The theme of our eighth podcast episode is Channel Strategy.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things channel strategy is Harald Horgen, Founder of The York Group.


In this conversation, Harald Horgen discusses his background in channel development and the evolution of the channel business model. He highlights the importance of cultural transformation in channel strategy and the challenges of navigating different business models in the channel. Horgen emphasizes the risk and reward of channel partnerships and the need for strategic alignment between vendors and partners. He also explores the concept of opportunity versus risk in channel relationships. He highlights the rapid and radical changes that can occur in the channel, as well as the importance of strategic partnerships.

Key Takeaways

  • Channel partners are often reluctant to take on the risk of promoting new products, as it can disrupt their existing business models and relationships.
  • Understanding the different business models in the channel is essential for vendors to identify the most suitable partners for their products.
  • Opportunity and risk are inherent in channel partnerships, and vendors must provide support and value to their partners to mitigate risk and foster success. Channel partners are expected to create value for their vendors, but they are at risk of being replaced or marginalized.
  • Recent events have shown that changes in the channel can be swift and radical, highlighting the risks that channel partners carry.
  • ISVs should be cautious of opportunistic channel partners who may only be interested in a single opportunity.
  • Analyzing partner performance is crucial for ISVs to identify and address non-performing partners.
  • Developing strategic partnerships requires designated salespeople, activities-based marketing plans, and becoming an important part of the partner’s business.

About Harald Horgen

Harald Horgen is an acknowledged expert on the challenges of building a successful international channel for technology products.

As the President and founder of The York Group, an international business development organization with partners across all major geographies, Harald has been opening new markets for his clients since 1993.  He has been personally involved in setting up channels in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

He has worked with clients of all sizes, from small start-ups to industry giants such as Microsoft, Symantec, HP and Dell.  His clients have come from more than 20 countries, including the U.S., Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and India.

A native and citizen of Norway, Harald attended high school in Canada, business school in Oslo and graduate school in Arizona.    Fluent in English, Norwegian and French, he lived in France for 14 years, which by itself makes him an expert on overcoming cultural challenges!

This is often a make-or-break strategy for companies as they expand beyond their domestic markets, and as is often the case, the difference between success and failure usually comes down to understanding a few basic principles that drive the business model.

Connect with Harald on LinkedIn.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the podcast episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi, welcome to this episode of B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast, where we engage with leading marketing and channel leaders to get fresh perspectives and practical advice on the latest trends, effective strategies, and best practices for B2B tech marketing. I’m your host, Jeremy Balius. Today’s theme is Channel Strategy.

I’m very excited because I’m joined by Harold Horgan today. Harold is an acknowledged expert on the challenges of building a successful international channel for technology products.

He’s the president and founder of The York Group, an international business development organization with partners across all major geographies.

He’s been opening new markets for clients since 1993, personally involved in setting up channels in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, working with clients of all sizes from small startup ISVs through to the multinational conglomerates and giants like Microsoft, Symantec, HP, and Dell.

What’s fascinating about today’s conversation is the ability to go deep on channel strategy and really unpacking how to make the channel more profitable, uh, into the future and how to grow together with your partners, with the right partners.

So let’s get into the conversation.

Hey, Harold, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Harald Horgen: Thank you, Jeremy. I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve looked at some of your other interviews podcast and you got some really good guests, a lot of good content.

And for those that are viewing this, I would really recommend two in particular, uh, the Canalys one with, with, uh, Jay McBain and the Schneider Electric on the MDF, uh, the content of both of those were outstanding.

Jeremy Balius: Thank you. So you’ve been working in the channel a really long time before we get into, the York group and, where your focuses are with channel. Could you give me a bit of a background? What’s your origin story? Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?

Harald Horgen: Okay. Well, I’m from Norway originally, uh, moved to the US to finish a master’s degree and stayed in the US. Okay. And then started doing some international business development for companies from Arizona.

And one of those companies was and I’m going to give you a little bit of a history of channels and how channels have evolved.

One of those companies was one of the early franchise companies. So in the early days of PCs, there were companies that set up franchises because nobody knew what a PC was. Nobody knew what software was. So they had the McDonald’s concept. There were companies like Computerland, Indicom, and the one that I represented was Microwave Computer Centers.

And so everyone’s getting into the computer industry. Teachers, accountants, lawyers. This was the next big thing, but they didn’t know anything about it.

So they had this whole concept of this is how you set up your store. These are the brands that you carry. And it was a franchise model where they charged an upfront fee for territory and a royalty of 6%.

And that model worked for a while until these. Store operators got to know what they were doing. And I said, why are we paying 6%? And, there was a rebellion against these, these, uh, franchise operators on the fee structure, and they couldn’t sell new territories. And then it became a distribution business.

And the franchise operations all lost out to the specialty distributors, companies like, uh, uh, tech data and Ingram, and that knew how to move product.

And that became the value add for the channel, uh, from a distribution standpoint, they didn’t need to know how they didn’t need, they had the skills, they had the customers, uh, what they were looking for was someone that could distribute products to them, uh, very, uh, very cost-effectively and on time.

Uh, so then the model switched to distributors and these, these Franchise operators became resellers and in the early days. So we got into this, uh, so microwave, uh, I moved to France for an 18-month project with microwave and a European partner that we’re going to drive this franchise concept across Europe.

And, uh, they hit it right at the top when things were going down downhill. Uh, so it was very difficult to get the franchise operation set up. Um, but, um, moving from Phoenix to Paris. That’s quite an experience. And my wife said, Well, do we want to go back to Phoenix, live in the desert, or do we want to stay in the Paris area?

And she said, No, we want to stay in Paris. And so we kind of reconstituted the business from there, working with American software companies that were expanding into Europe, because I developed a really good contact network. And so we’re doing this in the nineties.

So it’s really one of the first channel development consultants, uh, one of the pioneers in this space because channels were just emerging client server software was emerging VC funded companies were emerging and channels were looking for new products to sell.

Everything was new. So building out a channel at the time when you were VC funded company from the US was quite easy. Uh, everyone’s looking to grow their business. Everything was in that new logo because. They had a limited customer base. They were all looking to expand their business. And so, so that’s when channels really became an important part of the business model.

And then the big companies like Microsoft and Adobe, uh, they all professionalize the, uh, the channels. So that’s, those are the early days. Um, and we’ll get into the conversation about how the channel has changed, but that’s how I got started.

Jeremy Balius: So you’re on the front end of channel consultation, you’re developing market entry, uh, I would imagine there’s a lot of cultural transformation required.

Is that something that you started getting into as your, uh, Norwegian background, American educated, uh, now Paris based you’re helping American software companies enter Europe.

I would imagine that there was a lot of change that’s happening within you as well, as you’re not just taking on this new beast of channel strategy in its infancy and growing wildly, but at the same time also helping, uh, helping organizations shift culturally as well, would you say?

Harald Horgen: So at its core, 90 percent of businesses is the same everywhere. Uh, somebody makes something, somebody sells something, somebody buys something. Um, but how that is executed varies by culture and there’s a huge cultural gap between European countries.

So a French company that’s a very poorly trying to sell into Germany. Okay. Uh, French companies don’t do well selling into the UK. UK companies don’t do well selling in Italy, uh, because it’s not a European market. And one of the things that we found out very early was that us companies thought that, well, we’ll, we’ll go to the UK or we’ll go to the Netherlands and we’ll set up our office and we’ll sell to Europe.

Uh, and it doesn’t work that way unless you set up local operations as well. The cultures are different. Um, the way they use language is different. The perception of contracts. So, uh, us companies are very. Driven by legal agreements, the legal agreements are very important because they define the relationship.

So very often you have a us company with a reseller agreement that is 20, 30, 40 pages long, because they want to anticipate every eventuality in the contract ahead of time, because if it’s not in the contract, it becomes a loophole and it becomes an opportunity for the partner that discovers the loophole to get around something and take advantage of their partner.

In France is much more. Well, we need two pages and we need a two page agreement saying that we’re going to work together to create this opportunity and achieve this objective. And if things don’t work out, we’ll sit down and figure it out. So, so a US company would go to France, a French reseller would like the product.

They would sign the contract without even reviewing it. They put it in the drawer. And then a week later, a question would come up. And they would call the US vendor and say, Hey, uh, Jack, we need to get this, this, uh, this, uh, result. And Jack was like, Philippe, look at paragraph 6. 1. 3. It’s addressed in there.

And the guy says, Well, I haven’t really read the contract. So there is a big cultural difference. Um, the, the way, French, the French and the southern Europeans referred to American and UK business practices have an angle Saxon way of doing business, very straightforward, make, make decisions, get things done.

And we, we were doing the channel development for a us company in France. And we’d set up, it was like six months process. And we had the perfect partner for them in France. It was a, uh, a fairly large French, uh, systems integrator. Uh, and this was going to be a strategic product for them. And, uh, we’re dealing with this at the CEO level.

The company had about 2,300 employees. So it’s a fairly sizable operation in France. The U S, uh, managing director or CEO went over to France to finalize the agreement. We had our business sessions. And then as a French do, they said, Hey, uh, we’ve arranged for a very nice table, a reservation at a nice restaurant.

Uh, we’ve got lunch scheduled from 12 o’clock to two o’clock. Let’s, let’s head over. And the American CEO said, you know, I think I’ll just go back to the hotel and work out. Right. And that was, and that was the end of it. There was, there was just no relationship.

So there are, there are, there are cultural differences that you have to be sensitive to.

But, uh, but people, people travel more, and I think they understand that things are going to be different. So as long as there’s a, some level of tolerance for differences, then it works out.

As long as the fundamentals are in place. It’s when people get really focused on the details. of a contract or the relationship and, uh, and they try to manage it based on those details that things don’t work out because those details will be different in Japan, in Singapore, Australia or France.

Jeremy Balius: I am fascinated by this background and, and, uh, I think really inspired by it as well. Being an American living in Australia, Raised in Germany and having this multicultural background as well. Um, and having the ability to navigate, uh, with humility and with empathy is really powerful and I think often under celebrated, in, in terms of how valuable it can be.

And so it’s, it’s amazing to hear that. that grew into this, but then thrived into it. Now, since since the nineties in the early days, you’ve expanded and worked across. I think you mentioned some 20 some odd countries at this point organically over time.

Harald Horgen: Yes. So what happened was in the nineties, we ended up with some products that were early, very early in the US. Been very early in Europe that became international successes. And so we started out working across EMEA and we built the channels and those products were generating millions of dollars of revenue. And then we took those products into Latin America, Asia pack, and built out a similar network in, in, uh, in those markets.

So that’s, that’s how it grew. And our business model has always been, uh, subcontractors and partners, uh, more, when we wanted to be fancy, we said it’s kind of the KPMG model where people work independently and there’s a revenue share, uh, sharing model with a percentage that sticks with the house.

So the people that have the client in one country get a percentage of the revenues, the people that are doing the work in another country get a percentage of the revenues.

And so it’s all very much based on performance and that works out well for our client because there are so many jurisdictions where you simply don’t want to have employees. If you can avoid it, you don’t want employees in Europe because of the, the, uh, the legislation there.

So, so then, um, that grew very quickly and then we hit the, uh, the, the tech bubble in 2000 to 2004 and the business model changed.

There was a huge shakeout both on the software side and the channel side and the channel companies that survived that survived because they had a strong customer base and the business model for channel partners stopped being.

Let’s take on new products and look for net new logos and grow our business became much more focused on how do we monetize and leverage the relationships that we have with our existing customers.

So where, where before, uh, a new ISV, a new software vendor could go international and expect even a small to midsize partner to invest in sales and marketing to grow the logos in the marketplace.

Now it’s very much, no, What can we sell to our existing customers? Is there an opportunity with those existing customers?

So the business model has been turned upside down. And for especially early stage software companies, it’s become very, very difficult for them to establish a meaningful relationship with what we call the traditional channel partners for a couple of reasons.

One is the channel partners are reluctant to take on the risk of a new product.

And it is a risk. And I’ll come back to that because it’s an important element as we were growing our business.

Things didn’t always work out and I couldn’t understand why we sat down and we analyzed all of the point to point relationships that we had set up for all the products and all the channel partners because we have a partner that was very successful in Denmark with with one product, for example, but that a partner in Brazil who had the same profile as the Danish partner and selling the same product wasn’t successful or from our perspective wasn’t doing well.

And, uh, so we sat down and analyzed everything that we had done and the, and the outcome. And we had some epiphanies. Uh, one of them was that, that, uh, what we found out was that we are with our channel partners, we are either strategic or we’re not.

When we started the business, we thought that there would be a linear progression of performance by partner, one partner, one market would sell one license, one, two, three, four, five.

And we find out, no, no, it’s either that they really adopted the product as part of their business. And if they didn’t, it becomes very opportunistic and reactive. And so the difference of performance between a partner that sells on a consistent basis and the opportunistic one is orders of magnitude.

And if you look at most channel programs today, people talk about the Parader rule, the 80/20.

It’s not. That’s aspirational. If you look at most partner communities today, if a vendor has 5-10 per cent of his partners performing on a consistent basis, that’s pretty good.

Very, very few have had 20%. Look at Microsoft. Microsoft has somewhere in the order of magnitude of about 400,000 partners worldwide.

10 per cent of them have silver and gold competencies have made that investment in Microsoft.

That’s 10 percent and Microsoft drives a really organized professional channel program with training and progression and really encouraging the partners to to build up their competencies within within Microsoft.

So, uh, so it’s just so that was one epiphany was that. Either we’re important or we’re not. And then we understood why we weren’t important and why we might be. And it was all around aligning the business model.

One of the things that we, again, in the early days misunderstood, uh, was how much risk we were asking the partners to take on.

And, and, uh, and we had the same attitude as our customers. We fell in love with the product. They had this great little solution. They were doing okay at home, wherever home was.

All the partners had to do was go out and sell it. And, uh, and the, the, the partners like that said, you know, we don’t look at you as an opportunity.

We look at you as a risk. We’re making money. We have a business. We have no two or three strategic products. We have a portfolio of another 20 or 30 products in case people ask, because, uh, the, the channel ended up specializing for the most part, the ones that survived.

They specialized in a vertical, became retail specialist, manufacturing, financial services, or they specialize in certain application areas, became security or collaboration, financial services.

They had special areas of specialization, and that specialization was very often driven by. The success of one or two products initially, and they were the ones that they just happened to be really good at, so they became really good at retail, and so they added more solutions, but their business is still driven by a core set of products that drive most of the revenues, the ones that are important to them.

So when we come in as a new vendor, we want to be strategic product number three, rather than portfolio product number 31. And what that means is that that channel partner has to change their internal processes because everything now is focused on those two or three products that drive 90 percent of the revenues.

Sales, marketing, admin, customer support, order processing, everything is built around those products. And so when we come in with a new vendor, we are going to disrupt what they’re doing today.

And the more of a disruption we are, the less likely it is that’s going to be successful. So we’re coming in and saying, Oh, you need to learn something.

You need a new competency. That’s a real disruption. Uh, you need to invest in marketing. That’s a real disruption. And so when, when, uh, an ISV goes and approaches the, the, uh, the channel partner, they’re often speaking in different languages.

They’re, they, the ISV is so proud of this product. They spent 20 man years sweating blood building this product and they put all their engineering skills into it and they underestimate what it takes to sell something.

So from the partner’s perspective, when the software vendor comes knocking on the door, they look at it as you’re asking me to take on a lot of risk. And you say, well, what risk are you taking on?

Well, first of all, sales and marketing risk. It’s the risk that we put some money into a sales and marketing program and it doesn’t work for whatever reason, wrong message, wrong product, wrong customers, wrong economy. It didn’t work out. But that’s part of the business model and the channel partners accept that.

That’s part of their role. If they, if they take on a new product, they’ll, they’ll do something to test it out. So that’s one level of risk. The second level of risk. Is that the, that they do quite well with it, and especially with the SAS, uh, SAS product.

So you have Johan in Germany that does really well with a new solution and he’s building up his revenues and it takes typically 12 to 18 to 24 months under recurring revenue model for the channel partner to get to a revenue level that’s sustainable and generating profits.

And, but not just Johan, but, but partners in three or four other markets are doing well and the ISV gets acquired. So Microsoft comes in and buys them. Or Oracle or Amazon or Google, someone buys them that has an existing infrastructure of partners. So Johan wakes up because now his vendor has been acquired the next morning.

There’s there are 600 other Microsoft partners in Germany. Better now certified and authorized to sell this product. So whatever preferential relationship Johan had with the ISV goes out the window.

So there’s a huge risk for the channel partner, making this investment up front in the sales and marketing, absorbing the losses while they’re building up the revenue stream.

That that revenue stream is going to disappear either because the ISV gets acquired, or in some cases, the ISV says, Oh, no, Johan is doing 3 million. We’re getting 3 million a year from Johan and he’s getting a 40 or 50 percent margin.

That means that his top line is six or 7 million. Now, why don’t we just set up our own office?

Cancel the contract with Johan and sell direct and keep all that money ourselves. We can set up an office with more people. And what the ISV doesn’t understand is that Johan has relationships with those customers.

And when Johan gets canceled and an American company or an Australian company or South African company comes in and tries to usurp that position, they don’t want to deal with that company because they feel that their vendor that they’ve had a relationship with has been, been poorly treated.

So that’s the second level of risk. The third level of risk is that, is that, uh, Johan takes this. Unknown product to Deutsche Bank, which has been a client for 15 years.

One of his, one of his strategic accounts, Deutsche Bank looks at this and yet we got a project that’s just really well, they take a look at it, they put it through testing and they come back with six pages of questions.

I guess that’s what Germans do. And so they had six pages of technical questions and Johan says that to the vendor in Dayton, Ohio, and, and, uh, and the vendor says, you know, we’re trying to close out our quarter, Johan. We don’t have time for this. Uh, and this pushes it aside.

So what does Johan put at risk here, his relationship and his reputation with Deutsche Bank on behalf of a brand that nobody knows in Germany?

Uh, so the quality of the vendor and their support for the channel partners becomes that third level of risk, and very often early stage software companies simply don’t know how to be good partners.

They know how to develop a good product, but they don’t know how to support a partner and make sure that they’re taking care of and their customers are taken care of.

So from the when you look at from that perspective, the channel partner is expected to take on an enormous amount of risk, and all the ISV is providing is the I P. So this is why, especially in today’s environment.

Channel partners are very, very reluctant to make a new product strategic. All the changes internally, uh, the targets, the expectations, the investment, but again, all the risk that they’re taking on with that new vendor.

So that was a, that was a big epiphany for us. And, and, and that, that became kind of the fundamental that. Okay. We need to understand that. So when we’re, when we’re now going out and recruiting a channel partner, we’re not having a product or technology discussion. We’re having a business discussion. We have to understand what the business model is for them.

And then we address this. So we have to understand that. And so that gets us to the next element of the channel is that. A lot of, a lot of early stage ISVs in particular, they think that channels are channels are channels. Partners are partners are partners.

