Welcome back to Cyber Beat. This episode I’m joined by Stephen Pritchard, broadcaster, presenter, videojournalist, producer, writer, photographer and technologist extraordinaire who has worked with titles including the FT, BBC and Infosecurity. Join us as we take a look at how the right kind of content can make or break a story, and how to provide high quality content that journalists can use effectively.
From the breakneck pace to remembering technical info and jargon, entering into the world of cyber security PR can be a daunting prospect. éclat’s junior account executives Grace Meaney and Gabby Dunne join the share their experiences and discuss how agencies can best help new recruits settle in and get involved.
This episode we have veteran freelance journalist Jane Bird on hand to share experience and advice from more than 30 years in technology journalism. Writing and editing for titles including Computing, The Sunday Times and the FT, Jane has followed the rise of information technology from a niche pet hobby to the unstoppable force it is today. She joins us to provide insight into creating and pitching a hit cybersecurity story.
From high-profile company data breaches to cyber-attacks from nation states cyber security stories dominated the national news agenda in 2018. But what kinds of cyber stories garnered the most column inches? We worked with Apollo Research to find out. Apollo Research MD Richard Laven joins me to discuss our findings on how the UK national press covered cyber security over the last year.
Visit https://eclat.co.uk/ to download your free copy of our latest eBook to read the full research.
From big name data breaches to nation state cyber attacks, 2018 proved to be a busy year for cyber security stories. We kick off the new year by taking a look back at some of the biggest breaking news events of the year, as well as the opportunities that worked for our clients, and why.
Securing coverage in national publications such as the Financial Times is considered one of the pinnacles of PR. In our first episode we share advice on how cyber security companies can achieve regular, high quality coverage at a national level, drawing on our 19 years of experience in security PR.
For more insight into securing national coverage in the UK press, download our free eBook here: https://eclat.co.uk/how-to-break-into-the-british-national-press
Why Public Relations?
Building your brand in the highly competitive UK cyber security market is an essential ingredient for success, and Public Relations is the most impactful and cost-effective way to do that. A unique advantage of PR over marketing activity is that while marketing comes down to you saying that you have the best technology on the market, PR will mean it comes from independent, third-party influencers, which is much more powerful – especially if they’re local sources.
Alongside the media, other advocates can include analysts, channel partners, end users and professional bodies. A good Public Relations strategy should embrace all of these potential influencers. These advocates can play a powerful role in building the credibility of your company and differentiating it, and local knowledge is crucial for identifying the right people to talk to, and the right events to attend.
Press coverage and word-of-mouth among influencers will generate new business leads for your sales team and channel partners. A competent Public Relations agency will also help you to refine your messaging and focus for the local market. PR activity, particularly when combined with a strong content creation strategy, can be the engine that drives an integrated sales and marketing campaign to build awareness and generate market pull by driving traffic to your website.
Unsurprisingly, there are many parallels between localisation for Public Relations and for your channel strategy and many of the same misconceptions hold true. One of the most common mistakes is for a vendor to decide it doesn’t need to invest in localised PR or even marketing of any kind, because their distributor says they will take care of building the brand for them. While a good distributor can work wonders for establishing your route to market, channel activity needs to be supported by strong PR and marketing activity to be effective and the vendor should not delegate their responsibility for the vital task of building their brand in the market.
The timing for a Public Relations launch can be one of the hardest decisions to make. A common approach is to put PR off until the channel is already set up and revenue streams have been established. As with many other big decisions, this can turn into an eternal wait, with the vendor finding they never quite have the amount of revenue they need.
Instead, channel and Public Relations should be launched in tandem, as they are mutually beneficial on a number of levels. Coverage from the PR launch will start to generate new business leads directly, as well as providing some useful buzz that can be magnified in intensity through social media channels to a variety of stakeholders. PR can also directly tie into the channel itself, with campaigns focusing on the UK’s dedicated technology channel press – helping the vendor to attract new partners in the region.
