Disruptive Trends Thrive in Hyper-Local Markets

Consider the term “hyper-local”.  In the context of this post, it describes products and services that you buy and sell from providers within close physical proximity to where you sleep and work (not to say you’re dozing at your desk…)  What product and service trait makes it the magnetic, most favored choice?

Density.  Product owners choose a few key locations wherein their target customer abounds, and blanket it, making the product’s around the corner, steady-eddy availability a blockade against competitive products. Like a magnet drawing customers, every time.

Read more at Fast Company. This great quote from the article, about one of my favorite disruptive trends, Zipcar, sums it up: “…what catalyzes [customer’s] decision to go with Zipcar is often the discovery that a car is available five minutes from home rather than 10. That trigger unlocks the magnetic properties of Zipcar.”

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Cloud MSPs and VARs: What’s Your Optimal Revenue Plan?

Recently, a provider of secure, Cloud-based content management solutions announced a new threshold in required annual revenue from its network of MSPs and VARs. If threshold is not met, partners can still gain revenue via one-time referral commission.  The shift in policy is common to companies that have the good fortune to be growing, and need channel partners to ratchet up results… even though said growth is due in large part to MSP and VAR performance and expansion.

This provider’s reseller program, according to some channel partners, now requires partners to sign up for a yearly revenue target based on company size and customer demographics.  What’s unclear is how, or if the provider solicited these metric data points from the MSPs and VARs, or pushed them outward, based upon market research and sales trends. Also, how competitive and sector factors weighed results.

A solutions provider that’s channel-friendly and acknowledges that its MSP and VAR partners will haul in the majority of revenues, and administers a profitable, simple compensation program will retain channel partners who deliver increased revenue. The sticking point in channel management relationships comes when the provider is poised for growth, and needs to ensure its partners can ride along, at new levels.

The compensation should always reflect effort expended by both sides — who will carry added burden of back-end billing and administration vs. bag the sale and sprint to the next kill.

It’s up to the MSP or VAR to know its productivity sweet spot, then slot into the appropriate compensation method.  Is the staff most productive only in quick-turn, hunter-gatherer mode?  Or does it thrive when delivering multi-faceted, turnkey services. Pick the compensation program that’s right, and everyone will thrive.

There’s a great example of this scenario at Joe Panettieri’s TalkinCloud blog; check it out!

Sales Channel Communication Tools

Among the many online and automated forms of communicating with channel partners recommended by Hanson Marketing — all of which are intended to ENHANCE and not REPLACE person-to-person contact, right class? — two are particular favorites. We prefer them for their quick and responsive handling and speed (just like your favorite sports car)

NING: Huh? NING is your very own social networking site… like a custom Facebook. This nifty social marketing tool became part of my channel marketing toolkit when our hard-working PR agency pitched it… and at a price tag of FREE, I have expanded its function by inviting channel resellers to join. What is it? Take a look here.

Constant Contact: Back when dinosaurs roamed Earth, my weekly outbound correspondence was via automated fax transmissions. All the news fit to print on one, black and white, curly piece of paper. Now, Constant Contact and similar solutions unleash a can of powerful, quasi-personal communications tools. A channel leader can reach all or parts of his active partner roster, with rich visuals, polls, and calls to action. A good reseller becomes a great one, when armed with industry- and product-specific info, and a brief, valuable newsletter does the job.

Tip: Think of what you’d say to the channel partner if you had 5 minutes, face-to-face… then put it in writing and send it!

Online Loyalty Shopping: 21st Century Green Stamps

Hanson Marketing forms specialized channels for makers of various goods and services, that link them to customers worldwide. Each time we dig into a new project, we find that no matter how we slice and dice the desired customer demographics, there exist e-commerce websites that cater to them. Whether the targeted customer is an avid RVer who hits the road with Good Sam Club card intact, a government purchasing officer buying IT equipment on contract, or a frequent flier, these online shoppers are introduced to e-commerce sites by the organization they have in common, sites that enable them to shop as usual while rewarding them with points or discounts or rebates.