They don’t make a distinction between different business models. And, uh, there are so many different types of channel partners now. So there are the traditional buyers, the value added resellers that we’ve talked about. There are systems integrators. There’s MSPs, managed service providers. There are, are LSPs, licensed solution partners.

Like, uh, in, in Australia, you have, uh, Data#3, you have, uh, Crayon, you have SoftwareOne. The companies that do the high volume licensing of enterprise agreements for the major global vendors. You have two tier distributors, you have consulting organizations, uh, and each one of them has a different business model.

And so, when a software company is going to a new market, they have to figure out, so what, what business model is best suited for their product? Do they have a product that is purely transactional or no services?

And the only revenue that the partner is going to make is from the margin on the product, then that’s one business model, or is it a very complex enterprise solution that is going to drive a ton of services, and that’s going to become an SI model.

Uh, is it so when you look, and there are a lot of products that simply don’t work with the distribution channel. The distributors are working with resellers. Resellers are working primarily with S. M. B. Customers. And so it’s a high volume business. And so how do you make it interesting for a distributor?

Well, the distribution business today is a, is a pay for play, typically. Uh, that you want to go to a distributor and want them to push you out to the, to their channel, then you’re going to write them a check to drive the marketing campaigns, to do the, the seller onboarding. Uh, and it’s just a pure pay for play.

And for most smaller companies, they don’t have the luxury of doing that. They don’t have the budget to do it. But, uh, so for each type of solution where we start off with this, so who’s going to buy the product and when they buy the product, what’s involved in the transaction, what does the transaction look like?

And based on that, what are the most suitable partners? And then what is the business model going to be? So that if we go and talk to an SI, we’re not going with the product that is just purely transactional and is that it’s transacted over the web. Zero interest for them.

Uh, we’re looking at a more complex solution that can drive hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in services, but then it becomes a low volume play for the ISV because the system’s integrated.

It’s really just looking at the services component. Uh, the, the IP is just a way of driving a project or being included in a bigger project. Uh, and that’s why. For a lot of channel partners, there’s a mismatch between what it actually takes to sell and support the product and the profile of partners that they’re chasing.

Jeremy Balius: There are many points to unpack here. Uh, and I think some of the, some of the points you mentioned, we could dedicate a whole show to, to really go deep.

The concept of opportunity versus risk is illuminating for me, particularly because.

Working on both sides, both at partner, level, trying to deal and make sense of having a stack of, let’s say, upwards of 12 vendors that they partner with, that they’re, take, bundling solutions around and taking to their end users, but also being exposed to the vendor side and, how to enable partners and work with them and so forth.

Even today I see this real mismatch in the way you’re describing it as opportunity versus risk. I think paints language around, there’s a, there’s a, I don’t know whether it’s an institutional ego or a brand ego or something at the vendor side where There’s a seems to be a belief that if you just bolt onto us, that your profit margins will go through the roof, that you have all this opportunity, that if you get in with us, you have it made.

And that is a deep, deeply held belief. And this is while what you’re talking about seems so common sense. This belief goes deep at the ISV level that, that they are the enabler, that they are the, the, that they are the ultimate unlock for their partners and the reality couldn’t be further from it.

Harald Horgen: No, every ISV has that approach almost down the line and, and they all have the same pitch. They’re, they’re talking to a channel partner and say, You’ll love our product. It’s the best product. It’s the only product in the world that does blah, blah, blah, because they’ve all read Crossing the Chasm. Uh, so we’re, we’re unique.

And you can use our product to upsell to your existing customers, and you can use it to open up new accounts. What could be better? But when a channel partner hears that day in and day out from hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of ISVs that are contacted without having done any research into who they are, who their customer base is, and the services that they provide.

On the risk side of it, let me just tell you, I use anecdotes and stories to illustrate a lot of the points. That’s what people walk away with. That’s what they remember. And on the risk side, we use a story about the three legged pig. Farmer Bob goes to visit his friend Farmer John. He parks his car, jumps out, and he sees a little three legged pig limping around the barnyard.

And Bob says, Hey, John, what’s the deal with the pig? And John says, Oh, Bob, that is a, that’s a very special pig. That is no ordinary pig. A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of the night, our house started burning. That pig came in, oinking and squealing, woke us all up, saved our lives, and probably the house.

Two days ago, my little boy fell into the pond. That pig dove in and pulled him to safety. Now a pig like that, you don’t eat all at once. It’s

Yeah, that’s the fate of a channel partner. They’re expected to create all of this value for their vendors. And the business model for channel partner is that they are going to be consumed one way or another. They’re going to be replaced, but with other channel partners, they can be replaced by direct sales and replaced by marketplace.

The vendor will do whatever they can at some point to reduce the revenue stream and the margins that go to their channel partners.

Jeremy Balius: It’s interesting to think about that anecdote as well as this concept in light of recent reminders that change can be radical and swift and global. Uh, and the reality, has been shown recently, even with Broadcom making

Harald Horgen: Mm-Hmm, Oh, yeah, yeah.

Large scale

Jeremy Balius: changes in the VMware side of their channel. And, and that was, I mean, they gave them 30 days note. I mean, the, the, the, the radicality of these changes are swift and that that just highlights even more this risk that these, these guys carry.

Harald Horgen: Yep. Yep. Absolutely. So what they’re much more likely to do is just just kind of focused on the business that they have at hand and for them to add something new to the equation.

The only an exception to that, and this and this is a risk risk to ISVs is that a channel partner has just lost one of their two strategic vendors. So a big chunk of the revenues are gone. What do they do? Frantically search for a replacement product. Right.

And the way channel relationships are established is a very typical pattern, and it’s that the ISV gets an email or an outreach from a channel partner in some market.

The, the very often channels don’t develop because there’s a structured outreach, it’s because they’re getting inquiries. And so they get an inquiry from, from a, uh, a partner in Albania and uh, and the Albanian partners calls ’em up and says, I know that you are a Microsoft or an AWS partner and I’m an AWS or Microsoft partner, uh, found your solution and I have a customer that needs your solution.

We love your product and we’d like to be your partner. Now, what does an ISV do in a situation like that? The human nature is, oh wow, you found us, you love us, you want to work with us? Yes, here’s our agreement, and, and let’s get started, because they got that opportunity. Well, the minute the ISV sends that agreement to the partner, the partner knows that the ISV has no clue as to what they’re doing.

Why would they send and resell agreement without any qualification, no business discussion, no planning, uh, channel partners know when a vendor has a structured program and they don’t. So the channel partners contact them because they have an opportunity. They have a customer that is going through a bigger project.

They need several slices of technology. Uh, the, the channel partner didn’t have that particular slice. They do a search on, on, on the partner website. They find that ISV and they contact the company in Dayton, Ohio. Thank you. And it’s only to fulfill that one, that one customer. In the meantime, they sign a contract with a dating company and now they are an Albanian reseller for, for, for this company.

They’re getting a 30 percent margin. And then the ISV sits back and waits. Okay, now, now that you’ve done this, we’ve been through this process. We provide all the support, go out and fetch. And the partner doesn’t. Um, because number one, the, the ISV has just shown themselves that not have a clue as to what it means to, to, to have a channel program.

And they were just contacted for that one opportunity. And if they could get a 30 percent margin, they’re great. They’re happy to sign the contract. Now they have a whole drawer full of those types of contracts. The other, the other scenario is where, uh, the, the partner has lost one of their strategic accounts.

And now they’re frantically trying to make up for the revenue and they go out and they’ll sign up 20 or 30 or 40. And spray the market with, with an initial outreach and see if any of them land and get traction in all of those cases, they, one of the risks that the ISV does that they look at and ISV will look at that.

It’s like, well, it’s a found opportunity. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But if they do that in an important market like France or Germany or Italy or Australia, and they didn’t really have a structure and a strategy around channels, but they’ve ended up with these random ad hoc relationships and have people that quote unquote represent them.

So now they’ve had, they’ve had Jean Pierre. In France, represent them, represent them for three years. You know, they had that one initial deal. And then a year later, they got an email from one of their sales reps saying, Oh, we have another opportunity, but it’s a different sales rep that went then went through the first deal.

So he doesn’t really know the product well enough to sell it. And they say, well, could you please get on a call with us and make the presentation and help us? So they, the vendor. Quite naturally to support the partner gets on, they go through all of these things and they, they really drive the sales process and maybe they do the POC and they do everything they need, they can do and they close the deal and the partner collects their 30 or 40%.

And then you sit back and say, well, I’ve got two of them go out and fetch and nothing happens. So two years later, uh, the, the, the same thing, rinse and repeat, because it’s all very random.

And for, for that was what’s happened for the ISV is that they’ve got two or three customers that they might. Or may not be able to support, but they’re relying on a partner who doesn’t know the technology well enough.

So they’re getting probably all of the support calls directly to them or through the partner back to them. Uh, so they’re absorbing all of the costs that are supposed to accrue to, to, to the, the channel partner. But then they’ve done well in the U. S. and they’ve been to Australia. They’ve done well in Australia.

They’ve done well in the UK. And now France is a strategic market. That’s it. We’re really going to focus on France because we have a couple of references. So they start going through the partner recruitment process, and they have some very qualified companies that they’re talking to. And then those companies come back and say, Hey, wait a minute, uh, Jean Pierre is your reseller in France.

Well, yeah, yeah, yeah, but he’s not a serious partner. It’s just very random. Yeah, but Jean Pierre’s had it for three years. Jean Pierre’s got these other products that he does really well with. So what’s the issue here? Is it, is it Jean Pierre? Is it the product isn’t suitable for France? Is it you as a vendor?

You’ve actually polluted the market. For your brand by having something just sit on the shelf because or the competition is going to use that so the your competition might be better established in France and now your new partner is going up against them and the other channel partner is going to say, you know, that product’s been in France for three years.

Only two customers use it. You really want to take the risk Mr customer of buying this product that nobody wants.

So there’s a, there’s a, there’s a, There’s an opportunity cost, a hidden cost reputationally that ISVs don’t necessarily appreciate when they have this network of opportunistic reactive ad hoc partners around the world.

Jeremy Balius: Let’s say, let’s, let’s say I’ve got a channel program and I’ve got, Uh, uh, and I, and I’m not deeply cognizant about which partners are profitable or which aren’t. I’m, I’ve just been growing my channel program and, and, and as you’ve been saying, I’ve therefore been attracting a lot of these opportunistic partners.

They’re individually not really growing, but I look really good because I’ve been growing. Uh, net new logos into our channel program, and therefore our business appears to be growing. I haven’t really needed to go deep into the metrics. If I were to start, what would I be doing and what would I be uncovering within the partner base?

Is, is this where you’re talking about if I, if 5 percent of my partners are transacting well, I’m actually. On par with most channel programs. And then what do I do about it? Where do I start?

Harald Horgen: The fact that you’re on par doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable. Uh, yeah, so you do get to the point where somebody says, you know, you’ve got, we’ve got 800 partners and why are only 40 of them actually producing revenues and we need to take a look at this and, uh, and because everyone talks about, okay, you’ve got your performing partners and then you have the long tail partners and what do you do with that, that long tail, uh, and what companies don’t always.

Really calculated. Well, what is the cost of support? Because they don’t look at it at all. If they, if they, if they throw us a deal every once in a while, it’s all additive. It doesn’t matter. So there’s no cost associated with it. But I went through, I’ve been through a number of scenarios like that. And, and, um, there’s a company up in Montreal.

They had, they had, uh, Hundreds and hundreds of partners. They were all, they only sold indirect and, uh, and the, the regional managers that managed the local partners were all copped on just the top line revenue. So they didn’t care if a partner produced five or six thousand. It’s all additive for them to help their cop.

And it’s not done with the CFO. And we went through a couple of different levels of analysis. I said, uh, that’s it. That’s the guy’s name. Um, Why don’t you, let’s, let’s calculate your, your partner break even points. And what do you mean partner break even point? I said, yeah, so take all of your direct costs that are associated with support of this entire network.

There were, there were 800 partners in that network. And so you’re the cost of the offices, your regional managers, marketing, SPFs, MDF, everything that, that is directly associated with the channel. Take that number divided by 800 and they did. And it was the number of $17,000. And he said, Oh, and I said, okay, but it’s worse than that.

That’s just a nominal break-even point. Now look at all of your support calls and break that down by revenue. And what they found was that 60 per cent 60 or 60 per cent of the calls came from partners that represented 6 percent of the revenues.

So the actual cost of the non-performing partners was much, much higher than the $17,000.

So, so I said, okay, We need to do something. Uh, and I said, yes. So let’s, what do you do about that long tail? And, um, and we, we went through an exercise of analyzing the partners and putting them in the kind of, you always have the four quadrants, right? Uh, the, the, the, the magic quadrants.

And so the, the top left where what we call, we call them the low performer, Uh, high potential and very often those are partners that weren’t selling a lot of your product because they were, they were married to a competitive product, but that’s, that’s what they’re of the business.

They wanted us as plan B or as a fallback as an option. And, uh, but if you can do a win back strategy with those companies, then the improvement in performance is orders of magnitude because they go from. Not selling much at all to selling a lot, either they go from being opportunistic to being strategic and the top right hand quadrant were.

Uh, high performers, high potential, and that’s a sweet spot. That’s a 5%. That’s a 5 per cent that is generating a lot of revenue, but also growing and investing and continuing to drive new new logos.

The bottom right is the most frustrating quadrant. Those are the high performers, low potential. Those are the partners that hit typically four or 500, 000 in revenues.

Cause that’s what one salesperson can generate if they’re dedicated to a product and they were generating four to 500, 000 and had absolutely no interest in moving from it. That’s, that was their, the part of the business that they allocated to this vendor and you can never go back and say, well, how do we get this to a million?

How do we grow it? They were just weren’t interested. And so for those partners, you say, okay, well, fine. We’ll just maintain. Me. Very happy to do with doing, uh, and we’ll just support you. The bottom left is the, the long tail. Those, those are the partners that don’t produce. And there you have to make a decision.

Do you move them up? Do you move them out? Uh, or do you change the compensation structure? A lot of times ISVs as they’re growing the program, they don’t manage or change the margin structure. Uh, and they’re overpaying the non performers because they, they got 30 per cent when they close the deal, they’re getting 30 per cent on renewals.

But why are you paying the 30%? Therefore, fraternity on on on renewals when they’re not putting any effort into it. And that’s where there’s a real potential to drive more growth. And so in that quadrant, the exercise is to go back to them with a kind of a new improved program. But you give them a decision.

Uh, are you in or are you out? And if you want to maintain your 30%, then you have to make an investment in marketing and you have to hit a certain revenue target or a net new logo target in order to maintain the 30 per cent and whatever that level of certification is.

And if you’re willing to buy into it, we will take some of that margin and Give it back to you in MDF, but, but co funded MDF, uh, and then, then you make it, but you have to give that opportunity to everybody.

You can’t just start slashing. There has to be a quid pro quo and an opportunity. And then you find out the ones that are willing to make an investment. If they’re not, if they’re not, then drop their margin. I went through this with, uh, with another, it’s a smaller company. Uh, they had 140 partners, but the partners had been with them forever.

And, uh, and they were all getting 40% on everything, 40% on net new upsells, renewals, maintenance. Everything was 40%. And when we went through that exercise and we slashed the, the non-performers from 40% to 10%, it freed up $1.8 million in annual cash flow for the vendor. Unreal. And I said, okay, so take half of that and put that into marketing.

Take, take, uh, of this. So now you have $900,000 in marketing. Take 300,000 of that and just give that. No strings attached to the top right quadrant. because they’re going to put it to good use. They want to grow their business and you’ll get a return on it. Just here’s here’s $50,000. Go spend it. Drive new business for us.

Uh, take, take, take, take another chunk and use that for a win back program uh, to, to get that top left-hand quadrant. Uh, and then whatever’s remaining goes to the bottom left that actually sign up and say, yep, we’ll sign up for $20,000 marketing campaign. Here’s our $10, 000. Here’s your $10,000. And we really want to make this work.

But you still have not $900,000 left over every year. So you have this real boost in activity in three of the four quadrants. That’s one that you can’t do anything with, uh, boosting activity. U

h, and you also then be, I can filter out the, the non-performance. And if you’re willing, if they’re, you know, the, the, the big pushback that I get from vendors when we go through that exercise.

Yeah, but they’re gonna be really upset with us. I said, so are you? You think they’re going to say no to 10%? Yeah, they’re going to be upset. That’s right. Yeah. And they say, yeah, but what if they sell the company? Well, they’re not selling you today.

So what’s the downside? You’re just freeing up cash. And sometimes you just have to take that brutal decision, a business decision to do what’s best for you.

Uh, when partners about live their usefulness. And in some cases, well, Below this level, if they never get beyond five or 10, 000 and there’s no hope for growth, let’s just get rid of them because we can cut down the overall infrastructure costs of maintaining channel partners that aren’t producing revenue.

Jeremy Balius: It must be so confronting for them to consider large scale change like this. Because there, there’s this paradox of not wanting to rock the boat too much and lose partners. But at the same time, that might be the best outcome, uh, uh, the bad fit partners.

Harald Horgen: Great. But once I see the numbers, that’s what, that’s, that’s okay. We were talking about millions of dollars here and, and, and really accelerating the growth of the performing partners and it becomes, okay, yeah, we just need to do this.

They don’t, they, they haven’t really gone through the calculation. So they don’t know what the carrying costs are.

Of the long tail and non performing partners. Uh, very often they have in these organizations, especially if they have a direct and an indirect sales channel, they’re both. Reporting up to the to the vice president of sales, which we never recommend.

I mean, there should be a different reporting structure.

Uh, then, then, uh, the, the, the partners are the second most important because the direct sales will always drive the bigger chunk of revenues. And so every two years, they’ll look at their channels and say, you know, this isn’t really working the way you expect it, and they just replace the channel manager, and they’ll assign a pre-sales person or somebody from the marketing department.

Hey, why don’t you go run channels for two years? It takes that person two years to really understand the things that we’re talking about now, the real dynamics of the, of the channel and what they need to do. And by that time there’s, you know, why, why haven’t you grown 10 or 20 percent we’ll just replace.

So as you get this, this cost of turnover in channel management, Uh, that, that makes it very difficult to have continuity and to build a strong foundation. And then nobody, ultimately nobody is really responsible for fixing the problem that’s accrued over many, many years.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, and that’s that’s a that’s a killer right there.

Nobody owns any of this. I want to take you back to a point you were making earlier around Relationships that and you mentioned Jay McBain earlier And this is something that’s been core to his messaging over the past year and and beyond Um, around partnerships and what constitutes a real thriving partnership and the relationships therein.

He cites distributors like Pax8 as being the gold standard of developing relationships at grassroots level and it’s really taken a number of years of blind commitment to accelerate to being the fastest growing distributor. So I’m going to ask you a question, and I’m going to ask you a question globally now.