The need for a local Public Relations approach
Another common misconception is that a US agency will be able to take care of the new market – after all, they do all speak English. While a good US agency will usually be able to secure some opportunities with the UK media, it’s a huge mistake to assume this Public Relations approach will create the kind of meaningful, consistent press coverage that will help to generate new business leads and develop a thought leadership position. This approach is usually born from the desire to cut costs, but instead the vendor will find they have wasted the increased fees they were paying to their existing US agency and will have little to show for it in the long term.
One of the biggest barriers for a US agency attempting to handle the UK press is the time difference. Unless your US team is happy to wake up in the middle of the night to check the news agenda, you will almost certainly miss all breaking news for the UK market – one of the most important opportunities to get involved in the media and make a name for yourself.
The UK security market is so crowded that most journalists in the field are inundated with offers from Public Relations agencies for comment and interviews at the best of times – and positively buried alive when a major incident such as a big-name data breach occurs. Combined with the fact that journalists are forced to work to increasingly short deadlines, this means that only the fastest responses and most interesting comments and offers are likely to achieve coverage.
When a major breach is reported, or a serious attack occurs, getting in first with meaningful insight can create a powerful momentum that leads not only to coverage in the key IT and security trade titles, but splashes in the national newspapers and broadcast media too.
A compelling example came with last year’s WannaCry outbreak. The news of what would turn out to be one of the biggest security stories of the year first broke fairly late in the day for the UK. However, it was still too early for the US, and those first few hours were crucial in finding a place in the narrative. Before the end of the day, our Public Relations team had clients appearing in broadcast interviews and speaking with journalists for national newspapers and news agencies.
East Coast-based Public Relations teams will need to be up and working at 4am to capture opportunities like these, and the timing gets steadily worse the further west you travel. Even the earliest rising Californians will be only just gearing up for the day when the UK news cycle is winding down.
While important, breaking news isn’t the only problem presented by the time difference. Most security journalists operate on short and unforgiving deadlines for even standard stories. In many cases, a Public Relations team will need to pitch the journalist and get back to them with comment or to set up an interview within two or three hours. Few journalists are able to hold their deadlines for a latecomer, even if they do have something genuinely interesting to add to the story.
Timing trouble is somewhat mitigated when the story is self-created by the vendor, such as the announcement of a new malware discovery or interesting new research findings. However, even though the vendor will be in full control of the agenda by setting the embargo time, the time difference often makes communicating with journalists a painful experience. It’s hard to establish a meaningful dialogue with a UK press contact if there are only a few hours a day where communication can run smoothly.
Why real relationships matter
One particularly important difference between the US and UK press that many vendors are not aware of is the use of news wires. While they are a staple part of any US-based announcement, these Public Relations services have very little effect in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. Very few journalists will pay much regard to a story that first appears on a wire service, and fewer still will deign to directly publish a press release as-is from the wire. Many US agencies tasked with tackling the UK will assume the wire can take care of most of the work for them, but this will achieve no useful traction in today’s media and will simply add further to the cost.
With journalists coming under so much pressure to get their copy out on time, giving them a heads up on a story will vastly improve the chances of securing quality coverage. To produce reliable results in Public Relations this needs to happen on an individualised basis, with pitches tailored to the individual preferences of the journalist and publication. Doing this correctly demands an in-depth knowledge of the UK press that few agencies outside the country can muster. Journalists need to be engaged with on a regular basis
Most journalists will have a little black book of preferred contacts that they have built up over the years, and it is absolutely necessary to communicate with them on a regular basis to make such a list. For Public Relations this means going beyond issuing press releases, and demands speaking, briefing and personally meeting them as often as possible. It’s also important to remember that these relationships generally extend beyond the vendor to focus on the PR agency as well.
Partnering with an experienced UK-based cyber security Public Relations agency will enable even a newcomer to reap the benefits of these hard-won relationships to establish a name for themselves and get involved in stories much more quickly.