My mom used to collect S & H Green Stamps with every transaction at the gas station and grocery store. Licking the stamps and filling up the pages was a fun chore for me, despite green tongue and sticky hands. Once I filled in the books, she would visit the local Green Stamp storefront to swap them for merchandise. What a satisfied feeling you get from earning points and free merchandise for being a loyal customer.

Collecting and redeeming trading stamps has evolved to online shopping malls, frequented by like-minded loyal members. Such online malls are powered by affiliate marketers, which collect and publish various loyalty sites; and by such service providers as Google Affiliate Network. These enabling services extend the reach of even the smallest manufacturer by connecting them with millions of loyalty shoppers, routing buyer to seller and collecting transaction fees.

So, if you’re a retailer, a dealer, or even a manufacturer of goods that sell particularly well among like-minded consumers – professional or leisure – then take notice of loyalty shopping sites, and talk to those enabling service providers who can accelerate that link. Their negotiated discounts are a bargain, with fees based solely on sales; and their marketing programs are as focused and timely as you’d expect from any online campaign. Word of mouth recommendations fly further and faster, too.

And what of Green Stamps? Sperry & Hutchinson, the people who invented rewards currency, brought them into this century as S&H greenpoints, a site launched in 2000. And, while they no longer operate neighborhood redemption stores, loyal S & H members still get the same thrill as they got when turning in a book full of stamps, by redeeming points online.

Sales Channel Strategies for In-home Fitness Equipment

My latest assignment: create a new retail brand category that addresses the unique fitness needs of an ever-growing consumer set. And, to recruit and motivate retail partners who are desperately seeking high-quality and innovative products to stock in-store and online that will serve these loyal customer groups.

Simple, In-Home Solutions for Fit and Active Lifestyles

The product line is fitness equipment for low-impact, high-result, in-home workouts for dedicated athletes in the “fit and 50s” upward into the “silver sneaker” sets… now that’s a fun challenge. Fun, because retail channel partners get to hear a compelling story of how these active folks want to sustain a healthy lifestyle… and up until now, haven’t been able to find simple, durable and affordable products in stores. And, the gym experience can be off-putting for these groups… particularly women. Hence the appeal of a compact, in-home solution.

The company’s product already sells quite well through TV advertising, and has terrific global play, too. As with any successful channel formation endeavor, in addition to the mainstream retailers – Sears and BestBuy (yes, they’re selling fitness gear now…) — smaller, niche retail channels exist. For instance, did you know Camping World sells a whole line of “add-on” products to RV owners, that enrich their on-the-move lifestyle? Well, who says Snowbirds can’t remain physically fit as they bask in the Sunbelt winters?

When recruiting retail channel partners, we also rate in-store staff and their ability to inform and educate older shoppers; and the ambiance of the store. A super-charged, gym-like show floor pumping techno-beats and stocked with high-performance and bulky equipment can be intimidating to an older shopper. Online transactions can’t be counted on to carry the bulk of sales volume, either, yet — at least for the next few years.

Learn more about the Resistance Chair line by VQ ActionCare.

Successful Channel Leadership in 2011

Hanson Marketing is actively involved in San Diego’s tech marketing and sales circle. I’m co-chair of the Marketing & Sales Roundtable for TechAmerica San Diego, and here’s what’s cooking for our next event.

“How Leading Tech Marketers Foresee Product Trends, Gain Insight, and Find Revenue: A panel discussion on forming a successful 2011 marketing mix.”

– Revenue-Friendly Product Management: On Task, On Time, On Target
– Integrated Public Relations: Sway Influencers, Accelerate Sales Cycles
– Relevant Marketing Communications: Partner-friendly Resources Win Mindshare
– ROI-Savvy Global Event Strategies: Gain Face Time… Worldwide!

Those four pieces of the pie sum up what it takes to win market share in the technology field. Stay tuned for more news, or better yet, contact me at tom@hansonmarketing.net to register for the event!

What’s a Book, Anyway?

Phones, TVs, now books …the form and capacities of all are forever changed, in our digital age. Usage habits, functions, and portability are re-writing the rules on how to convey channel management information for Hanson Marketing’s clients who are channel leaders in consumer and trade sectors.

Now comes a Wall Street Journal survey that reveals an increase in reading and in the purchase of new books. 40% of the 1200 respondents say that they read more books since owning an e-reader (Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, iPad).