Why is it so hard for business leaders in the channel to think strategically and pragmatically around developing relationships when they don’t have the numbers to match up? If we develop relationship, we get X return. And how do we work through that to change the channel for an ASV going forward?

Harald Horgen: Yeah, it comes back to the different business models that different partner types have.

So a distributor, PAX 8, they do a really good job with SAS solutions. They provide a lot of enabling services, they have a lot of training programs. But at the end of the day, they’re still a volume based distributor. And for an ISV to get meaningful mindshare from a PAX 8, no, you’re going to go into the catalog.

PAX 8 will, will, will drive the initial campaigns of awareness, um, and they’ll get you exposure with their channel partners, but then either you get traction or you don’t. Or you come in and you provide a funded marketing program to drive awareness and be a little bit more selective of the partners that you work with.

So, uh, it’s still for an early stage, ISV is still a very difficult model to scale. Uh, and so when we look at partnerships, let me, let me back up a little bit and say, so what’s the definition of a strategic partner? Because that’s what you want when we’re talking about partnership. It’s really that partnership, uh, where, where both companies are working closely together.

And what we found was that there are three characteristics of a strategic partner, uh, in the, in the business model. Um, uh, the first is that there is a, at least a designated salesperson in the partner organization. Now that could be within a Paxator. This could be one person that is responsible for managing that ISV.

So they, they all have account managers for the global ISVs. Because of the volume, uh, and, and you can’t really get that in a Disney model if you’re, if you’re a low volume ISV, but you can get that with, with, uh, pretend with an SI or with a bar or other channel partners that are selling direct to the end user.

So the, the first thing is, is somebody getting compensated for the revenue on your product. And it’s something that a lot of ISVs overlook. They, they, they’re signing a contract with a company. And then the company could be the owner of the company that said, Oh, yeah, and here’s our revenue. Target is 300, 000 for the first year.

And now you sign a contract with a company, but a company doesn’t sell products. People sell products, and if you’re not getting down to the level of the salesperson in the organization, that is simply not going to work because there’s a disconnect between the owner of the management that signed the contract and the people that have to go out and sell the people that have to go out and sell.

They already have stuff they’re doing today. They’ve got their KPIs, they’ve got the comp structure, and just throwing another product at them doesn’t change. So, so what we want, so the first part of it is, are you important enough to them that they will at least designate, not necessarily dedicate, but at least designate somebody that goes through training, gets to know your product well enough that they can sell it on their own, and then gets directly compensated, not just get a commission structure, but also impacts their KPIs.

And so if they don’t have the KPIs, that comp mix. That’s, that’s, that’s one characteristic. The second is that the partner, whatever discipline is commits to an activities based marketing plan. So, you know, in a direct sales organization, salespeople don’t generate leads. They work on the leads that they get from the marketing department.

And it’s the same thing within a reseller organization. So if the reseller organization, Doesn’t do a regular cadence of marketing activity. Uh, then there won’t be any leads. Those leads won’t go to a reseller to the to the seller and the seller won’t bother. So as part of a contract, a contractual relationship with a strategic partner, we want to see a marketing plan that we call that activity space.

Do one thing every month to drive pipeline. That could be a seminar, a webinar, a email campaign, SEO campaign, direct sales, whatever. And each partner has different comfort levels with things that they know work for them. That’s fine. Just do whatever you do for these other products that you sell. Do that for us every single month.

Because then you can monitor that. You can see the activity and you can help them build a pipeline because the salespeople, once they have leads, they know what to do with it. They’ll follow the leads and they’ll pursue the leads, but they need to be fed those leads. And then the third element of the relationship is that, that you become part of their survival toolkit.

What we mean by that is that you become important enough to their business. That if you go away, it’s going to have a real negative impact. They’re going to feel the pain if you go away for whatever reason. And that means that when the economy turns, they don’t, when they start cutting back on the priorities, you’re not one of the things that they cut back on.

And, uh, so. And that’s the revenue impact that you have on the organization, not just from your product, but any pull through revenue. It could be pull through revenue from adjacent products. Uh, so you know, you’re selling a solution that always pulls through SharePoint or, or M 365 or, or, or, uh, a CRM system.

Uh, that, that because you have a point solution for specific industry, uh, and then the services, and this also becomes part of that. The business model planning. So if you as a as a vendor understand what’s involved in your transaction, you can go to a partner, say, Well, every time you sell our product and our product is 50, 000, it pulls through 100, 000 in services.

You’ll make the margin that it pulls through 50, 000 of adjacent technologies. So when you create a solution, you now have a 200, 000 solution. It’s not the margin you get from our 50, 000. It’s the margin you get from the 200, 000. That is a completely different business model for, but you have to connect the dots as the vendor.

It’s your responsibility to connect the dots. And so the more you can impact their overall revenues directly and indirectly from your product, the more important you become, then the more strategic you are as well. And you have a longer term relationship. So those are the three things that we look at.

Those are the three common characteristics. And this is also. For, for an ISV, it also defines the partners that they’re going after. Now, if you, if you potentially can generate half a million or a million dollars in revenue for a partner, well, for a partner that’s doing 10, 20, 30 million dollars, that’s significant.

But if it’s a Disney that’s doing a billion dollars, then it’s the drop in the bucket. They don’t care whether you go away and what happens to you. You don’t move the dial for them. So can you get the, but then there are also large organizations that are broken down into groups. So, uh, A telco, for example, might have different, uh, different teams for different verticals and different technologies.

So the telco might have a huge revenue stream that you’re not going to impact, but you could be very important to the healthcare, uh, part of their operations and the team that is running healthcare. And so you look at what the percentage of revenues that you can be for the people that make the decision about whether or not to invest in the sales and marketing to support your solution.

Jeremy Balius: Harold, the sheer amount of experience that you’ve accrued, I think is coming out in the clarity that you’re able to paint for this, and I’m very, very appreciative of the way that you were able to articulate this, uh, strategic intent in a way that makes sense for people. It’s just, I think business ISV side who are either taking channels to These are hyper intelligent people, but they believe that if they just build it, then they’ll thrive.

They just, they, they think the sprint is just to get the channel up and running and, and then hyper growth from there. And, and what you’re really painting is, the fact that the sprint, to develop the program was really the to sprint to the start line that the race is actually starting at the point of launching the program, and there’s a lot of work to be done from there.

Harald Horgen: Yeah, but when it works, when it works, the channels are the fastest, most cost effective way for a venture to expand into a new market. Very few vendors, even the large ones, are trying to push more and more of the stuff through the channel. Dell is doing that, I mean, Cisco, VMware, they’ve always had, up until recently maybe, had really strong channel programs.

Microsoft has had really strong, they’ve always been, in the past, prior to 95 percent of their sales go through channel partners. Now they are changing their business model, because so much of what they do is just transactional. Uh, you don’t have to provide services to, to process an enterprise agreement.

So, so why are you paying a margin to someone that’s just processing a license? Uh, and they’re also putting more and more emphasis on the marketplace. So these are all dynamics that impact the, the channel partners, uh, because they’re starting to lose what were traditional, reliable revenue sources.

Jeremy Balius: You’ve given us so much to reflect on. I’m deeply appreciative of you sharing your insights and, thanks for coming on the show.

Harald Horgen: No, thank you very much for having me on the show. But as you can tell, I love channels. It’s when the model works, it’s the thing of beauty. And it’s a way for small companies to really grow exponentially at relatively low cost if they put the time and effort into building the program properly, or if they’ve been out there for a while and they have a partner program that isn’t operating optimally, then there’s remedial action.

It all comes down to the very basic common sense. Things that they can do as long as they know what to do. One of the things that, that drives us crazy is that, that the companies over invest in the technology and the process side of the channel. Uh, and then a lot of the partners don’t care. They don’t want another, uh, partner portal.

They don’t want all the structure. They want a meaningful, direct relationship with someone that they can rely on to help them when they’re selling the product. And if they have a question that comes up, uh, it really just comes back to where we started off at the very beginning. And then the cultural differences between.

ISVs and channel partners. If you can bridge that cultural divide and speak the same language, then you will really be able to develop a strong partnership.

Jeremy Balius: It’s words of wisdom there. Thanks so much, Harold.

Harald Horgen: Jeremy, thank you very much.

The theme of our seventh podcast episode is Market Development Funds (MDF).

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things MDF is Liliana Grisales, Global MDF Business Owner at Schneider Electric.


In this conversation, Liliana Grisales shares insights into the world of MDF programs and channel incentives. Liliana discusses her background and career journey, highlighting her diverse roles at Schneider Electric. She emphasizes the importance of aligning MDF programs globally and complying with legal and financial regulations. Liliana also explores the complexity of channel strategy and the challenges of justifying ROI in MDF programs. She provides best practices for collaboration and strategic planning in partner programs, focusing on uniqueness and customer attraction. The conversation concludes with key takeaways for successful MDF programs.

Key Takeaways

  • Aligning MDF programs globally is crucial to ensure compliance with legal and financial regulations.
  • Justifying ROI in MDF programs can be complex, but it is essential to measure the success of activities and optimize the program.
  • Collaboration between vendors and partners is key to developing effective MDF programs, with regular reviews and strategic planning.
  • Partners should focus on their uniqueness and develop a strategic marketing plan to attract and retain customers.

About Liliana Grisales

Liliana Grisales is the Global MDF Business Owner at Schneider Electric, where she spearheads the transformation of Market Development Funds (MDF) across all channels.

As a recognized subject matter expert in MDF, Liliana has played a pivotal role in crafting commercial rules in alignment with new global and company policies.

Her responsibilities extend to driving the digitization of processes, education, and fostering the adoption of the MDF program to ensure compliance, efficient fund utilization, and program effectiveness.

With an impressive 28-year track record in global IT companies, she has demonstrated expertise in Sales, Business Development, Strategic Marketing, Channel Marketing, and Programs.

A native of Colombia, Liliana has called Miami, US home for the past 21 years. She holds a degree in Electronic Engineering and a Master’s in International Business from South Eastern University in Miami.

Connect with Liliana on LinkedIn.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the podcast episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi, welcome to the B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast, where we engage with leading marketing and channel leaders to get fresh perspectives and practical advice on the latest trends, effective strategies, and best practices for B2B tech marketing. I’m your host, Jeremy Balius. Today’s theme is Marketing Development Funds.

I’m very excited because I’m joined by Liliana Grisales. Liliana is the global MDF Business Owner at Schneider Electric, where she spearheads the transformation of MDF across all their global channels.

As a recognized subject matter expert in MDF, Liliana has played a pivotal role in crafting commercial rules in alignment with new global and company policies, and she’s been driving the digitization of processes, education, and fostering the adoption of the MDF program across all their channel programs to ensure compliance, efficient fund utilization and program effectiveness.

She’s got 28 years’ background in global IT companies, working across sales, business development, strategic marketing, channel marketing, where she’s gained a wealth of knowledge and insight. She’s been at Schneider Electric for 21 years.

She’s a native of Columbia and she’s been living in Miami for the past 21 years. This is such a great conversation where Liliana really goes into the breadth of what an MDF program needs to include globally. The decision-making process that goes into it region by region the dynamic flexibility required to collaborate well with partners in a meaningful way, while also ensuring compliance and regulatory policies are met.

She also details how MDF programs and funds can work best for partners and for successful partner marketing and the way that partners can approach their marketing strategy in collaboration with their vendors and the way that Schneider Electric collaborates with their partners.

So, let’s get into the conversation.

Liliana, it’s so great to have you on our show. I would love to start with your background before we get into your role. At Schneider electric, could you tell me a little bit about how you got to where you are today?

Liliana Grisales: Firstly, Jeremy, thanks for having me in your show. I’ve been in the technology industry for over 28 years now. I’ve been working in several, global companies spending the last 21 years with Schneider Electric. Okay. My career began in Columbia. Okay. And I always wanted to move to US.

So I was transferred with another company with a work visa to work in the US and after a while, actually six months at the company, I was laid off.

So I started looking for a new opportunity and luckily Schneider Electric received me with open arms and since there I’ve been working with Schneider Electric.

I held positions from sales, business development, strategic marketing, channel programs, channel marketing, and I was in charge of the operations of Latin America from Miami, for the Caribbean islands, Central America, Mexico, and South America. And then then I wanted to move, looking for new horizons in my career.

Schneider is a big company and they have a lot of divisions. So I wanted to move and get the experience out of the Information Technology sector. So then I moved into the electrical market, right?

So I move on to a global position as a Global Marketing Director for the distribution channel there. My, my role, my main role was actually to develop the channel in charge of campaigns, et cetera.

Also, I started a beat the transformation of the marketing development funds, but it was not until after three years that I was recruited from the Global Pricing organization from Schneider Electric to lead the transformation on MDF for the entire group across the channels.

It is when I started this role that I’m actually in it right now. And the, basically what I’m doing in this position is working from the very beginning with the different organizations to create the commercial or the business rules of what MDF means for Schneider Electric.

So I’ve been working with legal organizations, with the compliance, with finance, accounting, and even with taxes. Okay. With the organization of taxes, because there are many, recently has been a lot of changes globally in the policies that regulates all channel incentives. And we, as a global company needs to be fully aligned to those global.

And so I’ve been working on this and also supporting our digital team to develop the digital solution for MDF for the company. That’s basically my story in a nutshell.

Jeremy Balius: Wow. 21 years at Schneider Electric. That’s amazing. I think what’s really powerful about your story is the amount of experience that you’ve gained across the company in so many different roles.

Do you think that’s given you insight into how you are going about transforming the MDF model and program for Schneider Electric, given your background across strategic marketing and sales and everything else that you’ve done, has that given you a better understanding of helping transform this area?

Liliana Grisales: I’ve been working since I was in Global Distribution, I’ve been working with other divisions. Okay, not only global distribution, but I would have been working with the other divisions of Schneider as digital energy, as industry with the different channels that they have different channel programs for solution partners, for transactional partners.

So that is giving me really the flavor of Schneider, moving into the market through all our partner ecosystem, understanding the rules of engagement, understanding programs, understanding as well how the commercial policy, because all of those channels, all of those divisions have their own rules.

So, obviously, when we were building this new, as we call it MDF Playbook or the business rules for MDF, we needed to validate across all those divisions. So that has given me a lot of insights of what each division or how they are driving the channels.

Yes, definitely. It has helped me a lot to understand, Schneider across all the channel ecosystem.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, wow. Now you’re subject matter expert for MDF globally. That is such a huge role. What was it looking like prior to you taking on that role? Were different areas of the channel, running at different speeds, are you focused on aligning an approach to MDF, like the MDF playbook that you mentioned, is your main vision here to align such that Schneider has a global view on MDF?

Liliana Grisales: One of the main points for this position, because I’ve been all my life working in marketing and channel, right? So from the business standpoint, I was in operations.

I knew the process. I knew the steps, the business itself, but it’s a different thing to work, to align to the global policies, talking from finance’s standpoint from the global finance regulations, talking about, for instance, competition law, all our rules needs to be aligned to do to those new global policies.

So that changed completely the scenario, right? And all of those rules are related to channel incentives, because as a company, we need to be very careful and managing that risk because we are in a competitive market, right?

And we need to succeed. And in order to succeed, we really need to be aligned to these rules because at the end of the day, those competition laws are designed to establish a fair competition in the markets, right?

To protect the consumers. So they, they don’t pay more than they should, right? And also for Schneider is very important that we behave in a competitive, in a very legal matter, right?

And there are several points, like for instance, a Schneider in some regions, they can have a dominant position for a Schneider.

If we are above 30%, for instance, of market share, we need to be very careful. How we roll out those channel incentives across all the channels. So we really need to be very fair and we we, for instance, cannot exclude. Any of our competitors out of the market. In other words, we can no be abuse of that dominant position.

So this is very important. And also teaching, educating our countries, our sales people on that is very important because at the end of the day. Customers can present compliance or even competitors about any anti-competitive behavior or involvement in illegal business.

And this can represent an important fines for the company. Sue’s, et cetera, and not even that, but I have heard such stories as a personal criminal liabilities to name some of them. So this is super important. And when I was in the business space, I was not aware of that.

I was really focused on and on doing business. But also this part of the organization or any other businesses is really important.

So that’s why all the programs all the channel programs really needs to be aligned with your legal, with your financial departments, with your fiscal or taxes organizations to be fully in compliance, because at the end of the day, you’re going to save time at resources down the line.

That’s basically the point.

Jeremy Balius: I think this is so fascinating to hear the sheer amount of effort that goes into channel strategy. And I believe that there is a view in the market, potentially. Primarily from partners in partner programs in general, that just look at MDF as free money and request it to top up marketing programs or demand generation activities or lead gen offers or to incentivize their sales staff or whatever.

But I think what’s so valuable about what you’re talking about here is that. On the side of the vendor and the MDF program that gets built is so complex and is filled with so much legal parameters and and a requirement for strategic review region by region to ensure that you are allocating your funds appropriately, and that might get missed by partners is that something that you have to educate partners on the complexities of the structure?

Liliana Grisales: Partners are going to see a change.

They are going to see a change in the process that maybe we are going to be more strict than before. And also, I can tell you, there are partners that are large partners of Schneider that they are. Also need to be compliant, right?

Maybe the little ones, they are not fully aware, but those that even has a good a good dominant position in the market, they need to be aware of.

So this is not only from the vendor size. This is something that, it’s part of the entire ecosystem when you are in a competitive market, when you are in the business of selling solutions and products, right?

And I didn’t mention, but one of the other points, talking from the legal and compliance standpoint mitigation of rigs, for maybe fraud this type of practices that.

That can occur in some countries more than others, et cetera. But also another important thing that has impacted MDF is for instance, how you how you register the expenses that, how you register that investment in the financial accounting books. So this is another important thing, because, maybe you may have heard when we talk about MDF, we are talking about contract revenue, right?

Which is deducted from the sales of our partners. But depending on the Activity and this is something that I learned also from this project and from this role is very important, from finances standpoint to do the correct allocations of MDF. This is another important point for vendors to consider.

And also, this goes from region to region. Okay. Some regions maybe may, could be more stricter than others, but. Each region have like their own regulations, right? So this is important to consider as well.

Jeremy Balius: I think what is incredibly interesting here in terms of the accounting side and the concept of contra revenue and, or how one justifies the disposal or acquittal of MDF is.

The organizations that partner with Schneider Can be very large or very small and they are in a wide range of company types. Schneider’s program has consulting firms, distributors, I.T. service providers, Original Equipment Manufacturers, System Integrators, and many other company types.

And so the ecosystem’s complex because each of those organizations sells differently or generates demand at different cycles. And so the way that MDF is then deployed in partnership with them may lead to outcomes at various timeframes.

And one thing that I’ve seen elsewhere that’s being considered is, MDF is allotted at a quarterly pace, but the revenue might not be generated in that same quarter. How do we acquit MDF and justify the ROI? How do we talk about that with partners and how do you justify it?