Why genuine localisation matters
Many US-based vendors and Public Relations agencies alike will talk about their media strategy for the UK as part of their approach for EMEA – a mindset that will almost certainly be doomed to failure. There are very few influencers or media that are common across the UK and Europe, let alone the entire EMEA region. Aside from the language differences, each country tends to be very insular about how it handles the news. If you want traction in the UK and across Europe it is essential to take each country and region as a separate entity, with its own bespoke PR plan.
One issue that can arise with a global Public Relations approach is delivering an inconsistent message, as individual teams can go off in separate directions to suite their own markets. This can be best handled by working with a group of agencies united under a single network – the basis behind our own Code Red Network. A networked approach, where one agency acts as central coordinator, ensures a unified strategy and message, whilst still providing the local knowledge and implementation that is key to success. From the vendor’s perspective this also removes the burden of managing multiple agencies and allows the regional agencies to function as a virtual PR team, sharing ideas and materials to improve overall performance and efficiency.
The matter of control is an area that many vendors have struggled with over the years. A common mistake is to try and retain too much control at the head office in the US, with everything needing to go through a US-based decision maker. A firm grip on international Public Relations is certainly recommended, particularly if the UK representative is not an appropriate local spokesperson, or the company’s messaging is still maturing. Too much of a laissez-faire attitude can lead to international representatives getting carried away and deviating too much from core messaging, or even contradicting the US office’s stance on issues. Likewise, defining strategic moves, as well as decisions on contentious issues – such as stances on the encryption vs privacy debate – will benefit from oversight from the top.
However, if you want to be seen as an influential player in the UK market and get involved in the breaking news cycle, it’s important to trust local representatives with the responsibility to sign off on certain campaign aspects.
You can’t fake being a local
For example, some Israeli security companies have excellent cyber security technology and knowledge, but only have Israel-based spokespeople. Inevitably, this leads journalists to publish pieces describing their company as “an Israeli cyber security company” – which annoys them no end as they want to be seen as a UK or international company.
If you want to be seen as a local player, you need to show that commitment by investing in local spokespeople. US spokespeople are still extremely valuable of course and will continue to play an important role in UK Public Relations, especially senior executives and specialists in particular areas. But as your company grows and evolves you should consider putting in place a local market evangelist.
Having local spokespeople will make a stronger impression with media and analysts to show dedication to building a presence in the UK market. Likewise, it will also help immeasurably with securing breaking news opportunities and contributing to stories with short deadlines. It also opens new opportunities such as broadcast appearances, which are possible but more convoluted for international spokespeople, as well as the chance to arrange valuable face-to-face meetings with journalists and analysts.
Alongside local spokespeople, it’s also very beneficial to get local customers on board for Public Relations as soon as possible, as the media is generally very parochial in outlook. Convincing customers to talk about their technology solutions is notoriously difficult. Many see discussing a solution as admitting to having had a problem in the first place, or they may be paranoid about giving away their strategy to competitors. The former reasoning is particularly common when it comes to cyber security, with companies very reluctant to appear as though they ever had any security concerns. Thankfully, this mindset is beginning to change, as discussion of cyber becomes more mainstream, and we are finding more customers are happy to put themselves forward, aware that it paints them in a positive light.
It’s a good idea to include a customer reference agreement as part of your contract with new customers in the UK – particularly if they are asking for preferential pricing. At the very least this should include an announcement press release and a customer success case study further down the line, while more adventurous organisations may also be interested in other Public Relations opportunities such as editorial features, journalist briefings and round table events.
Being able to capitalise on a UK-based customer success story in this way is a huge advantage for connecting with the local press and also helps to strengthen your customer relationship by providing the client with free Public Relations coverage that demonstrates their strong approach to security.
Public Relations campaigns also need to be localised as much as possible. Other than certain journalists and publications that have a more international approach, the majority of the UK press will be likely to ignore stories that have no local angle, and many are averse to receiving press release written with American spelling or quoting values in dollars.
