets to share content.

6.       Encourage your customers and prospects to follow you on Twitter

During daily interactions with customers and prospects let them know you share valuable information on a regular basis.

7.       Take 15 minutes every day to review your Google Alert emails and use Buffer to tweet informative and relevant content.

Thanks to a plug in application to Chrome, you can tweet content with the click of a mouse.

8.       Tweet content via direct message to any specific accounts you think may have interest.

This provides a personal touch and can really make you stand out.

9.       Sponsor tweet chats on important topics of interest.

Demonstrate that you are a leader who can foster collaboration and provide differentiated value.

10.       Establish a daily routine to ensure consistency.

Once established as a curator of valuable content, it is important to maintain a consistent velocity of communication to remain top of mind.

These 10 suggestions offer tangible, concrete and easy steps to become the curator of the content modern buyers are searching for.  By offering valuable content, you can achieve trusted advisor status, and when prospects are ready to engage sales, your name will rise to the top of their list.  Social, if used properly, can be the vehicle to engage earlier in the sales process while still providing prospects with the time and space they want for independent research and peer reviews.  With the very real loss of revenue from narrowing hardware margins and the reallocation of money to Cloud services, VARs must find new ways to differentiate, grow and demonstrate value.  Social can and should be an important part of the strategy.

About The Contributor:
Extreme Partner Team

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