Liliana Grisales: This is an important topic for any type of channel incentive, right? Because companies have these channel incentives to modify behavior and to drive revenue. And that means return of investment, depending on the channel type companies needs to build programs, customized programs, and part of those programs are, for instance, type of MDF, right?

When you have transactional partners. Like distribution partner, when you have historical sales year over year, so you know exactly what type of MDF you’re going to apply to that type of partner. But when, imagine you are starting with a new service provider, with a new specific partner for a specific segment, etc.

When you have You don’t have those historical sales company has to bet, on developing that channel. And there are also other types of MDF types, as we call it, that we can apply. So that will, and that’s the beauty of channel incentive. That’s the beauty of MDF that you can customize. And that’s why, and I’m part of our strategy behind building the business rules for MDF was that, right?

So funding sources, et cetera, to be able to respond dynamically to the market, because again, we are in a competitive arena and we need to respond. So maybe if we have very important from legal standpoint contracts, that support those MDF from our partners, but imagine remember COVID. All what happened after COVID.

So any of those situations may happen any change or a significant change in the market may happen that we need to steer this strategy. And this is very important. That’s why you need to be flexible as well. While aligning to, of course, the global rules, etc. But there are ways to really.

Frame the program of MDA for those cases specifically that you are mentioning without leaving, out any partner, because if we or Schneider or any other vendor really. Can see the let’s say the potential of that particular partner. Maybe it could be a new partner, but it has a really important opportunity or potential opportunity.

So there is a way to invest for them to start generating funds out of MDF, even though they don’t have historical cells. And then. The idea is to keep or to kick off the, or to do the startup to kick off the business. And then after six months review, and they move into the next program.

But there are ways to talk all these type of scenarios within an MDF program, or even a rebate program as well, a performance bonus program.

Jeremy Balius: I’m really welcoming the way that you worded that and I’m going to quote you on when you said respond dynamically. I think that was really powerful and something that I think many other MDF program providers should consider. When they get too rigid and don’t have the flexibility that you’ve described I think they make it too hard to collaborate with.

What do you think is best practice in terms of. Collaboration. Do you advocate for deep involvement by Schneider in the way that the MDF is deployed?

Do you prefer quarterly business reviews? Do you prefer a steering group committee project team? What’s the best way?

Liliana Grisales: For instance, for our business rules, our commercial rules that we created? Actually, what we are recommending to countries across Schneider channels is it has we have at the end of the year, we need to start preparing planning for next year.

The budget team and planning, the intention is, even though it’s not going to be perfect, create a high level plan with the partner.

The first point, Jeremy, is in reality, you need to segment your partners. Okay. When you talk about channel incentives, some partners, they have marketing capabilities, others have potentially no marketing capabilities or vice versa, or maybe they can have both.

What is important is in the country needs to decide who you’re going to which partners are going part of your MDF, right? Meaning your MDF program needs to have, first of all, of course, some requirements from the partner standpoint.

And and then second, and very important for Schneider, for us, MDF is to jointly develop the market with the partner.

That is our first premise, right? That’s why when you were asking me the most important part at the beginning of the year is to meet with the partner. Look at overall. What are the goals of the partner? What are our strategic goals are? What are the country goals?

All of that combined are going to create that strategy, that high level plan for the year.

Okay. And when we talk about so this is the most important, and then we need to decide the how the how we are going to do it.

And actually one of the things that we are educating the partners, it’s eight steps to create a strategic marketing plan. For the partners following each of those steps, but is very important again, depending on let’s say the partner, if the partner is addressing a healthcare market, if the partner is just in the home business.

Or in the partner is the industry business. They need to accomplish several things. They need to accomplish, of course, a level of expertise. So then certification is important. Education is important for the partner, for the sales teams, for the pre-sales teams, for the technical team, et cetera.

And then we need to create one of the things and also to facilitate the deployment of MDF. We really created some activities, MDF activities. There are standardized activities for Schneider that. Any partner, even if it’s a solution provider, if it’s a transactional partner can use. Okay.

So we are giving these, let’s say this reference, this template of activities for the partners, like a menu of, it is where they can use depending on their goals, depending on their goals they want to achieve, but definitely is something that is neither is heavily involved with our partners. We do it together.

Okay. And also because remember. MDF is a controlled budget, okay? Meaning that the vendor needs to approve the plan that the partner presents. When we meet with the partners yearly, we align on this overall plan, right? But throughout the year, the partners are going to start sending the activities the request of the activities for to be funded.

And then because we already have that plan, so we are going to be able to approve or not. Once the activity is approved, then it’s on the partner side to execute the activity. And here is when it plays a very important role that proof of execution, which is one of the legal requirements that we have and that we are enforcing with these new global rules.

But there is a really a significant involvement from Schneider throughout the process, guiding our partners, et cetera. Because and also as you mentioned, this is just from requesting the activity, executing the activity, providing proof of execution, and then we need to optimize.

And the only way to optimize is very difficult that you do a quarterly, a review every month what we are recommending and even.

With those partners that you want to focus on, maybe you have a Pareto of 80, 80, 20 percent those partners that are heavily invested on MDF, you need to do really quarterly reviews to understand what activities are working, which was are not working and then. Really re-adapt your plan, but this is more or less how we frame the process from requesting that from planning from budgeting requesting the activity executing the activity and then at the end.

Really reviewing because we need to optimize the program and when we talk about return of investment, that will depend a lot because, most of the times and I did this research with several channel companies from the industry, asking them that there are plenty in the out there, right? Asking how they are mentioned.

Measuring return of investment out of MDF activities or any marketing activity, right? So it always depends on the activity. There are activities that are revenue driven that you’re going to see a straightforward results by revenue, sell out activities, right? Every time you do a sell-out activity, you must have an incremental revenue on return.

If you are giving away some prices because partners are invoicing above, let’s say, 3,000 euros, you immediately, they can get an award. They can get a price or something like that. So this is going to be reflected immediately. But there are other activities from demand generation that you’re not going to see it right away.

And that’s why we also recommend some metrics of success for those activities. Okay. In order to measure performance of the activities and in order to optimize the program, Okay.

I don’t know if that answered your question, but it’s very, I love the topic and it’s really very detailed if you go and you are going to educate your channel and that and really the most important is that, companies have this channel incentives because at the end of the day is going to bring more dollars in return.

Jeremy Balius: It does answer the question and so much more and it leads to more questions because I love this topic as well and could spend all day talking about it, what I wanted to pick up on what you just mentioned that I’m really fascinated by and a little bit inspired by as well, this approach of taking a strategic review to develop a plan for the year, and then.

Having those big goals in place so that when the quarterly or campaign by campaign requests come through, as long as they align with the plan, it sounds like there is a more efficient approval process and the assurance of the.

Allocation of those funds seems would have a. Easier compliance process as well as approval process.

Liliana Grisales: That’s correct. And also while you were talking, Jeremy, that took me to one important point. As from the industry, when I was reviewing, there are statistics that on average, 60 percent of all the MDF funds globally go unused.

And you know why this could be happening. Partners have several vendors, right? Sometimes all vendors are, really pushing to the partner to do this program, to do this other, that they are overwhelmed. Okay. In other cases, really, it’s because some partners really don’t pay attention, don’t see the value, et cetera.

I could say there are, at least in Schneider, and in the different divisions and channels, there are partners that really give a great use of the MDF, right? But also out of those statistics, around 50% of partners only are engaging on those programs, meaning on loyalty programs or I don’t know any other campaigns, et cetera, because they are overwhelmed.

Yeah, so for me, one of the most important advice for partners is really they need to analyze, okay, all those programs that are offered by vendors and depending the market they are in, okay they need to select the burner, the vendor they want to partner with and bet with that vendor. Okay, so this is very important.

So they strategically are going to invest together, shoulder to shoulder with that vendor. But again, it’s very important because this is the key for a lasting partnership. At the end of the day, partner needs to realize which is the vendor that are going to give more return, more benefits in the long run, right?

And for them to grow, etc. Because sometimes partners just look at the short term. And you need to analyze the company, what they are, what is the position in the market, the leadership position in the market, what are the trends from the technologies, this vendor really fully aligned with those trends, et cetera, what is the program, because remember when a partner enroll in a channel partner program, MDF or channel incentives is just a part of it.

But it’s more beyond. And then for me, the second advice for the partners really is that they need to assess their marketing capabilities because at the end of the day, Jeremy, this is not the core of the partner business, right?

Maybe having in-house marketing team, it could be efficient, or maybe it will be more efficient to have for instance, partner concierge services that help them to really execute on a specific activities or a strategic activities that are going to give more return, more investment for that partner.

So they need to decide on that. What should be more effective for them? Because I have found all type of partners, right? But I also the market, the industry offers these type of services that we cannot live out of the out of the formula.

And actually, we in Schneider, we incentivize partners that do not have those marketing capabilities to use this type of services.

And then once this is these two steps, who I’m going to invest with, who I’m going to bet with, then second are we going because, If you have, if you’re going to get enrolled as a partner in any channel partner program, you need to generate demand in order to see results and to generate demand.

You need the expertise or the marketing capabilities. The 2nd point that partner really needs to or the 3rd point, right? They need to do like a thought analysis, right? Exactly what is his business universe depending on the segment they are in? What are the strengths? What are the threats, weakness, opportunities?

Who are their competitors, right? Who are their customers, right? So this is very important. And then they can set those clear goals that needs to be fully measurable. That is super important. Okay.

And then, and who they are targeting as the buyer, because in any of the end users, you have the different personas who you are targeting to.

Okay. So this is another important part. What is that? Journey inside the end user or the segment that they are targeting because you need to identify what are the steps of this buying journey, from your end user and then you need to define as a partner. What is going to be the strategy?

Maybe the strategy is going to be adding a new service, adding a new solution, geographical expansion. Maybe it could be an idea, right? Maybe you. to be a unique selling propositions that is going to really set apart the partner from the rest of the market, which is very important.

Uniqueness is very important for a partner, right?

It’s not just selling products and so on. So they need to really Make conscious decision and take actions now after the strategy is done. If they need, as I was saying, maybe the partner, their brand is not, it’s not recognized that a lot and then they need to enhance their own brand.

Okay, some partners, they rather leverage on vendors brands, but also, this is a strategy to follow, a decision to take, and then we continue with the activities, what activities, what metrics are going to follow those activities to execute your strategy, right?

And of course, then it comes the budget, and then the execution, and as we say, the monitor and optimize. So those are like eight steps, very important steps to really follow on a strategic plan.

Okay. And as I was saying at the beginning, and that’s why it is very important from partner standpoint that they need to align all of that, knowing who they are targeting to, who’s the buying persona at what stage. of the budgeting journey from awareness standpoint, consideration, decision, retention, advocacy, and in every stage of that budgeting journey from the end user, the partner and Schneider, and we as Schneider provide partners all the resources and tools for, for those end users to consume, To, to really understand what is the solution from Schneider and the partner.

So it’s really an end-to-end strategic plan, but it’s something that partners need to consider and need to put into action.

Jeremy Balius: I’m so inspired by the way that you’re describing this, because this is so closely aligned with what we advocate for, and it’s really exciting to hear this approach. I would think that It would be very difficult and challenging for partners, in some cases, to start this process, but it would be so valuable for them to go through it with you, because the ancillary benefits would be vast.

So really exciting to hear that this is a process that that you push on to partners and almost force them to go through because everyone will benefit.

Liliana Grisales: That’s correct. And also this really ties up of what we were discussing when we connected, Jeremy. On the go to community approach.

Remember on that, I did I did what is the name? A survey in LinkedIn. And really the answer was, it was obvious. The main point that the partners struggle with is to attract and retain customers. That’s the key one. Okay.

And the other point is about the resources, the talent to also retain talent.

Okay. But looking at this first one, and that’s why. I was talking about the uniqueness is because partners need to see it really and think strategically what set them apart from the rest. Okay.

And I’m sure any partner are going to find that answer. Okay, in their day to day business, and if not, they need to start thinking because this is what is going to bring the attention from the end users out there, right?

And once a partner has found, that uniqueness, they need to exploit. They need to take advantage. They need to leverage as much as possible. That uniqueness, because if they have the level of expertise, competencies, leadership in the market, etc. Nobody has done that.

They really need to take advantage and leverage, for instance, on the experiences taking when we talk and this is part of the article that I wrote in LinkedIn that really that really people come for the content, but they stay for the experience. Okay.

If you as a partner are offering that experience to the end user, and this could be translated maybe in intimate events with your close group of customers, right?

Advocating maybe a training day with your end users on a specific topic that you are really diving in on that topic. If you are solving, issue from your end user, or if you really are. Presenting an opportunity for them to grow the business. That is the uniqueness we are talking about.

That is the formula that the partner needs to really find. Again, when we have solution partners, this, all these unique next can be because you have a lot of experts, even within the partners that they are really specialized on some specific. Topics, sustainability data center, I don’t know, recovery, anything, right?

But when we talk about transactional partners, maybe it’s we are talking here about home we are talking about I don’t know, energy energy savings. Any topic, but this is something that the partner needs to discover.

This is something, as I mentioned in my article, that big companies as Harley Davidson, as Sephora, as Lego have decided to exploit, right?

And and not even this large companies, I have seen it also in the, what is the name in the Oh, coaching industry. I have I have seen it that and I was amazed really how they are really leveraging all those communities that you start with a laser targeted approach of customers. Okay. And, the end users.

And when we talk about these pre-sales engineering teams, when they like to share in this type of open forums, et cetera. So they need to leverage that, gain the trust, of your group of customers, et cetera. And this is really important how the partners can build their loyal customers, can retain those customers and find new ones.

And there are simple steps, maybe to start not to invest in big, et cetera. Maybe later they could do it, but there are simple steps that the partner can follow to really put into. action type of a strategy by leveraging their uniqueness.

Jeremy Balius: Liliana, this is all so fascinating. You’ve given us so much insight into what it takes to build the program, what it takes to run a program, what it takes to do MDF well you’ve given us insight into how MDF can be effective. You’ve gone into partner marketing. This has just been so valuable.

Thank you so much for coming on on the show and giving up your time and your insights. And I’m just so joyful that you’ve shared on all this. It’s just such an amazing, complex topic and very rewarding.

Liliana Grisales: Thank you very much. I really, am very passionate about the topic and then I’m glad that we, this can be out and really, some partners can see the opportunity that they can have in front and take advantage of it.

So we are here as a Schneider to support our partner community. And thank you very much for inviting me today.

Jeremy Balius: Thank you.

The theme of our sixth podcast episode is B2B Tech Sales Enablement.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things sales enablement is Ed Badawi, Founder & CEO of Sales Inc.


In this conversation, Ed Badawi, shares insights on understanding sales cycles, content deployment, and the mindset of salespeople. He emphasizes the importance of aligning sales and marketing teams and tells the story of his journey in the sales industry.

Ed also discusses the challenges faced by salespeople and the need for empathy and problem-solving. He highlights the significance of storytelling and the role of content in sales, emphasizing the need for a cohesive and strategic approach. The conversation explores the importance of aligning success metrics, the pitfalls of hiring more salespeople without a clear strategy, and the role of empathy and humility in achieving high performance.

Key Takeaways

  • Aligning sales and marketing teams is crucial for success.
  • Understanding and addressing customer problems is key in sales.
  • Telling a meaningful story and creating relevant content is essential.
  • Salespeople face challenges and rejection, requiring empathy and problem-solving skills Aligning success metrics between sales and marketing is crucial for effective collaboration and achieving business goals.
  • Hiring more salespeople without a clear strategy and structure can lead to chaos and high turnover.
  • Empathy and humility are essential qualities for building strong relationships with customers and creating a positive sales experience.

About Ed Badawi

Ed is the Founder & CEO of Sales Inc, a Sydney-based company that provides businesses with the proven strategy & practical support required to generate more sales. We do this by offering Sales as a Service for companies and practical sales strategy workshops for business leaders across all industries (B2B & B2C).

Their unique approach to generating and consolidating commercial outcomes has been ‘forged in the fire’ and is 100% scalable.

Ed is passionate about raising the selling standards of businesses and the sales experience of consumers. He and his team know that business leaders and their sales teams can influence consumers in a customer-centric manner that creates a win-win-win outcome that simultaneously improves the financial, physical and emotional health of everyone involved.

Sales Inc works with start-ups through to global enterprises across APAC and North America.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the podcast episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi. Welcome to this episode of the B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast. We bring you insightful interviews with leading tech and channel leaders. I’m your host, Jeremy Balius. Today’s theme is B2B Tech Sales Enablement.

Joining me today is Ed Badawi, the founder and CEO of Sales Inc, a company which provides businesses with a proven strategy and practical support they need to generate more sales. Today’s conversation is all about how B2B tech marketing and sales are extended functions of each other and just how critical the alignment needs to be. The need to address a prospect’s problems is fundamental, and it’s storytelling that creates meaningful engagements. Ed’s views on empathy and humility are especially insightful as he sees these qualities as essential for building strong relationships and creating positive sales experiences.

I hope this conversation adds value to you and your thinking. Let’s get into it.

Hey, Ed. Thanks for joining me today. It’s really great to have you on our podcast.

Ed Badawi: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. I’ve been watching it, and I’m flattered that you would consider having me on board.

Jeremy Balius: Today, we’re gonna deep dive into the mind of a sales leader. We’re really conscientious of wanting to understand from a sales leaders such as yourself how can B2B tech marketers and channel marketers and partner marketers get better at understanding sales cycles, how their content is being deployed and used, how salespeople are thinking and approaching. So today is gonna be a fantastic opportunity to deep dive into how marketing can enable sales, work better with sales, and so forth.

But before we get into it, love to hear your origin story. How did you get to the point of leading Sales Inc, your company? How are you at the point of deploying these incredible sales outreach campaigns and the work that you’re doing what’s your backstory?

Ed Badawi: Oh, okay.

I’ll try to give you try not to spend 40 minutes on the backstory. I’ll try to give you a short version. So my business partner and I, Nicholas Foresight, we met in 2011. And funny story, we were working at an investment firm, and it was post GFC.

And we were, going back now, what, 12, 13 years. We were quite green, and we didn’t realize that we had been given these jobs in this post GFC world. And it was quite it’s quite a tough market. And I think from there, Nick and I became we became good friends, and we became, good associates in the from the standpoint of the way we were selling in a post GFC world compared to how some of the elder statesmen in that organization at the time who are maybe taking a more Wolf of Wall Street, Glengarry Glen Ross approach it just wasn’t working. So we were kinda sitting back saying, man let’s just take the time to listen.

We’ve got a job to do. And can we still be impactful as salespeople in 2010, 2011 speaking to all these people who had been burnt? And we had a really customer centric approach that just came naturally to us. And from there, we had a lot of success, and we built a strong connection and a strong bond. So fast forward a few years, and you get to that point where, you’re doing well professionally, and you say, okay.