However, the vast majority of issues in cyber security are international and a US-centric campaign can generally be adjusted to fit Public Relations the UK as well – another area where insight from a local agency will be invaluable. Say for example we have a vendor pushing a campaign around security in the healthcare industry, including research around compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). While the UK press is likely to be somewhat familiar with HIPAA, the findings will be almost completely irrelevant for their readers because HIPAA has no bearing here and we operate with a vastly different healthcare structure. On the other hand, if the same research also takes into account NHS organisations and judgements from the Information Commissioner’s Office, it will become a relevant and interesting story for the UK market.
It’s very important to set realistic expectations for a UK Public Relations launch – including for the agency you’re working with, as well as for company stakeholders such as the board or investors. Some companies when launching for the first time into the UK say they just want to do a quick PR project, but don’t want to do PR on an on-going basis. The proposed activity may relate to a particular product launch, or tradeshow, in which case they suggest they could do a quick burst of PR for a few months.
Our advice is invariably to save your money until you can commit to investing on a longer-term basis. If you put your head above the parapet and become part of the cyber security media commentary, you don’t want to disappear again. Public Relations is a very cumulative process, and generating real momentum means you need to commit to at least nine to twelve months to build full momentum. While you will see immediate coverage and new business results with the right agency, these opportunities will quickly begin to die out without continued efforts and the media are quick to forget companies that are not constantly on their radar. Sales and marketing teams need to be aware that Public Relations will take some time to build up a head of steam, and they should not expect an avalanche of new business leads within the first week or two.
Similarly, it’s very important to set expectations with the agency itself, particularly in terms of how success is measured. ‘Share of Voice’ (SoV) tends to be a favourite measuring stick, and it can indeed be a useful indicator of how well the brand is being established. However, SoV needs to be set against the right competition and with realistic expectations. You won’t be overtaking a larger rival with a five-year head start in the market and double your Public Relations investment within a few months, although with the appropriate strategy and budget it is perfectly possible to establish a leading SoV.
Objectives and expectations will often change as things progress, especially as the vendor gains familiarity with the UK market and builds its presence in the region. Don’t be afraid to change tact if an approach clearly isn’t working for the UK market, or to set greater or altered targets for the agency. However, these changes need to be communicated and agreed with the Public Relations agency – abruptly changing the goal posts can sour the PR relationship and also make for a disjointed media presence.
It’s common practice among US agencies, and many in the UK, to invoice for their Public Relations services based on billable hours. This can lead to agencies spinning out activities to fill their time allocation – such as arranging endless messaging sessions and focusing on effort rather than outcomes. Conversely, this can also lead to the agency passing up on opportunities because have already fulfilled their time quota. Instead, a payment-by-results model, where the agency must meet specific targets or forfeit part of the fee is likely to achieve far greater results. This type of business model creates a greater sense of shared risk and reward between the agency and vendor and encourages the agency to focus on proactivity and creativity over clockwatching.
Some vendors looking at international expansion will turn to a large global Public Relations agency to handle their UK launch, but this will not work well for every company. Disruptive start-ups, without the bigger budgets of established industry leaders, will often find they are overshadowed by the larger, established clients that are generating the most revenue for the agency. Introducing a new company with a cutting-edge solution needs genuine mindshare with its agency and needs to be taken seriously rather than being an afterthought or side project alongside big vendors. It’s best to look for an agency that has experience in launching disruptive cyber security companies. Partnering with an agency more familiar with breaking through the noise for new companies entering the market is more likely to be successful. You need a team who will be proactive for you, going out of their way to push your agenda and secure great media opportunities, rather than just being reactive and doing the minimum required by the contract.
When assessing a new agency, you should always try to meet the team that will be working with you – including account managers and executives – rather than just meeting with the agency director or new business contact. This will enable you to be sure they genuinely do have experience in your field and you won’t be the guinea pig, as well as testing them on relevant acronyms, media contacts, and their knowledge of the security landscape. A Public Relations specialist in cyber security will enable you to leverage their established contacts and understanding of what is current and topical in order to garner coverage, not only in the trade and specialist security media, but also in the wider business, national, broadcast and vertical press.