E-Screen Interface Changes Work and Play Habits


The norms of digital interface and its effect on work and leisure patterns are established in the consumer world, but as always there are implications for business-to-business channel management. At Hanson Marketing, we advise current and prospective clients that securing and maintaining face time with their channel partners is priority one, whether they be consumer retailers or trade wholesalers. Using personal e-screens is a natural next step.

For instance: as head of channels in the b-2-b space, you can push daily dashboard readouts on sales performance to your partners’ e-screens, for real-time assessment and on-the-go corrective action. The value you provide your partners trumps your competitors — as you shape your partners’ daily management styles, you take on the role as preferred provider.

Reading the WSJ survey results, I noted that about half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure. I had one of those “we’re not like the others” moments. Reading for pleasure in my family is a reflex action, like channel surfing or texting. We’ve seamlessly cut over to e-reading and e-viewing, too, with a collection of Kindles and iPads strewn about.

Read more: A Look at the Reading Habits of E-Reader Owners

Sales Pipeline or Prospect Funnel? Channel Leaders Need to Know

Run a Google Image search on Sales Pipeline Diagram and you’ll see what I mean. I did, and saw lots of funnels, flowcharts, and decision trees, none of which convey the accurate function of a productive pipeline. Having fallen in this same trap myself once upon time, I want to convey a concept that I recently read to help get my point across.

Take a look at your own company’s sales activities, starting now through the next 12 months, and envision a pipeline. At that left edge are potentials — prospects, referrals, qualified leads from outbound marketing — that you’re FUNNELING into the pipe. They’re outside the pipe because it’s going to take you a while before you qualify, win contracts, and see any revenue from these potentials. Then, inside the far left (“in-12-months”) end of the pipe, you’ve got long-term projects that you’ve already signed and sealed, waiting their turn to be implemented. Your client may not be ready, or you may not have bandwidth to start until then.

Further into the pipe, at 6 months or so, these become short-term projects, and here is where you also have side input funnels through which will flow opportunistic deals (bluebirds, quick-cycle projects, limited-time promotional offers with quick turnaround, repeats from current clients) Finally, at the right end, closer in, are your projects that are kicking off or are about to be implemented.

Your first reaction when reading this may be, “but wait… I don’t know where my revenue is coming from 3 months from now, let alone in a year. Those side pipes are my only funnels!!!” That’s your first clue to get off the dime and start a series of marketing outreach campaigns, even as you are implementing projects. That is a big challenge, especially for sole proprietors and partnerships. But, who else is going to find your projects? No one but you.

For a great explanation of a true sales pipeline vs. funnels, buy the same book that I keep close at hand, written by Alan Weiss, called Million Dollar Consulting. (ISBN 978-0-07-162210-3)

The complexity of pipeline management grows when you’re forming and leading a partner channel. Your pipeline contains your collective deals, with multiple inbound funnels, each requiring exhaustive, continual assessment and implementation. The funnels often contain projects in government and enterprise settings, making for a very long decision cycle.

Your influence and impact as a head of channels is put to the test here — you might find your close rate to be lower than if you were courting the end-user directly. But, keep reminding yourself how many more feet on the street those channel partners give you!

Maintaining a disciplined, well-insulated funnel+pipeline system will always separate potential from actual business. We all know that Happy Ears are a common problem when forecasting, and need to temper optimism and competitive edge with real-life assessments. Marketing activity should always be aimed way out at that left end, where all the funnels are. Any contact within the pipeline should be process-oriented customer or account management, vs. image-building. Don’t oversell yourselves, rein in optimism with level-headed assessments, and you’ll succeed even more!

Smart Channel Partner Formation and Collaboration: Online Tools

An innovative tool for channel experts is online and free. Check out Partnerpedia.com and take the tour to get a feel for how it will start making life easier for channel leaders in any sector. What I like about it most: collaboration tools and tailored partner management solutions. Overall, just a great, well thought-out way to address channel leadership challenges.

When companies like Cisco are relying upon their channels for up to 80% of their revenues, you know it’s time you took a closer look at how you’re running channels now. Here’s one great online tool.

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