I wanna do my own thing now. So Nick went out and started an investment firm, and I started a property investment firm. And Nick’s firm was selling research and funds to investors. And he said, hey, Ed. I’ve got this great solution.

Could you come in and teach my guys how to pitch? And I was like I think so. Because we had never done anything like that before. It was just from that standpoint. He’s I’m doing operations.

You showed me a few things. I don’t have time to scale up the floor. Can you help scale up the floor? By this point, it was, like, late 2014, and I just fell into consulting. It was essentially my friend asking me to consult for his business.

But what happened from there is we had tremendous success, and we almost had a overnight success. So fast forward to 2015, 2016, Nick and his business partners at the time asked me to become a partner, and then they would ask me to consult on other projects, other initiatives, and all the rest of it. So I kinda fell into being a consultant, a sales consultant who was just using the methods that we had practice and teaching them to other people. So by 2017, Nick had the bright idea, and he said, you know what, Ed? We’ve been in financial markets or investment markets in some way, shape, or form.

He’s I think we can do this for many businesses. I think we can do this for different industries. I’ve got all these friends in different start ups, and I think the principles that we’ve applied here, I think they’re scalable. They you can scale these principles across any organization. So in 2017 now again, I’m kinda giving you the short version.

In 2017, we packed up shop everything we were doing, and we got out of everything we were doing, and we focused purely on sales, Inc. As a consultancy. And in 2018, 2019, the feedback we kept getting from founders, owners, CFOs, and all the rest of it is finding it quite difficult to manage salespeople. And we can understand. We weren’t the easiest salespeople to manage either, because it’s like, the better you do, we can be get become a bit ego fueled.

And if you’re not doing well, then you can become a pain. So we were listening to these business owners, these CFOs, and they just kept saying, can we outsource to you? Can we outsource to you? And we thought, oh this might be 1 of those moments where, it’s time to innovate. So we said, okay.

Let’s figure out what that looks like. And by late 2019, we moved from just consultancy and training and scaling floors with a hands on approach to, hey. You know what? We’ll create the sales strategy for you, but we’ll also execute the strategy for you. And that’s how we got into it, and we started in all sorts of industries.

We started in financial markets, financial services, technology, hospitality technology, random things. And then at the start of 2020 when the pandemic hit, we were like, oh, have we made a big mistake here? And then the phone just started ringing. And interestingly enough, it was a lot of the tech companies that were ringing. It was a lot of people in cloud.

Mhmm. And there was a lot of people in cybersecurity. And they were like, look. We need to keep going.

And I they felt like they needed to diversify their risk a bit. Excuse me. So from there, we just started applying our principles to, cybersecurity, cloud campaigns, SaaS campaigns, draft campaigns, all those kinds of things. And it yeah. It just kinda took off from there.

And since then, we’ve just helped a lot of different companies scale their solution out into the market, scale their teams, and, unlock opportunities for them.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. It’s amazing to hear just how organic that the opportunities that have presented themselves, you’ve grasped and you’ve grown and evolved and developed some methodologies and process around. And I recall back on how we met through mutual clients where we’re supporting tech businesses from a demand gen perspective, and we’re working with them and understanding their brand strategy and how they’re telling their brand story to attract prospects and then being introduced to you through the successes that you were delivering for mutual clients. As I said, it was great to see also a cultural alignment.

And just even in the way that you’re describing it, it’s just so refreshing to hear this take of really being in service of others and driving successes and this really humble approach that you take. It’s awesome to hear your story.

Ed Badawi: Oh, thanks for you, Jeremy. Man, that’s very kind of you to say. We appreciate that a lot.

Appreciate you just reaching out to us as well and introducing people to us just without even necessarily meeting us and just saying, hey. You’d like to speak to you. I think there’s somebody that you might be able to help based on what we’ve heard. So I really appreciate that from you and your team as well because I think it takes a lot of confidence to be like, you know what? Maybe you need to speak to somebody else right now at this point in time.

And and then we met each other, and you came into our office. And, it was a strong value alignment straight away. And I think that’s what it really comes down to. Our approach is driven by our value set. Mhmm.

Business is tough. Sales is tough. Sales is notoriously an unscrupulous industry. It’s got a bad reputation.

And we’ve got a business called Sales Inc. So I think the first thing that when you hear that name, it’s quite polarizing. So straight away we’re always met with this this could really not be the right decision to engage with these people. And we own that.

And I think the big difference for us is, having those values. And I think when we first met, it was it’s really nice meeting different, marketers and sales companies who’ve got strong values like yourself. That’s where it all comes from for us.

Jeremy Balius: Wanna actually kick off with something you just mentioned and talk about those challenges. Sales is tough, and many marketers more broadly, but in the context of this podcast, many tech marketers or B2B tech guys, they’re often not exposed to the day to day of what sales people face.

They don’t particularly know or understand the pressures or the challenges or maybe the stress that the individuals have to carry in order to meet targets. Could you tell me a little bit more about that for those who are doing marketing without being exposed to the sales team’s day to day lives?

Ed Badawi: Yeah. I can. I can. This is a good way to put it. This is what we always say to our guys when they come in because all of our team is onshore.

And the reality is this. This is what we say, and I think this will paint a picture for the marketers. If you’re a fantastic salesperson if you’re an absolute gun, if you’re and you unlock 10 relationships if you’re really good, if you’re really fantastic, you’re going to face an 80 percent rejection rate. So it’s brutal even on a good day.

Nobody likes getting rejected once, let alone 8 times. And 8 times is oh, you did a great job. If you get rejected 9 out of 10 times, you did a good job. You know what I mean?

If you’re getting 1 out of 15, let’s say, your conversion rate’s around that mark you’re doing okay. You’re hanging in there. You know what I mean? If you’re a 1 out of 20 kinda rep we might need to tighten up. So the first thing is yeah, sales reps are expected to write business.

They’re expected to unlock relationships. They’re expected to sell a solution. But the way you’ve gotta look at it is, the rejection is inevitable. If you’re absolutely wonderful, fantastic, got the best product in the market, let’s say, you’re still gonna eat a lot of dirt, as we say, around here. So I think for that reason, sales professionals, especially the modern day sales professional, should be treating sales as a sport because it’s a tough climate.

But what’s the beautiful side of that is that once you figure it out, the upside to that is unlocked. You can uncap your earnings. You build all these tremendous relationships. You actually get to help people directly if you’re going about it the right way. So it can be extremely rewarding.

But just like doing a marathon, you’ll be exhausted at the end of it. Whether you do a good time or not, it’s it’s taxing. And I think if marketers can understand that and really have a bit of empathy for that, I think then all of a sudden, in my experience, generally speaking, the sales professional becomes, feels a little bit more loved, a little bit more understood. We all have to feel a little bit more understood.

That’s the first thing. The second thing then is and this is some this is a common problem that I see, is there should be unity. Alright? There should be congruency between the sales and the marketing team. I truly believe that there should be more collaboration in those departments.

And the message that is created, let’s say, just to use some everyday terms the message that is introduced at the top of the funnel. You need to be conscious of then, okay. What do we then you know, how is that gonna translate to the bottom of the funnel when these guys are closing? Because, ultimately, as well, the marketing people the marketing professionals, you wanna be able to say, hey.

We generated that lead from this campaign, and it resulted in that deal from that particular individual. And now we can measure our success, and we have return on investment. But the idea that the marketing and sales teams are different they’re different departments. They don’t need to coexist. They don’t need to have congruency and that the marketing team is just doing their job, and they and we filled out the top of the funnel, whatever.

We didn’t we had some message out there that is never going to be touched on again, but it got the lead. It’s okay. Cool. But you need to really consider who’s going to now be managing that relationship, who’s gonna be managing that relationship.

And from there, I think you need to make sure that they’ve got the ammunition to succeed, which means you have to listen to them as well. So it’s a 2 way street, and I think that’s not really happening often in my opinion. It’s really, are you seeing it?

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. Look. I agree, and I think there’s a tradition there that needs to stop that somehow the 2 departments are adversarial with each other or at somehow are at odds with each other.

And I understand how this has occurred over time within companies, but I also agree with you that the future of high functioning, high performing businesses means complete alignment from end to end. 100 percent. And, some SaaS based companies are moving more into a space where sales and marketing are sitting under CRO type roles, or there’s a look towards how can the story that we’re telling at brand level actually be meaningful for a sales conversation.

And that’s something you just mentioned that I’d like to dive into even deeper because it’s something we’re very cognizant of from a strategy perspective at value proposition level of what does a company stand for, and what is it actually solving, And how is it not competing on features and benefits to end user?

But how is it actually solving business problems? And how does that translate into a sales conversation? That potentially gets lost at a marketers level because they’re thinking about the market as a whole and looking to go out and source leads or prospects or demand. And they’re then trying to look to understand how to convert it into for sales team conversations. But yeah.

Tell me a bit more about how you see that. What would be a potential way or how can a marketer understand what is actually meaningful in a sales conversation? What’s taking place in those conversations that marketers would be unaware of?

Ed Badawi: I think, take it back to 1 of the very first things you just said, and that’s the story. Right?

It’s a story. Everything’s a story. Life is a story. Stories have been passed down since the beginning of time. We love to tell stories.

We love to hear stories. And I’m not talking a waffley story. You gotta have context. So you’ve actually got a first place you’ve gotta start is with your avatar.

Who do we wanna speak to? And what is the story that they need to hear? And in that story, we’re not even you know, I would say this. And the marketing team and the sales team, I must say, they need to be on the same page with what is our story, what is our narrative.

That should be like, everybody should be on that journey. It shouldn’t you shouldn’t have separate departments from, the receptionist at the front desk to chief executive officer to marketing team, sales team. Everybody should be across at the product team. Everybody comes into it.

And then you’ve gotta ask yourself, how do I introduce that story? And I’ll go into a bit more detail of what I believe constitutes a story or makes up a story and the framework that we use to tell the story.

But then how do I then introduce this story in a digestible manner?

And by introducing this story in a digestible manner so we’re not overwhelming people, obviously you’re not coming out, Jeremy, obviously, the way you write content in writing, a 40 page document and expecting somebody to process that.

So the way we always look at is we say, okay. The sales and marketing team, everybody needs to be on the same page. Forget about sales and marketing. Everybody in the company needs to be on the same page. We have to carry the same spirit to market.

And I say this because when we’re representing an organization we’re an extension of that organization. So we have to get straight aligned to that culture. And that’s the that’s 1 of the things with salespeople is I would say 1 of the stigmas, but also 1 of the things that salespeople are really guilty of is doing what it takes to get a deal as opposed to maybe just telling a story in a digestible manner.

So if everybody knows the story and everyone’s on the same page, now you sit back and you just strategically have to say, okay. How do we introduce this story to get eyeballs, to generate a lead, to get that click through, to then capture the details and telling that story each way along the way. Okay. Now we’ve got a phone number. Let’s say we’ve got an email.

Whatever the call to action might be. Now where is that sales rep stepping in, reiterating the story? Because you just have to reiterate parts.

Last week on this episode, you would have seen this. You would have seen that. And then pick it up and continue the story in a structured way that helps you get down to business. So that’s the way I look at it.

And that’s, that’s how I visualize it, and that’s how we visualize it. So from our standpoint, the first thing you need to do is you need to flesh out the story. And we believe that there’s 8 bare bay basic pillars to a story.

And, you were just talking about know, I love that you’re talking about features and benefits and these things because, sometimes the marketing team, they might focus on something that looks good, feels good, is beautiful, is fantastic, is excellent, but it’s not really allowing you to get your hook in and to get traction in the relationship. Sometimes even a good marketing campaign is gonna rule people out. Sometimes you just want people to come back and say, you know what? I like what you’re doing, but it is not for me.

I’m moving in this direction. So you at least know where you sit within the marketplace. So the first thing we always and, again, and salespeople sometimes have this tendency, particularly when you’re selling tech, is just to jump straight into the technical deliverables. Oh, we got this new plug in. It does this. We got this thing. It’ll obfuscate that. And it’s no.

No. Nobody wants to hear that. That’s not a story. That’s a rough that’s a rough listen.

Do you really wanna expose your prospect to a rough listen? So everything has to be relevant to the prospect. So the 8 pillars of the story that we always tell and what we always flesh out is we say, okay.

First and foremost, who are the key people in the organization why they’re credible? Even if we never mention them even if they’ve got no place in the conversation, chances are, though, you probably are gonna have to mention somebody because you’re probably gonna have to introduce, let’s say, the prospects interest interested.

You’re probably gonna have to introduce them to some sort of technician. If you’re selling a founder, they probably wanna know more about your founders and your culture and your values. So the first thing we wanna do is say, okay. Who are the key people? Why are they credible?

Is it 2, 3, 4, 5, 6? Who are they? We need to know. That’s where the story starts for us.

Interesting. From there, what are their philosophies and their motives? And, typically, that’s where you start unlocking the beauty of the solution. We are motivated to solve this problem because, historically, you’ve been receiving a cookie cutter with no transparency and your costs are blowing out.

And Sarah used to work at this company, and she noticed this problem, and she didn’t like it. So she took a risk and, she went out and she started this organization. It was driven by these philosophies and these motives. Motives are really important.

Forget about your goals. You know what your goals are. We all wanna make more money. We all wanna help people.

We all need x amount of deals or leads by this period of time. That’s cool. You know your goals. Disassociate with them. Now focus on your motives.

We always say that, if you’re driving your car and you see a hitchhiker holding up a sign, you’re like I don’t know if I wanna pick that person up. But if you see somebody pushing their car up the street, I think we’ve all pulled over and helped somebody push their car up the street or helped somebody change their tire because we know what they’re trying to achieve. So when we know what somebody wants to achieve, we’re like let me help you. Let me help you as best as I can.

I like that. You have a noble motive. Even if I don’t wanna do anything with you, I might be able to refer you to somebody or whatever. And when you start sharing those motives, now you actually have more sustainability in your marketing campaigns and you have more sustainability in your sales culture. So once you establish those things, then we tend to move on.

Okay. So what is now the problem that you solve? Let’s get into that. So we understand your philosophies and your motives. What problem are you solving?

And, typically, problem-solving, generally speaking, falls into maybe three or four categories. It’s an economic problem. Mhmm. So we can get you a better return. We can get you a return on investment.

We can save you money. Maybe it’s an efficiency story as well. Because a lot of the professionals that I think we have to understand as well, particularly in tech, a lot of the professionals that we’re speaking to they’re busy. They’re smashed. Mhmm. They’ve got a lot on their plate. And quite often, they don’t have a lot of resources because they’re also misunderstood. So you’ve gotta really be clear about the problem you’re solving for that particular individual, and, let them know this is the problem that we’re gonna solve. And if it’s an efficiency problem for you, we’re gonna create that bandwidth for you.

If it’s an economic problem, we’ll create it. And the last thing I was gonna say is compliance usually would might fall into compliance. So be clear about we’re gonna solve these problems. Don’t go into the technical deliverables, but be super clear.

Jeremy Balius: I was gonna jump in on this particular point because I’m fascinated by this and also live and breathe this every day as well.

The instances where you’re selling into people who may not be aware of that problem, and yet you’re trying to talk about the fact that they have a problem.

Or conversely, they don’t understand necessarily that they should be looking to resolve something because they’ve accepted it and therefore are unable to maybe perceive the value of the product or service as a result.

And and how do you deal with those types of scenarios?

Ed Badawi: Okay.

So if we’re talking about an economic problem an efficiency problem, a compliance problem, if they’re real problems, they actually are creating a level of emotional discomfort. But like a lot of problems we might have, we become accustomed to just dealing with them. It’s just another day. This is my life. This is my world.

I’m going to the office. I’ve got no help. I’ve got no resources. Oh, we’re losing money on this department, or it’s not making money, or that’s just expensive. I just accept that for what it is.

So there’s a problem. How does that problem impact that decision maker day to day? So I’ll give you an example. Might be a lot of people using tape drive.

A lot of IT professionals using tape drive at the moment. Now I’m comfortable with tape drive. It’s fine. I said you don’t wanna move to the cloud. Let’s say, for whatever reason, say, yeah.

Okay. Cool. You can sit there and talk about the problem with tape all day, but what is it like to have to wake up every single day? For example, nothing against tape, by the way. Tape is cool.

Just an example. If you’re short. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

What’s it like? So we might say mate, like, how’s it going? You still changing those tapes every day? Like and they’re like, you know what? I am. And that’s just a very micro example, but it’s like, how is that problem impact impacting that person, mate? I’m guessing you’re pretty stretched and that you’re probably working with legacy software and you’ve got a very small budget. Does that sound about right?

So now all of a sudden, we’ve actually made a human connection. So if you wanna touch on a problem, touch on how that problem is actually not just impacting that business, but how is it impacting that particular professional who you are going to speak to and build a relationship with. And I think from there once people once you hear that sigh of yeah, tired of doing this, or I’m tired of doing that, or, mate, what’s new? It’s always been like this, and you start hearing that human side, now all of a sudden, it’s a lot easier to be like let me tell you something. You know what I mean?

So that’s what we always look for. What is the human problem that you’re solving?

Jeremy Balius: So now this is this the whole podcast could effectively be upon this topic. This is this is the real deal right here.

I think this is where the volume of experience that you’re bringing to this conversation is really enlightening because having the ability to sit across from someone and understand that you’re not just pitching a product or hardware or something that you’re actually looking to understand as you’re let’s use a sales term, as you’re looking to qualify this person.

You’re looking to understand in what ways can we build this connection such that person’s going to open up and tell me and trust me to tell me about their actual problems. It feels like you’re, at that point, not really selling. You’re helping them solve. At that point, you’re advising. Right?

Ed Badawi: Yeah. For sure. Absolutely. You have to be a physician of sorts. Right?

And I know that sounds super cliche and lame, but you have to be in this day and age. I told you that. So when we came in, and this is why I told the story about 2010. And being investment advisers in a post GFC world in which people were burnt, man.

People were jaded. People lost a lot of money. They lost a lot of their fortune. They spent a lot of time trying to accumulate wealth just to give it back by what seemed to be, like, almost an overnight event. So it’s like we went into this mentality. We’re talking to actual people. Okay. Yeah.

We know what our goal is, but we’re talking to people. Let’s listen to them. What are they going through? Because even if somebody is jaded and having a bad time, we all wanna get better. So and I think that’s 1 of the cool things is particularly when selling in the Australian market.

And I know you work across many markets and as do we, but particularly in the Australian market people will hear you out if you treat them with respect and actually make a connection with them. And that’s why we always start with, who are you? Who are the key people? Who’s driving this business? What are your philosophies and motives?

There’s this common problem that we found, because we used to be in your position, that actually kinda makes work suck and makes life suck and makes things a little bit more anxious. And write it from that perspective because we do write email campaigns to the databases.

Write it from that perspective of I’m telling a story that maybe you can relate to. And if they can’t relate to that story, if they do not have these problems, if they are not suffering, if they are super happy with what they’re doing, move on.