Choosing a Public Relations agency should be done with as much care as your channel partners and even your own in-house team. Picking a team that is the wrong fit for your company and the message you want to convey can be a costly mistake, wasting both funding and perhaps more importantly time. Finding the right agency partner that can help you leapfrog the competition and build awareness in the market is on the critical path to success. The right experienced and invested team, that can demonstrate a strong track record of building thought leadership positions for other disruptive cyber security companies, will enable you to hit the ground running and drive momentum across all your sales, marketing and channel activities. It should be seen as a strategic investment in your brand and is one of the cornerstones to building a successful go-to-market launch strategy for your company.
For those vendors that have decided to launch in the UK with a channel approach, establishing a network at the earliest opportunity can drastically cut down on time-to-market. The partners can start the process and begin to build up momentum during the three or four months it takes for the vendor to establish their in-house team. This can even mean that the sales team has a set of opportunities already waiting for them when they are ready to begin.
A good distributor is really the lynchpin to a successful channel, and the decision on the appointment of the right partner needs to be considered carefully. As a distributor, we also do as much due diligence as possible before signing up with a new vendor. This includes our own in-house investigation into the company to establish important elements such as their backers and how much investment they have behind them. We also speak to friendly end users and partners to get an independent, honest opinion on the technology the vendor will be bringing to the market.
I would recommend all vendors ensure they look for a distributor who has a similar approach and takes their vendor signings seriously. This kind of due diligence shows that a vendor’s business is an important investment for them too, rather than simply another signing.
Likewise, the vendor should be doing their own homework about a potential distributor. If possible, you want to ensure that a distributor has a good track record with launching companies similar to your own size and background. Ideally, however, I would always avoid signing on with a partner who currently works with a direct competitor, as this can cause some awkward loyalty issues if two similar solutions are competing for a single prospect.
There are many different kinds of distributor, and it’s important that a vendor partners with one who is a good fit for them – especially if they are a start-up with less resources.
Larger, mainstream distributors bring value to well-established vendors. In these cases, the partners and end users all know the product well and are well aware of what they are buying and at what price. This means the distributor won’t need to undertake a lot of value-add activity because the product is essentially taking care of itself. Instead, the distributor’s value comes from their ability to handle the logistics for a huge amount of stock, getting everything configured and shipped to the customer on a reliable, next-day basis.
However, these distributors are less likely to be able to evangelise and explain why each customer is buying each product. While this is fine for an already established brand with a big customer base, it won’t be a good fit for a smaller company or a brand-new entrant into the UK market.
Other distributors specialise in the market evangelism aspect and operate almost entirely by finding exciting and disruptive new technology to bring to the market. They understand the value add of the technology, what problems it solves, and what verticals they should go to in order to create opportunities with their partners. That said, these specialists are becoming somewhat hard to find as most have been bought up and incorporated into the larger distributors.
Distributors who are start-ups themselves can potentially be a good fit for a start-up vendor, as they will likely share a similar passion and entrepreneurial mindset. It’s worth noting though that they often don’t have much spare bandwidth and may not have the resources needed to really push new technology.
Ideally, disruptive vendors with innovative but untested technology should look to find a distributor that has the right balance of size. They should be established enough to have the connections and resources for a demanding campaign, but small enough to be nimble and assign the vendor as a priority.
It can also be beneficial to partner with a distributor who specialises in a particular field of technology. Specialists are guaranteed to have a high level of knowledge and experience with your type of solution, and a head start on getting to grips with newer, cutting edge products. Distributors with a more general approach to technology can also work well however, especially as different fields tend to intersect. For example, we specialise in all things cloud, which includes cloud-based enterprise security solutions.
Once the decision is made to sign on with a vendor, we immediately set to work to deliver them with an accelerated go-to-market. Onboarding a new vendor’s solution can be very work intensive for a channel partner, particularly if it’s a more niche or disruptive technology. This means the partners will be itching to secure sales and generate revenue to recoup this investment as soon as they can. Generally, if they haven’t established a revenue pipeline within three or four months of taking on a new solution, they are likely to start looking for something else.
As already discussed, vendors are usually even more impatient to see sales coming their way after launching in the UK, so it’s really important that we are able to deliver an accelerated go-to-market.
Once the distributor has been brought fully up to speed on the vendor, they will go on to establish their own network of resellers to get out there and start selling. However, a distributor won’t want to be knocking on a reseller’s door and saying “hey, I have this one cool widget you can sell”. Instead, the solution needs to be integrated into the reseller’s stack.
To establish this, the distributor and vendor need sit down together and create a proper plan. This needs to establish their niche, the verticals they are strong in, and the pain points and key messages for each one. Likewise, it should break down the size of an ideal customer deployment and how this is measured – for example number of locations, employee count, number of endpoint devices, and so on.
This should hopefully draw on the go-to-market plan the vendor has already established, but the distributor can also help to solidify these plans if the vendor is less sure of its approach.
A good distributor will have a large stable of reseller contacts specialising in different types of technology and target company. The next step will be to establish a selection of partners that have the best mix of experience and contacts for the vendor’s objectives. This could, for example, see an initial list of 15-20 partners, with five coming on board in the first six months, followed by another five as the channel continues to develop.
The distributor will then move on to do account mapping with the partners to establish the needs of the vendor and what verticals and enterprise compositions will be covered.
It’s usually beneficial to have a smaller core of well-chosen, proactive channel partners rather than a larger, sprawling network. A smaller number of partners means that the opportunities the vendor identifies are passed through the same five or eight people every time, which enables them to build momentum.
Working with a smaller network means a vendor is more important for each of their partners. Closing £50m worth of deals across 100 different partners means that a vendor’s solution won’t be a particularly important part of any one reseller’s stack. On the other hand, closing £50m through just five core resellers will establish the vendor as an important partner.
I’ve found some distributors will approach this from the opposite direction and will instead ask a new prospect who their preferred channel contact is, and pass the deal on accordingly. This can mean that each deal will end up going through a separate reseller, which again means the vendor will be a very low priority for each one.
The vendor’s sales team really needs to push and insist to prospects that they have specific channel partners they work with. It’s important to point out this will benefit the customer too, as they will be dealing with resellers that are experienced and trained with the vendor’s solution.
Sales margins can be one of the of the most sensitive elements of a channel agreement, but it’s very important these are agreed to the satisfaction of both sides.
Margins need to match the level of investment, effort, and risk on the part of the partners. If the product is part of a relatively well understood field and has a clear market, partners will be happy with smaller margins as it will be a relatively easy job for them to add the solution to their stack and start securing opportunities.
However, more disruptive, leading edge products, or those that are simply more niche, will require a much greater investment from the channel, with more training for sales teams and a greater amount of evangelism and education. Accordingly, these types of products need to be given higher margins if the channel is to be interested and involved, especially in the early days.
Resellers won’t be motivated to get out there and knock on doors for niche technology for a five per cent margin when they could be making the same level from a much easier sale for more established brands and technology. Higher margins will also enable both distributors and resellers to put more resources into the launch and speed things up.
The UK and US approach to the tech channel can be radically different in several ways, and this can lead to some major misconceptions from uninitiated vendors entering the UK market for the first time.
One major distinction is the vast difference in size and structure between the US and UK – something that seems obvious but can be easily overlooked on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to our strong connections in language and culture.
The size of the US means that channel partners often demonstrate their value through their local contacts and knowledge in different states. So, for example, a partner will know all the large pharma firms in Texas and will have 10 contacts that he can go to immediately and start progressing deals.
By comparison, the US is roughly 40 times the size of the UK, and there are 11 different States that can fit the entirety of the UK within their borders. This means that rather than region, partners tend to specialise in vertical markets or solution types. There will be partners focusing on retail or finance, or else security, storage, and so on.