Collect the data. Find out where they’re at, maybe who they’re using, what is making them happy. Collect that and information, and say thank you and move on. And I think when we talk about sustainability in selling one thing we always say is you at least wanna get the thank you.

But if you’re not listening, if you’re not trying to solve a problem and you’re just trying to push your agenda, people are just gonna hang up on you. People are not gonna wanna take your call, and those marketing efforts then go to waste. Yeah, I think you’re 100 per cent.

You need to really think about the problem you’re solving for that individual. And it’s funny because we’ve all been in a cell where it’s okay.

I’ve got my evangelist. He might be, let’s say, the IT manager. But he might not have final say. I’ve gotta sell the CFO.

But the CFO’s got a whole different set of problems. He doesn’t care about you holding a bunch of tape, for example. The CFO cares about, is that stuff gonna save me money over the next 12 months? Am I gonna look good in my job?

So the narrative or the part of the narrative that appeals to the IT manager, the evangelist is not gonna be the same narrative that appeals to the CF. So we all need to be cognizant of different things are gonna appeal to different people. Different people are gonna have to come on the journey. And every person on that journey, you need to solve that individual’s problem.

Now if there’s 4 or 5 people on that panel and you’ve touched on the 4 or 5 problems that you’re solving and 3 out of 5 people are like, I like that. Now great. You’re winning.

And now the next organization that comes in, the meeting that comes in after you, the 2 o’clock, you’ve just done the 1 o’clock. And they’re not really selling perspective of I’m solving your problems, even if they have a better feature set, even if they’ve been around longer. It’s who do you think they’re gonna go with? So it’s a patient approach.

I think it’s an orthodox approach, but it might be considered unorthodox. But quite often, you’ll win by default because the other organizations that are not taking that same approach, they actually you know, they put their foot in it, so to speak. So that’s the way we look at it, and it served us well so far.

Jeremy Balius: You mentioned content there. I’d love to pick your brain about in what ways is sales using content?

We’re really moving into a space where the word content or content marketing, it’s becoming redundant because it is how an organization as a whole is communicating in the way that it’s presenting itself to market in the way that you might be communicating to the ASX for media releases or through to marketing campaigns, through to a sales conversation. This is all content.

But it’s broken up and siloed out into the different departments. And Yeah. And so oftentimes, the term sales enablement gets used.

How does marketing develop enable or enable sales? And then it, produces some stuff that they might ask for or not ask for and not use then. Yep. And that usually consists of data sheets and brochures, and they, they love calling them leave behinds even though it’s not even printed anymore. And so all this stuff gets done, but from your perspective, what matters?

Man, I’m gonna sound like a broken record, but it again, it comes back to you can’t just build you can’t just build 1 bit of content in isolation. It’s gotta fit into the bigger ecosystem, and you have to understand where you’re fitting into that ecosystem.

You have to understand the purpose of that content and what we’re introducing here.

Ed Badawi: And for the sales team, they need to know again, they need to know where they step in and where they’re picking it up from that. So for example it’s okay. We’re gonna write a content piece, and we’re gonna send it out to a database, let’s say, of we’re gonna send it out to your database, Jeremy.

And in that database, you’ve got 500 SaaS companies, and you wouldn’t mind hypothetically picking up 1 or 2 extra companies.

So we said, okay. We’re gonna write a content piece to them. It’s gonna be for them. It’s gonna be about them.

It’s not gonna be about us. It’s never about us. As we said, we’re the physician. You don’t walk into the doctor’s office and the doctor tells you about his day.

So so we’re writing this content piece. So let’s say the marketing team is writing this content piece. The sales team, it needs to be written that, okay. Let’s assume for a moment that somebody picks up the phone and calls on the back of this content piece.

We need to know what the next conversation is. Right? And so this whole idea of we wrote this piece and we did this big piece and we got all these eyeballs and we got all these views and we got 10 leads. And now we need to focus on sales enablement. That conversation has to be had much earlier.

If you wanna use a sporting analogy, you’ve gotta know what the fight plan is through all 12 routes. And sometimes the plan goes, the plan goes astray, and that’s fine, but you wanna always try to bring it back into the game plan because things happen. So you need that framework.

Now so you’re writing these content pieces, You’re pushing them out, and you’re saying, okay. What is the next because the way I see it is like this. What is the next bit of content that we’re going to give them? But that content might be a sales pitch, man. That’s still content.

That content might be a presentation. So we have to think of everything in terms of content. Everything is content. It just might be delivered by video.

It might be delivered over a phone call. It might be delivered by email. It might be delivered on a website. So we have to think about this, and we have to unify teams. And we have to have this understanding of hey.

I’m gonna run point. I’m gonna write this piece. I know it’s gonna do well. It’s gonna touch on, our motives. It’s gonna touch on the problem we solve.

We’re gonna sprinkle some brand equity across it because we’re working with some awesome companies. Now when that happens you now need to pick it up, and you need to reiterate the problem that we solve, for example.

And then from there, you need to then understand that these people might have a relationship with a competitor or considering a relationship with a competitor, for example. So go in.

Tell them about the problem you solved. Find out where they’re at. Go into the points of difference now. Not even going into the feature set at this point in time. But my point is we need organization.

We need to know how we’re gonna tell the story all the way through. You can’t just write 1 bit of content in isolation. You have to be able to say, okay.

This content is a whole journey. There’s layers of content. We’re gonna write this. Talk to the sales manager. Talk to the chief revenue officer and say, hey.

We’re gonna write this, and we’re gonna set it up. So by the time these people get to you, if they’ve clicked here, we’ve already touched on this problem, we’ve touched on our motives, there’s this level of awareness, we’d recommend that you go back and then you touch on the problem that we solve, for example, have you however you wanna do it.

And then you need to be able to then listen to that sales team and say, hey. You know what? When you use that angle, this is what happens.

So there needs to be more communication at the front end. I know I sound like a broken record. It’s so important. And then you need to be able to say, okay. How does this lead into the next conversation?

And then after you have that conversation, it’s back over to the content team. Okay. I just had a conversation with Jeremy. Yep. Jeremy’s suffering from this problem.

He’s considering using 2 or 3 other guys, or maybe he’s using this company and they kinda suck. But for that reason, we kinda suck. He thinks we suck as well because he’s had a bad experience.

We all get tired of the same brush. I wanna now and what’s gonna then separate us from the competitors or the whatever it might be is we need to talk about our point of difference.

So then you might go back to the marketing team and say, we’re gonna have this conversation. Obviously, they’re not gonna do a deal right there on the spot. We need to really inspire them to have a meeting with us. So can you also now write me that point of difference piece? And can you go into the feature set and maybe why our feature sets are different to other organizations’ feature sets?

So it almost needs to be this game of handball, and you need to be looking at it like that. Because if you look at it from a sales perspective, there’s 3 outcomes on a phone call. I’m happy to take the meeting.

Maybe I’ll take a meeting, but I need a little bit more information. Or can you get the hell away from me? How did you get my phone number? I wish I’ll I never left my details.

That’s that brutal part that we talked about. Yeah. Yeah. So so, again, we have you have to be empathetic to both departments to run it together. And it can’t be like, we did our part, now you do your part.

It’s gotta be this, hey. Let’s handball this thing back and forth, and let’s drive this all the way down. Even let’s drive this all the way down to the initial presentation because now I’ve booked the meeting with this person. I’ve qualified them. I’ve asked them all that question, the questions.

I need to put forward a beautiful deck. Why is a sales guy making a beautiful deck? They’re not known for their design work. Send it back to the marketing department now.

Hey. I wanna touch on these pillars. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Boom. Boom. I wanna transition to then some of the clients we worked with. I wanna transition to our guarantees and risks. So we have to have this back and forth handball mentality.

And you can’t look at marketing just as they did their job at the top, man. The marketing team is the marketing team is right there, even to the proposals you’re sending. Have you seen some of the proposals that go out there, Jeremy? They do not look good.

They need to go back to the marketing team. They need to go back to the content team. I take it from me. Sales guys are not known for their spelling either. So so so it’s a relationship.

It’s an ecosystem. We have to get on the same page. And when you do that, here’s the best part. The customer has a better experience. Because they understand there’s congruency in the message that they’re now exposed to a thoughtful process.

And I can also say this to any business owner that is managing a commercial sales team and is managing a marketing team? Isn’t it is there nothing worse than walking past your sales guy and just typing emails all day? Those emails should be prebuilt by the content team.

So the content team, I believe, is also being underutilized. And they need to come on the journey. They need to come they need to come on the journey all the way, and then they need to be getting the feedback as well, of how that journey and how that story was told and how it played out.

And I just I don’t think that’s happening enough. I don’t think that’s happening enough. But when it does happen, it’s a beautiful experience for everybody, and I find that sales reps then are less likely to burn out because there’s framework, there’s structure, then there’s no more ad hoc. It almost feels like there is a status quo there is a status there is a status quo that look, man. Just hire a sales guy.

Go figure it out. Go do your thing. Run around like a headless chook. I know we wonder why sales guys are leaving companies and changing companies every 12, 18 months.

It’s brutal. It’s tough. It wears down on you, then your performance suffers. And then every other part of your life tends to suffer once your performance suffers. And then you wanna change jobs.

You wanna move on. Again, take the time to do it properly. Take the time to get everybody on the same

Jeremy Balius: page. Yeah. That really resonates with me, and I really see a future here where there’s potentially even a breakdown of various success metrics or what traditionally has been measured as success metrics because of, I don’t know, adversarial relationships or finger-pointing and these things devolve into where on the sales side, it becomes I just want leads to follow-up on.

And marketing’s well, if that’s our metric, we just had a hundred people download our white paper. There’s your leads. And the guys are saying, oh, what are these? What am I supposed to do with this?

Ed Badawi: And you downloaded our white paper yesterday. Did you get a chance to read it? Yeah. I’m sure you did. Yeah.

Jeremy Balius: That’s but that was your lead, and they get forced into these scenarios. And so what resonates with me is the idea of either side looking across to understand how are we firstly finding someone who’s completely unaware of who we are and what we do, and how to find them in a way that matches our personas that we’ve built up or ideal client profile.

And how are we attracting them, and how are we reaching them, and how are we then starting the relationship that you mentioned, and how are we then having conversations and having that story across the board completely aligned, that’s the future. I think you’re totally right.

Ed Badawi: Yeah.

I think that’s the way it has to be done. And if for no other reason, you have to do it out of respect for the consumer. Everybody wants consistency. And I think also consistency breeds trust.

Even if you’re consistently bad, people at least will say I can at least count on that guy to suck. So so you have to be consistent in your message. You have to be consistent in your cadence.

You have to be consistent in everything. And, yeah, you can’t segment the business like that. To me, it just sounds like the 2 most ridiculous segments of the business to segment. The 2 departments that are pushing the message to the market.

But, it’s just the way it’s been, and I think a lot of that has to do with I think a lot of that has to do with, I think salespeople are guilty of that. And they’re guilty of that because a lot of salespeople will come in and come in for a lot of energy, a lot of hype, and this tremendous resume and all the rest of it. And, yeah, and we all want really want the job.

We really want the job. Yeah. I can do that, mate. If you give me 10 leads, I’ll close 5. Crazy things like that.

We’ve all heard it. And it’s just like I think as business owners, we need to slow down and just be like, that sounds good. That sounds awesome. That gets you hyped.

So it gets you jacked. It’s yes. We got this live wire in here, and we just need to generate leads, get them the leads, and we’ll close them. And that’s cool, but and sometimes you do get those unicorns that come through.

But those unicorns, man, they’re few and far between, and you can’t leverage your success to those unicorns. And then what happens is and I’ve been this guy. So because when those unicorns get too much leverage, they’re gonna use that leverage. They’re gonna want more money.

They’re gonna want more days off. So even from a business standpoint, by having everybody on the same page and having a culture of adding value, you’re actually derisking your business so much as well.

Because now everyone’s on the same page, and that’s how it has to be. So if somebody has a problem, if somebody has an ego, if somebody doesn’t wanna be there anymore for whatever reason, that’s cool.

Next person up. Who’s next? Who’s stepping in? Because we know what our message is. We know what’s working.

Better yet, we know where it’s breaking because we all understand the process. Also, the process so so so what happens is we’re having that initial conversation. Everybody says the right thing, and then they never wanna take our phone call again. Okay. Let’s assess that part of the process.

The same way you would assess your content piece if it wasn’t getting traction. You say what is it about this content piece that we’re not getting any leads? Is it the wording? Is it the imagery?

Do we need to move that thing to the left of the page, to the right of the page? And we need to be having those conversations across the board as a unit, as a sales and marketing unit. And right now, the sales team’s having their chat, and they’re in their echo chamber. And the sales team is in their echo chamber. Right?

And it’s creating this unnecessary friction and hostility. And and now and this is this is, where sales in comes into it. It’s not even a plug because it’s disappointing. But now all of a sudden, it’s I don’t wanna do it with these sales guys anymore. I don’t wanna do it with these marketing people anymore.

Now it’s every day I’m putting out a fire, an internal fire. I can’t get my team on the same page. As you said, there’s a lot of finger pointing going on. So what’s actually happening is now I see this all the time, man. Is now you’re instead of leading a business, it’s like you’re you’re leading a, a clinic, a psych yeah.

A psychiatrist’s clinic because everyone’s coming in with their problems. And you’re not focused on your vision. Nobody’s focused on the motives. Nobody’s focused on the philosophies.

Nobody’s focused on the consumer and the problem that you’re solving for that consumer. We haven’t even gotten to getting technical deliverables yet. We haven’t even talked about the cool innovate innovative things that we’ve invented or created, and you’re putting out those fires.

And I really believe a big part of that is due to the finger pointing culture that happens between sales and marketing, but also within sales teams.

Because if you have 5 good sales reps, 1 does really well, one’s not gonna do well, Everyone in the middle could go either way, and we’ve all seen that as well. Again, I think whether it’s marketing, sales, content, how you’re greeting people at the front door, everybody has to be on the same page with the narrative, first and foremost. They have to understand it intimately. They should be able to recite it.

And then we need to say, how do we introduce this narrative in a digestible manner to inspire a transaction or, alternatively, get people to rule themselves out? And if we get people to rule themselves out, the salespeople will be happier as well. So that’s the way I look at it, and that’s the way we approach it.

Jeremy Balius: There’s something you just mentioned there, and I think this would be really great context for people sitting outside of sales teams to understand about sales teams or the way that sales teams are built or potentially grown is this belief that if I want more sales, I just need to hire more salespeople.

And your value proposition as a company and what is articulated so well in your website is that comes with problems, and that’s not understood. Could you tell me a little bit more about what am I gonna deal with if I just hire more salespeople because I want more revenue?

Ed Badawi: So the way I look at it is like this.

Is you’ve got to take it 1 person at a time. I always say the first salesperson you hire shouldn’t just be an enthusiastic sales guy who’s gonna make a hundred calls a day. Yes. You want those qualities.

You want all those qualities. They’re important. But what you want is somebody who is coming in and saying, hey. Let’s create scalable sales process. Now let me get to know the different stakeholders of the business.

Now let me spend a little bit of time with the solutions team. Let me spend a little bit of time with the marketing team. And let me then obviously, whoever I’m reporting to, let me understand what our goals and what our missions are, and let’s reverse engineer that. It’s okay.

I need to get three deals a quarter. Ok. Great. Realistically, then how many people am I gonna need to speak to?

And, again, running off some basic metrics of rejection. Cool. If I’m any good, I should be able to convert 10 of that. You gotta think even Apple’s only got 15 per cent market share.

And they’re, like, a prolific organization. So when someone starts telling you they’re gonna convert over 15 to 20 percent, just slow down.

Don’t put that pressure on yourself. You know what I mean?

We don’t need that much conversion. This is how many deals we need between now and the end of the year. Can you get us there? And, if we play a numbers game, if we need 10 more deals by now and the end of the year, then we obviously need more than 10 leads. So you have to bring everybody into that scenario.

Now what that’s the first thing you need to do is the so the first person that you bring in, they must have that structure. And then they must introduce that structure to everybody else. It’s that simple. And they’ve gotta take they’ve gotta be able to lead by example, for sure.

So it’s good old-fashioned leadership, but they’ve also gotta have a game plan. Because what I typically find, to answer your question more directly, is that if I go and hire five people, I can guarantee you that you’re gonna have five people doing 5 different things. How is that gonna work?

So straight away, you’re suiting yourself in the foot because you’re taking a an approach of in theory, they should all be good, but how 5 different approaches are not gonna work. And, everyone’s got a different personality, and that’s fine.

You can apply your different personalities to the same process. But the idea that we’re just gonna bring people in, more people, here’s the product, here’s solution, or you’ve been in this space for a long time, mate.

You know what it’s all about. Go and make some calls.

You’re just almost sending them into this traumatic response where they’re like, hey. It’s my job. I just gotta make calls. I just gotta make calls. I just gotta make calls.

It goes haywire. And we wonder why sales guys are, having 7 shots of coffee a day and then, freaking out. I have about 5 or 6. I’m not even but I’m but my point is it’s like we’re creating these anxiety provoking environments by not having structure and by not creating that alignment. And I think we’ve all seen our, fallen salespeople, who tell you the worst stories.

I used to do this back in the day. I used to do that back in the day. I used to be really good at this, and I really used to be good at that. And it’s you’ve just burnt out because of this unsustainable approach. There’s no process here.

And, sure, processes break down, and they need to be re redefined and reinvented. But if you don’t have that process and you bring five people in and you’ve got five people running around like headless chooks or doing their thing, you’re just gonna get you’re just gonna get a lot of fires to put out.

That’s what I believe. So make sure that first person that you bring in is the right person. Make sure you’re implementing the structure, and don’t just bring somebody in because you have more leads.

You need to know what you’re going to do with those leads strategically, step by step by step by step. Mhmm. If you have a super sophisticated solution, there might be 7 or 8 steps in your sales process.

If you have a subscription-based solution, okay, it might only be 2 or 3 or 4 steps. That’s fine.

You don’t have to overcook it. But you have to ask yourself, okay. How much information can this person take at a time? Obviously, not a white paper. Right?

White papers are great, by the way. You can leverage them. But don’t expect somebody to read a white paper and then want to do business with you straight away. White papers do give you credibility, and they can be leveraged in emails and, post conversation value ads because we love adding value. Remember, the point of a white paper is to add value.

It’s not to really sell your solution. Yes. It’s a credibility builder. Okay? And credibility is really important.

I think a lot of people underestimate how content can just make you so credible. We’ve represented in our very early days companies that we call them naked companies. It was like the leadership was hiding. There was no real motives.

We just got a cool product. We just want deals and we don’t really have content. And once people hear about it, it’s all good. And it’s no. That’s not the experience you need to give people.

The experience you need to give people is, again, you need to tell that story. You need to have structure in how you’re telling that story. The sales team needs to have structure.

As well, the sales team needs to have leadership and guidance. And if you’re gonna hire people just because you’ve got the leads and just gonna chuck bodies at the leads, I think that’s an age old mistake.