Easily the biggest issue between the US and UK is the perception of what exactly a distributor does. In the US, it’s common to think of a distributor as purely concerned with logistics. A vendor with a physical hardware product will usually sell single tier, only taking on a distributor if they have a sufficient volume of orders that they can start achieving better economies of scale on with a new logistics approach. Start-ups and more niche technology vendors won’t be shipping their product every day in big numbers and so won’t be looking for economies of scale.
Likewise, vendors with entirely cloud-based solutions will of course not be shipping out anything at all, so the idea of a distribution partner won’t even be on the table. This mindset means that many vendors who do seek to take on UK distributors will assume they only need a small margin.
While UK distribution does include logistics when necessary, this is just one element of the benefits a distributor provides. Rather, a distributor is about connecting dots – getting the right people in contact with the right products at the right time to accelerate the go-to-market process.
Ignoring the value of distributors in the UK is a major shortcoming as they won’t be leveraging the increased time to market that a solid channel partner can deliver. Particularly when it comes to selling disruptive technology, the right distributor can hugely decrease the time to market through their channel and end user contacts. But as this kind of activity is rarely seen in the US, many vendors won’t understand that this is an option.
As a result, I often find that US vendors are conflicted about their UK channel strategy. They want to operate a channel here because they don’t want to invest the time and money required to recruit a full in-house office. On the other hand, they also won’t want to give the channel partners high margins because they don’t truly grasp the value the channel can deliver.
A good approach is to have a single in-house salesperson acting as a virtual channel manager. They will be able to leverage the distributor’s resources and contacts to achieve many things that would otherwise take a much larger in-house team, such as marketing planning, sourcing PR contacts and handling events.
A good example of how a distributor can drastically accelerate things is our prebuilt mailer campaigns, which can be customised for each vendor, with their branding and messaging. This includes landing pages, calls to action, contact details, and everything else necessary to start funnelling some prospects towards the sales team.
Configuring one of these mailers will take all of 30 seconds, and our partners can start mailing it out to their contacts. We supplement this with some of our own 22,000-strong end user database to reach an even wider audience. Having all this prebuilt saves a lot of time and meetings going back and forth on designing landing pages and other factors.
While all the time-consuming set-up is going on in-house, we can go out and start doing end-user marketing directly on behalf of the vendor. A particularly rewarding approach is to operate end-user workshops, where relevant prospects will have the opportunity to come along and learn about the vendor’s technology and try it out. These leads can then be passed back on to the partners for development.
This can reduce the sales cycle by up to half, leading to some opportunities already in the pipeline as soon as the partners and in-house sales team are on board.
Openness and communication are very important for a successful channel relationship. I find it works best to set up and share timelines for responsibilities on both sides of the relationship right from the initial kick off. This includes basic items like sending the contracts, building sales cards, and so on. The more visible the process is, the better.
The business plan should be designed with this in mind, including regular milestones that the distributor wants to hit. Objectives and progress can be tracked in a shared document to provide real time visibility and remove the guesswork.
A regularly scheduled weekly call can be invaluable in getting things done on both sides, allowing both the vendor and the distributor to keep each other updated, and giving them the chance to chase up on anything that might be slipping.
On the other hand, I have found vendors can get somewhat carried away, demanding daily updates and chasing leads constantly. It’s important to find a balance between keeping a regular dialogue and pushing too much. However, this tends to be more of a personality-based thing rather than any particular regional experience, so there should not be any major cultural clashes here.
Defining a timeline at the start of the relationship and breaking it down into separate objectives can also help prevent the vendor getting too impatient. As discussed in the previous chapter, it will generally take at least 12-18 months to get a new UK launch fully operational and producing a regular revenue stream
While a good distributor will help to speed things up significantly, many elements still take time – for example, it will usually take a couple of months to book in sales and technical training for channel partners, and a similar amount of time to create and launch a marketing campaign. Having the progress of all these elements in an accessible tracker will help to quell the vendor’s urge to constantly chase and chivvy things along.
With the combination of a solid in-house sales team on the ground and a well-chosen distributor, vendors should be able to trust their UK operations to start flourishing and establishing a place for them in the new market at an accelerated rate that will quickly catch up with the competition.