And, look. We’ve been I’ve been guilty upon being guilty of it once upon a time myself. And it’s not until that over and over. It’s no. This is not a good way to scale a business.

This is not a good way to scale a sales team. But then what happens as well is then the turnover ensues. So let’s say a lot of people would also do this thing, Jeremy, in all industries where they say mate, we’ll hire 5 people, and we’ll just cut the bottom 1 or 2. We’ll hire 10 people. We’ll do a mass recruitment.

We’ll dude, how demoralizing is it when you come to your office 1 day and you sit at your desk and say, oh, where’s Tracy? Where’s John? Oh, mate. We had to let him go. How unsettling is that?

You don’t sit there and pump your fist that you’ve made it to another round like Survivor. You sit there and you say, shit. We got a culture of turnover here. Next thing you know people are like they’re letting people go.

I might need to jump on Seek. I might need to jump on that job ad website. I might need to hit up my old colleague from my other company on LinkedIn, and you start seeing the interesting behavior.

Now all of a sudden, that one-hour lunch break turns into a two-hour lunch break because that person is anxious because you’ve got a very average culture. I’m trying not to swear.

And now people are like, dude, I want the back door. I don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna come in every single day knowing that I could be on the chopping block. Sure. That’s a part of business.

We all have to perform. We all have to deliver. But bringing five people, cutting bringing them in, cutting, and just keeping continuing to cut the as my business partner Nick would say, continuing to cut the tail off the dog is just not good for anybody, and it’s just gonna create a negative culture.

It’s gonna create anxiety. And that’s why I think a lot of businesses also kinda get trapped.

They get in their own way, and their revenue kinda stagnates. We’re a $2 to $5 million business. We’re a $5 to $100 million dollar business. And it’s just yeah. You’re just essentially retaining your legacy clients, and you’re churning it.

You’re churning your team. And I also believe that the market notices when you churn your team. Know, this week, I got a call from Bill. Last week, I got a call from Ali. This week, I got a call from Sarah.

So what is going on over there? Yeah. And the market notices that. Because we’re on the front line.

You hear it. Oh, getting a call from you guys again. And it’s just how many people did you go through before we before you gave us the keys? And it’s not a good look for anybody, and it creates we always say, just gonna create this vicious cycle, Jeremy.

So do you wanna be stuck in this vicious cycle? Feel crap about yourself because you keep rolling people, and then it just becomes the new norm, and you gotta carry that energy with you? Because what are we doing this for, man?

What are we trying to make money for, man? To walk around grumpy all day? To walk around anxious all day with the shits all day? We wanna spend time with our families. We wanna do cool stuff.

We wanna buy nice things. Whatever it is that matters to you. But we have to remember why we’re doing this, and it’s not to feel like crap. And I think, if you have that mentality then I think you’ll take a more cautious and respectful approach.

Jeremy Balius: These are very wise words.

I deeply appreciate everything that you’ve been talking about. I think there’s so much to take away here. And I think the most important message here really is one of empathy and humility on individuals who are working together to look to better understand how are they unifying towards a collective mission.

And I feel in the way that you’ve described the future of business and high performance, that’s gonna be absolutely critical.

Ed Badawi: And let me just say this back to your point.

Also empathy for the person that you’re trying to sell to. And I really believe that’s why content is important. It is hard. It is infinitely harder to connect with somebody if they haven’t been exposed to your content.

If they if you haven’t touched on their problem, if you haven’t been relatable, if they haven’t seen you somewhere even if they’ve just eyeballed it and read half your article, it is so much harder to make a connection with that person and find out where they’re at and solve their problem and prescribe something that is gonna make their life easier by making their business better.

It’s hard to do that unless you have content. So when I do believe that when you are writing that content as well, yeah. Cool.

We all have bells and whistles, and we all wanna kinda talk to everybody about how awesome we are. Are. That’s great. But that individual like, have some empathy for that individual. They don’t owe you anything.

They don’t need to read that content. They don’t need to take your phone call. They don’t need to open that email. They have no obligation to take a meeting with you.

So be very gracious with them at all times. Again, they don’t owe you anything. Be very respectful of where they’re at. They’re humans as well going through a lot. It’s the nature of life.

And come at them with that angle. And if you can maintain that energy through the process, dude, the sale the sales cycle will get shorter.

There’ll be less friction through the deal process as well, and it’ll be pleasant. It’ll be nice. It’ll actually be a you’ll still be tired at the end of the day, man.

You’re still gonna go and say, man, I left it all on the table today. And I gave that person everything I had today. And you probably fall asleep on the couch at 8 30. But it’s better than going home and being like, alright, man.

I just made a hundred phone calls. Nobody wanted to take my call back. If a marketing team’s putting out crap, I’m exhausted. We’re gonna go home tired anyway, but at least we need to be we need to always say, let’s go home with our souls intact. Let’s at least get a thank you at the end of every conversation.

Content teams and marketing teams and commercial sales teams they need to unite. And if they unite, dude, if you’re converting those marketing leads, marketing is gonna be happy.

If marketing’s happy, they’re gonna give you more stuff. And if the sales team’s happy, then you’re gonna look good, and your return on investment numbers are gonna look fantastic. So it just makes sense to me.

I don’t understand why I’m not seeing it more often.

Jeremy Balius: It’s very inspiring stuff. I appreciate you so much for coming on and sharing your insights and wisdom. Thanks, Ed.

Ed Badawi: Hey. Thanks for having me.

We appreciate you guys, and very flattered that you think we’d be worth speaking to. So I really appreciate you guys over there. Thank you. No worries. Thank you.

The theme of our fifth podcast episode is Content Marketing and the CTO.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things content marketing in the context of the CTO’s role is Anthony Spiteri, Regional CTO for APJ, Product Strategy, and Lead Cloud and Service Provider Technologist for Veeam Software.


Anthony Spiteri shares his origin story and career progression, from starting in tech support to becoming a regional CTO for Veeam. He discusses the early days of blogging and content creation, as well as the importance of authenticity in communication. Anthony also talks about the challenges of communicating complex topics and the rollout of Veeam’s V12 release. He provides insights into how B2B tech marketers can approach CTOs and build relationships. Finally, Anthony shares his future focus and big bets for 2024.

Key Takeaways

  • Authenticity is key in content marketing, allowing for a more personal and relatable approach.
  • Communicating complex topics requires distilling information into digestible presentations and easy-to-understand statements.
  • Building relationships with CTOs involves understanding their interests and needs, and offering compelling technology solutions.
  • Approaching CTOs with a sales-focused mindset is not effective; instead, focus on forming genuine connections and providing value.

About Anthony Spiteri

Anthony works in Product Strategy, the Office of the CTO at Veeam Software, leading the technical engagement with Analyst and Media in APJ as Regional CTO and official spokesperson, which extends globally. As Lead Cloud and Service Provider Technologist, Anthony focuses on customer and partner engagement on all aspects of technology relating to modern data platforms, automation, IaaS, BasS, DRaaS, Public Cloud, storage, networking and compute.

Anthony also generates content, evangelizes and participate as a keynote speaker at major industry events while also collecting product feedback and engaging with Product Management and R&D. Anthony previously held engineering and architectural lead roles at leading Cloud providers and have a Master’s Degree in Network and System Administration (Distinction) from Charles Sturt.

He can be found blogging at or hosting the Great Things with Great Tech Podcast at

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the podcast episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi, welcome to this episode of the B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast, where we bring you insightful interviews with leading tech and channel leaders. I’m your host, Jeremy Baylis. Today’s theme is content marketing and the CTO. My guest today is Anthony Spiteri, the Regional CTO for APJ, Product Strategy, and Lead Cloud and Service Provider Technologist for Veeam Software.

If you aren’t aware, Veeam is the #1 global market leader in data protection and ransomware recovery. With offices in more than 30 countries, Veeam protects over 450,000 customers worldwide, including 73 per cent of the Global 2,000. Anthony works in product strategy, leading the technical engagement with analysts and media as APJ’s regional CTO.

He can be found blogging at and hosting the Great Things with Great Tech podcast. Links to these will be in the podcast description below.

Today’s conversation is at the intersection of content marketing and the CTO. It’s really fascinating to hear how much of the role of the CTO has content marketing responsibilities and how Anthony approaches this.

We also get some really great insights, how CTOs consume content.

So let’s get into the conversation.

So Anthony, really keen to hear about how you got started. You’re Regional CTO for Veeam now. What’s the origin story? What’s the pathway that got you to where you are now?

Anthony Spiteri: Yeah, I was having to think about this actually before, and I think usually how I’d start this off is my first real job.

When I say real job, it was my first job in tech when I was working for a company called URASP. Fell into that literally. The story is quite interesting, but I won’t bore the listeners with that. But effectively that was help desk for a local ISP and hosting provider here in Perth.

And it was quite a high-end Microsoft part at the time doing original STLA, original hosting of Microsoft products. So if you think about the early days of hosted exchange, SharePoint, CRM. We also had some big government contracts locally, which allowed us to do hosting based on Linux and Windows. So I started off really geeky at that sort of help desk level, but my boss saw, I guess a little bit of driving me and gave me a big project, which was out of my comfort zone.

And in that project, I really. Dived directly into some hardcore hosting, which I guess, in a sort of too long, didn’t read scenario meant that I was able to accelerate my learning, my technical prowess, and be able to then go from there to specific Microsoft hosting then hosting of virtualization platforms.

Then doing all the architecture and the management of larger platforms. It just got bigger and bigger. And as I moved into different roles I was at that first company for seven and a half years. Got as far as I could and it was a small company, only four to five people. I moved to a regional sort of MSP hosting provider called Anatel, stayed there for a couple of years, but that’s the sort of timeframe that I started to really get into the community, which I know that we’ll talk about a little bit later on and really start to get myself out there and test myself from the point of view of creating content and seeing if people wanted to read this content, which was being generated for me, just doing stuff in my day job.

And then from there went to a company called Zettagrid and that’s where I really started to, grow up in my career and learn about the value of vendor interaction playing the marketing game, playing the game of relationships and, at that stage being taken out by vendors because I was, I became a key decision maker in that platform.

Zettagrid is a great VMware and Veeam hosting partner. We had some really big infrastructure around the country, which is now for them it’s on into AOJ, but through that really got great exposure to a lot of good vendor relationships, which led me to my job at Veeam. And Veeam has now been seven years and really started at Veeam.

I guess you could call it a traditional content creator, tech marketer, evangelist. So that was really what we did at the start was basically what I was doing before. From a blogging perspective, I was now effectively getting paid to do that, which I always felt thought was really strange, right? But I enjoyed it and took it on board.

And I guess fast forward to now the CTO role is really this evolution, I think, of growing up in this industry and changing. And making a conscious decision within myself to not always want to be that technical guy that’s doing the content writing as much as I love creating content and interacting at that level and being the demo guy, I really thought to myself that as your career Progresses, what do you want to do?

And I think stepping up the conversation with a more business focused outcome, that was key to where I wanted to go. And through that, we had the opportunity to be the regional CTO of APJ under the CTO in the product strategy group at Veeam. So I guess that’s a long winded way of saying that my growth has been interesting, but I love the fact that it’s a dynamic industry and that’s what’s enabled me.

To be at this point in my career today.

Jeremy Balius: Now we’ve known each other for a while. I was trying to reflect on how long, I think it’s been eight to 10 years. Now you’ve been, you were blogging before I met you were already well down the path of your own personal blog. And I remember from very early on that that blog itself was a.

Early days platform slash springboard in how you were responding to what was happening in the community, how you were talking about topics and events that were taking place or product launches. Since then, you’ve. Founded and managed a series of podcasts, you’ve got a relentless speaking schedule with so much time spent communicating complex topics.

Has that been something that you’ve felt has been organic or have you actively been working on the communication side of it because it’s such a big part of your life?

Anthony Spiteri: Yeah, look, I’ve had no formal training. I think we’ve, I tell a lie, I think we had a one session when I started at Veeam about being official spokesperson.

You need to know the rules and what not to say and hopefully not what we call generator, a revenue generating event, right? Saying the wrong thing. But I think that’s probably the only training that I’ve had officially. I think it’s just been a natural progression in terms of body of work from the content that I created as a blogger, which I mentioned before really started.

I guess back in the Microsoft days in that community where I was just interested in how stuff worked and, then taking a platform like Exchange and Exchange server was a bit of a complex space, but we turned that and we were able to take the product and kind of make it do stuff that it wasn’t supposed to do, and that was the early days of hosting and we would host exchange and through that it was like, okay, if we’re doing certain things in the back end to make this platform do what it’s not supposed to do, maybe other people are interested in that and What’s interesting in that is that some people will go down, you go down one of two ways, either you keep that close to yourself because there’s currency in knowing what other people don’t know, and that’s your IP as such, or you can go the other way, which is basically you become a sharer of this information which helps other people learn and grow and develop.

And I think I made a conscious decision to be that other person who shared. And I think that paid off massively and especially then like you said 8 to 10 years ago, actually it’s more like 13, 14 years ago when I stepped in out of the Microsoft community. Into the VMware community, that’s when it blew up because all of a sudden that was a much larger ecosystem.

It was new. So it wasn’t as established as Microsoft and things were happening on the platform that made you able to blog about stuff that was in a day job and people were interested in that. So it just snowboard from there.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. It’s incredible. I think you’ve always had this amazing balance of being able to find ways to write about and talk about things that were personally interesting for you, but they also had a professional impact to some degree as well.

And I remember you telling me years ago as well, that you’ve also enjoyed a certain sense of freedom from whomever you were working with to also take. Personal positions on certain topics where I know for a fact, other companies would would have gone a different pathway and shut it down from a corporate affairs perspective or needing to ensure that every personal post was in alignment with a larger brand.

But I always got the sense that you’ve had that freedom and have been able to thrive as a result. Is that fair to say?

Anthony Spiteri: I think it is and I think what’s the terminology or the saying is that, bad news is good news and, making headlines gets clicks and views and interest.

And I think that definitely was the case and I’m a bit of a challenge status quo guy by nature. It’s always been my position in life and one of my ethoses and in every aspect of what I do actually. I just don’t want to be that sheep. Just goes along with the flow. I want to challenge it and I think I did that early on especially when it came time to if it was a very specific one where VMware released a competing product to what we were doing as a hoster.

And I didn’t like that for a myriad of reasons. And I thought some things were going down that were a little bit dodgy. And I wrote some pretty powerful articles on that, which did, make it all the way up to, to to, to the VMware HQ, to the point where they were saying, you’ve got to take this stuff down.

I was like, I’m not going to take it down. Like people are reading it, it’s getting their views. People are generally interested in what I have to say. And I know that certain things that I wrote back then actually directly resulted in change in products, in features and functionality. In quality of product.

I know that there was specific instances that did actually lead to improvements. So I think it’s a good thing for the listeners to understand is to not be too afraid of challenging the status quo. I’ll say that from the point of view of where we are today in society versus maybe five or 10 years ago, because I think for better or worse, we are a little bit more cautious these days.

And I know that it depends on who you’re working for as well. Like I know at Veeam Software as an official spokesperson, it’s I’ve got to be a lot more cautious about what I say today. As the regional CTO of APJ, working under our CTO, working in that leadership team, I can’t just shoot from the hip as much as I used to even though I want to.

And sometimes I will. But to that end, if you’re in the position where you can push it a little bit, I always suggest people to push it just that little bit because I think it’s good for yourself and ultimately, it can be good for your career as well.

Jeremy Balius: Speaking of Veeam CTO, what I’m really excited about in terms of our conversation, on a podcast that’s dedicated to B2B tech marketing.

And I love how you described yourself as evangelist and content marketer as well as is. Twofold. One is as CTO, your role is really about distilling complex topics and products and outcomes into digestible presentations and easy to understand statements and web content. And I’d be really interested to hear about whether that is something that has become intuitive for you over time, or are you taking a particular methodology as someone who’s in a leadership position, who’s responsible for.

Articulating large product launches and or complex outcomes for ecosystems made up of different layers of players that Veeam operates with your reseller community and your integrators and the disties and cloud providers and Alliance partners and on how are you distilling these complex topics for?

All of your audiences and how are you doing it effectively to ensure that it’s reaching and resonating with your audiences?

Anthony Spiteri: Yeah, it’s a great question because I think what I’ve come to understand, especially since taking this change in direction of the role which is more talking about business outcomes versus the tech, as a traditional geek.

Like I love talking about the knobs and dials and I actually took pride in myself being a little bit different early days when I was doing this as an evangelist or as part of the technologist in this team, talking a real deep tech Oh, have you heard about this version 12? We’ve got this awesome new feature in there.

It’s direct object storage and it does this and at the back end, we’ve done this. I think that’s good for a certain subset of people that you talk to but I realized that the more that we move up in the world you have to change your level of conversation and I think the last year to 18 months, it’s been more about talking about the business outcome because we are talking to different people now.

So it’s definitely something that I’ve had to make a very mindful change to my system, the way that I like to approach conversation and distilling of information. Because ultimately what I’m trying to achieve and who I’m talking to is now different than what it was maybe, three or four years ago and certainly when I started.

It’s not to say that I still don’t have these deep technical geeky conversations with certain people, but when you’re sitting in a room where there’s, the finance guy, the app owner there’s the security guy these days, there’s CTO, you have to talk at a different level because, they only want to hear certain things and they don’t care about the bells and the whistles and the knobs and the dials.

That has been a challenge and something that I’m conscious of as this role kind of evolves. But overall, I think to your point about how did I get to this point, I think it’s just an evolution and getting better all the time and just making sure that I take point as if I’m going to a meeting and it hasn’t come out the way that I would have thought because I’ve said something that they don’t want to hear.

Because sometimes when you walk into a room in this industry, I’d say it’s full of egos, right? It’s huge egos, right? What do you know? What do I know? I know more than you, surely. And typically when you’re walking into a room of, from an organization. The people sitting across from you think they know more than you and maybe they do and that’s cool, but you have to still act as the professional in the cool way who knows more about them for what they want to talk about from a Veeam perspective.

So that in itself is a huge skill that I think I’m still perfecting.

Jeremy Balius: I also get the sense from watching you from afar, as well as being a rabid follower of everything that you publish I do get the sense that you’re coming from a place of humility as well, that you’re just so deeply excited about the ecosystem and the community that you’re not trying to one up an alpha executive, you’re trying to position in the context of the problem and the solution.

And I’ve seen an evolution in your content as well. Would like to take this opportunity to ask a question about a huge rollout that you guys did in the last year when you brought V12 to market. And the reason why I wanted to bring this one up is just the sheer size of that rollout. I would imagine would have been challenging to understand how to communicate the breadth of it and how to prioritize the value of this rollout and the various outcomes to whatever degree you can talk about it.

Could you talk about what that process was before it went live and how you’re trying to distill this all into something that can be published and talked about?

Anthony Spiteri: Yeah. I love the question because I think, if it’s an event or a launch or whatever, the public and your partners and customers to see the event.

I say the launch and it just looks like everything magically happens, right? And it’s all there and all the contents there and the messaging’s there and it’s all good. But there is a ton that goes behind it. And you’re right. There’s a lot that I think every company does it differently.

So I think generally speaking, how we do it is there’s a definite cycle. So we know that the 12 release, we had to, we had that out. So we know that in a certain part of the year, we’re getting. Code out where we can test the product, where we put it out there for initial feedback. And then we’re not just talking about one product here.

When we do a full data platform release, we’re typically releasing seven, eight, nine product updates in one. And just in that vein backup and replication V12 release, it was 500 plus new features and enhancements that we have. So you’re right. There’s a lot there. And so in that we have the R and D we have the technical side of it.

We have the first dissipation of information that we have to go through. And what we do in product strategy, still part of our function is to be that conduit that kind of converts it from a really technical heavy document or conversation to something that our product marketing managers can understand.

So we work very closely with certain people within product marketing. We each have an area of specialization. Me being hosting in my background, like I talked about. I work majoritarily with our VCSP and service provider in cloud product marketing managers. And then what we do is we spend months looking at features and then trying to roll that up into maybe three or four headlines, we call them pillars.

And then we put under each pillar, we put a summation of what we think people will want to hear that makes the product seem Good, useful, and also, I guess making sure that it’s a positive release. So that kind of is maybe about six months worth of work. And then from when that’s done, it needs to almost flip back and go to general marketing.

So the top level marketing, the marketing leadership team, who will typically have a top level message, which is sometimes disconnected from the actual technical capability. So a marketer the CMO the regional marketing guys will have an understanding of what they want to talk about because they’re reading the market from the outside and then knowing what the market is talking about.

So as a great example, in this 12. 1 release that we just did, there was a heavy focus on cyber resiliency, radical resiliency, and this was a top line messaging, right? So we had to shoehorn what the market was saying with what the product release was. So that’s the massive challenge as well. But at the end of all that, you’ve got a document, the document is there, that has the official messaging.

We then write the blog post, we create the content, we do launch webinars. We have internal training as well. So the majority of the technical people and the sales people within the company can be aligned with what we’re saying. Back to the point about some level of freedom, from my perspective, I’m then able and lucky enough to be able to take what I want to be able to say to market with my own spin and still be able to say blog about that or do a podcast about it, but maybe not focus specifically on The official company messaging which I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing but they let me do it so hopefully, if there’s any marketing exec at the moment who’s listening to this, I can still do it but I think it works.

It works well because I think what it means is you’re creating two different levels of content, one which is official and definitely towing the company line and it’s the body of all the work that you’ve done for the last 6 to 12 months to get it out there. But then you can also take that and if you, actually, if you think about the two personas that I’ve come from, the heavy technical guy and the regional CTO guy now, I think both of those directions actually cater to both of those audiences as well.

And then I can be as flexible as I want with the content.

Jeremy Balius: I’m really fascinated by that having that sort of duality because yes, it’s critical to be part of the engine that is ramping up to deploy messages that have been blowtorched for Half a year to a year across so many different departments within the company and needing to be participatory in the rollout of that messaging in a way that is aligned with your peers and colleagues but then at the same time to be able to take that and drill down into aspects that interest you most in the context of what is potentially not on the radar of the company that, That’s, that, that seems like it would be very fulfilling for you to be able to swap back and forth and and talk about what matters most to you in a stream that is that has more freedom to it.

Anthony Spiteri: Yeah, that level of autonomy is definitely good. Again, I, being honest about it, I don’t know how long it lasts though, because. I think we are moving more into this world of just absolute straight line correctiveness and the message and that’s, we see that a lot. And though that said you look at what’s happening with what Elon’s doing and how he’s taking a different aspect on this and really trying to, again, challenging massively.

The status quo that’s been instilled in corporate America for the last, and that’s obviously corporate America is reflective of the world effectively, because that’s kind of Australia runs that way and Europe feeds off of Asia to a certain extent, right? So here’s to him challenging that might set it on a different path, but ultimately, I can see a day where I might have to.

Stop doing that? I hope not, because I think I’d be poorer for it, but I think also if other people stop that, because I know other people do it in the same way, right? I’m not the only one. If we don’t, if we don’t allow that, then I think we’re cutting off a very important stream of content and a different type of marketing which hits differently, right?

I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s you’re hitting people in different ways and level of trust. Okay, do you want to listen to the corporate message, which is which has been worked on for six months and is, worked to an inch of itself. And then some people might go, it’s corporate. Do I really believe it?

Or do you want to listen to a message, which is a little bit more authentic? And I think that’s the level that I’ve tried to work on at that sort of blogging content. It’s, can I be authentic while still towing as much of the corporate as I can? It’s a challenge.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, it is. And I think what would be beneficial for marketing organizations within multinationals is looking to understand how can that freedom be enabled and potentially supported in such a way that the corporate messaging https: otter.

ai personable, community led type support. It’s hard because you’re starting to, you’re starting to jettison different marketing metrics that have been around for a very long time. And you’re looking to be more relationship based and, there’s some companies that are leading the charge on that they’re taking a blind.

Not a blind a vision that they’re going to invest in relationships and they’re letting go of the click metrics as a result and whatever lead cycles that they had within their qualification pipeline. And they’re moving more towards if we build community, we know good things will happen.

And those companies are experiencing hypergrowth.

Anthony Spiteri: Yep. And if you look at Veeam as well, Veeam’s got a very strong community. We made, we’ve made a very big, Ratmir Timashev, our original founder, he was huge on making sure that the technical decision maker was a focus. And that’s where programs like the Vanguard program started, which was a very specialized project, hitting out our core champions in our partners and our customers to make sure that we, if we do well by them, they do well by us.

And it’s self-fulfilling. But what they do is they create the noise. They’re an extended part of our marketing team because, they love us. They we look after them, but to that end, the product is still good enough that they don’t have to, they don’t have to sell themselves and tell lies to, to get what they get from the benefits of that particular program as an example.

And then on the flip side, what we get from that. The companies, and VMware, again, going back to my origins, VMware nailed that in the early 20 late 20 noughties and 2010s, when they knew that they had this enthusiast community that they could tap into and therefore created the vExpert, which is still running now as a Broadcom entity.

They, in fact, I was very surprised Broadcom for all that’s been happening with that situation, they kept the community side of it. They kept the vExpert component, which I thought was. So I think in itself, you’ve got Broadcom, which is this huge, engine of just, let’s just print money and let’s cut down and whatnot, but they saw value in that community.

So that in itself is really interesting, right?

Jeremy Balius: It is. It is. I would like to flip the script. We’ve been talking about communications and content marketing from your lens, from your point of view as CTO and how you are disseminating information and reaching the right audiences and in compelling ways, you also represent a role that is one of the most common.

Targeted prospects by most B2B tech companies, right? They the high prize is reaching the CTO of a company and and converting them to put it simply. Yeah. Because we are coming from the point of view of B2B tech marketing, could we talk about this in your experience? In what ways have you been, let’s put it bluntly, marketed to?

Or in what ways have you experienced a relationship forming and business outcomes happening as a result of those relationships? From. Third party B to B businesses in order for the audiences who are made up of B to B marketers, whether their product, whether their channel whether they’re more general to give them insights and how they might craft their strategies and the way that they structure their messaging.

Anthony Spiteri: The one thing that I realized was that as soon as I changed on LinkedIn the title from technical technologist to CTO, I started to get all sorts of direct messages and, yeah, hey, I’m your friend. I want to try and sell you this. Absolutely, when, to your point when CTO, even though it’s regional CTO, even though it’s not the, I say fake CTO, right?

Again, back to that humility thing, it’s like fake CTO. People don’t know that, right? They will send me all sorts of facts. I’ll probably get about 10 a day, I reckon, just direct messages or emails now saying, Hey, I’m from company XYZ. I see that you’re the, and then they basically quote the whole LinkedIn thing, which is, regional CTO, APJ and lead cloud and service writer, technologist, the same software.

We’ve got some sort of software, which will be beneficial to your business. So we’re trying to sell things. What do you want to list? And so the target becomes it almost feels like a shotgun in terms of a lot of these companies going after me because I’ve now got this title. But being honest with you, I can see it a mile away, there’s not probably, there’s not one in the, what are we, nearly 12 months now that I’ve had, that I’ve responded to because I can tell straight away that it’s a shotgun type of cell, they’re trying to cast the net and see what comes back.

And I think my point to and then actually the persistency is quite interesting. So some of them will go one and whatnot, but what I’m saying is a lot of emails come through three or four times over going, Hey, I just want to follow up again. I know that you’re a busy guy. I wonder if you’ve read this and then.

Hey, I noticed that you haven’t read that last email, but could we organize some time to chat, and so the persistence is interesting and I kind of wonder sometimes, is it real or is it a bot doing it? Is it now AI doing that, which potentially it could be, but I think it’s just really persistent people doing it.

But it has no impact or effect on me and I definitely don’t respond to them. So to your point about, methodology. I think companies and people that are hired on, I guess it’s the old, it’s like modern day cold calling, isn’t it? If you think about it and I remember we, in my first role we would hire those, these cold callers who would just, literally have a number of everyone knows what a cold call is and I just always used to think that was really rude and abrasive and, it’s and no wonder you get like people hanging up and getting angry at you.

So I think it’s just human nature to do that, cast the net wide. If you get one response, then you’re doing pretty well. But as a person who has that title, it does get quite annoying. And I don’t know what the answer is to make it better, right? Because I haven’t got the power to bring on a new ERP system, as an example.

I’m not in that that’s our CIO at Veeam Corporate HQ. Because they look after internal systems. So I think it’s actually more to the point of you have to understand exactly what this role is and what I’m doing in this role. And it’s not making decisions on what ERP or what CRM system we’re going to run with in the next 12 months.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, simply the scraping that happens too for this shotgun blast, as you called it, just go out to whomever it might have certain keywords and certain roles means that you’re just inundated in what ways as you reflect on how something could transpire to start a conversation, what would that look like?

How would someone who has a relevant offer that can solve a. And actually, let’s say there’s an actual problem that is within your tech stack. How would that person get on your radar that the cold messaging doesn’t work? That you’re already getting pounded by emails. Nobody re there’s a bit of cold calling, but I would imagine you’re not getting cold, what, what would that look like?

Anthony Spiteri: That actually, yeah, that’s, that’d be fair. That actually does happen. I’ve got my phone and yeah, there was a few of that. So the cold calling still happens. I think from my perspective. Where we see the product strategy, we’re all about the partnerships and I’m always looking at new technologies, right?

And from that point of view, it’s like what, how can Veeam’s an ecosystem player? We’re a software driven company that has a ton of ecosystem play through our resellers and through our key partners. Where I would be interested in is if a company comes through with some compelling new technology, which is in the space of, data, ai, modern platforms, something that’s gonna tweak my interest.

And then from a personal perspective, it’s twofold, right? Because I go, if they interest me from a Veeam perspective, from ecosystem play, then maybe I could have them on the podcast. I could have them on great things with great tech, because that would make a really cool story as well. So yeah, it has to be a very specific sort of.

niche approach for me to even take a slight interest in it because everything else, I’d write off. So yeah, it’s a tough question. But again, I don’t think I’m in that traditional CTO role in a company either. It’s a different type of CTO, right? It’s, yeah. And I think that’s what they obviously don’t know at the other end.

So if people understand what a CTO that’s regional. Working under a product strategy office of the CTO at a vendor does. It’s very different to what a CTO would do in a organization that’s a more traditional sort of non vendor based org.

Jeremy Balius: I think your experience is still valuable to hear about because let’s be real, Danny Allen, global CTO of Veeam’s not going to pick up the phone to take these calls either, but I think what you’re reflecting here that I’m Interested in articulating is that coming in from a sale perspective is not the right move that there’s no there’s no buying intent you’re not out looking for these types of things.

And so really what you’re describing is some form of relationship with the product forming. By way of being introduced to the tech or how compelling it is or how differentiated its value proposition might be that it rises above what else. And somehow gets on your radar in that sense. And then they in the way that you were just talking about it, it’s not a, okay, we’re going into a sales cycle now.

It’s a, let’s get you comfortable with what we’re doing. Let’s. Get let’s understand the needs that you have as a result. And you then in turn dictate how we’re going to go about it by saying, Hey, this is awesome tech. Let’s get you on the podcast. That doesn’t mean some phase of a sales cycle is achieved.

It just means that. It’s more on your radar as a result and you’re thinking about that brand even more and so it becomes less attributional, not to nerd out on metrics language, but it’s more around getting deepening into the relationship as

Anthony Spiteri: a result. I think so. And if I think about what I talked about my evolution from full geek tech to outcome based.

Conversation and how to speak to these C-Suites and the decision makers. I think that’s almost the same thing that needs to happen here, right? Because they need to understand what I’m interested in. So if they’re trying to sell me something straight away, I don’t want to, I don’t want to buy anything, but have you got something compelling for technological perspective?

That’s going to interest me because that’s why I exist. I love all that stuff. I’m so passionate about all sorts of technology as it comes. I lap it up, right? I love talking about it with people. Yeah, I guess that is a better way to do and you’re right, Danny at the top would get bombarded. If I get bombarded as much as I do, he’s going to be getting it a thousand times more like maybe even more than that, right?

So he has to deal with all that kind of stuff. He’s got a PA. I don’t have a PA so PA can deal with that, right? I haven’t quite got to that point yet but yeah, I think ultimately that relationship is what becomes important because and I think it becomes important on a number of different levels because if they can build a relationship with a vendor that They can then have this person, okay, hey, we’ve got this new feature coming out, maybe now we can talk to each other about partnering and then I can feed it through to our R& D, I can feed it through to our product management.

Now, that’s an interesting proposition, which has happened in the past, by the way, without naming names certain interactions that I’ve had on the podcast has led to some discussions, right? It does happen and then vice versa. On the flip side, it creates another interesting component to that about the case of are people using me to get to a certain outcome as well, right?

There’s a sense of lobbying that could be argued here by certain individuals coming and saying, hey, can we be on the podcast? I’Ve heard that’s a pretty good podcast, right? Can we talk about our tech? And then I’ll try and work out, okay, what do you really, is it, number one, I’ll work out is it cool enough, is it good enough and interesting enough to be on the podcast?

So then I go, okay how come have you’ve approached me? And is there some ulterior motive? Am I connecting the right dots here? So it doesn’t happen often, but that’s another side of it as well, which I think is actually quite interesting. It’s that let’s use Anthony’s role and status within the company to be able to get in and have a different sort of conversation with someone else.

Yeah, very interesting.

Jeremy Balius: We are closing out the year. We’re both on a mad sprint to get a whole bunch of stuff done before Christmas, but looking forward, what do you see coming your way in 2024? What are some of the big bets and big plays that you’re focused on?

Anthony Spiteri: Yeah, I think I’ll answer that in two ways.

I think from a Veeam perspective it’s going to be a year of, I think, still growth and consolidation and a new way of messaging that we’ve gone to market. We just did this in the last quarter where we flipped over to the concept of radical resiliency a lot more focused on cyber security and being an ecosystem partner within that world without being a security company ourselves.

And there’s a huge balance in that. And how to market that. I had a question actually a couple of days ago. I was talking to media in Hong Kong and he asked, one of them asked me a question like, how do you talk about, ’cause we’re talking about ransomware being more prevalent and education with users and whatnot, and he said, you’ve talked about educating the users and how they’re the weakest point of entry.

But how do you, as a security company and in the industry, security companies. How can we hold them accountable and how can we hold you, how can we hold you accountable for stuff that you guys don’t do or let through? And I had to correct him, understanding that our messaging is that we’re not a security company, we’re an ecosystem player.

And I had to answer that question in a way that was still answering the question while trying to say Veeam isn’t a security company, but I’ll ask, answer the question from the point of view of the partners that we work with. So I think that’s going to be a lot of what 2024 is about, making sure that we continue to grow and take our lead as a backup company, as the leading backup company in the world by market share, by MQ, leader quadrant and whatnot, and build on that.

Because now all of a sudden, we’re not the ones that are chasing, we’re being chased, and there’s a certain challenge in that. So I think from a Veeam perspective, the technology will always do its thing. It’s just about making sure that we protect our market play. And that’s what we’ve talked about before early on, being able to toe the corporate line, talk to our messaging, make sure that we help create the right messaging and market.

That’s the big part about 2024. And then from a personal perspective. I feel like just taking and still talking to really cool technology companies, which is what I love doing, right? Because I get such a kick out of talking to founders, especially about the origins of their companies. And there’s always some cool stories that come up there, the naming of the company, how they started.

There’s always some weird pivots that they, cause every company pivots at one point and some pivots are more exciting than others. And, but my aim for next year is to get some bigger vendors. I’m looking to target some real tier one vendors. So that’s a challenge, but that’s why I I’m putting myself down for 2024.

Jeremy Balius: Awesome, Anthony. It’s been such a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming on the show, talking about your experiences both in the way that you are communicating as well as how one could potentially communicate with CTOs in general. Thanks for coming on.

Anthony Spiteri: No worries. Thanks.

The theme of our fourth podcast episode is Podcasting for B2B Tech.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things B2B podcasting is Alisa Manjarrez, Managing Director of Stories Bureau.

As a former marketing executive and current Managing Director of Stories Bureau, a B2B creative agency, Alisa specializes in award-winning digital storytelling, brand strategy, podcasts, and product launch campaigns.

At Stories Bureau, she’s shaped and amplified the voice of brands like Mars Wrigley, Equinix, and Collibra. Her team has turned their business stories into impactful narratives that resonate with audiences and strengthen brand values.

Alisa has a passion for multicultural leaders, as demonstrated on her What Rules!? Podcast, where she interviews successful multicultural women by asking them how they’ve broken the rules to get ahead in their careers. To date, they’ve spoken to over 80 women in the C-suite and other senior leadership roles, discussing their rule-breaking strategies for career advancement.

Alisa has a bachelor’s in Communication Studies from Vanguard University, and a master’s in Organizational Management and Leadership from Fielding University with a concentration in Executive Coaching. She lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Discover more about Stories Bureau.

Connect with Alisa on LinkedIn.

Get in touch with Alisa to brainstorm your next podcast.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the podcast episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi, and welcome to the B2B Tech Marketing Talks Podcast where we engage with leading marketing and channel leaders to get fresh perspectives and practical advice on the latest trends, effective strategies, and best practices for B2B tech marketing. I’m your host, Jeremy Balius, and today’s theme is Podcasting for B2B tech.

I’m very excited because I’m joined by Alisa Manjerrez. Alisa is a storyteller at heart, a marketer by profession and a coach by calling. As Managing Director of Stories Bureau, a B2B Creative agency, Alisa specializes in award winning digital storytelling, brand strategy, and what we’re talking about today, B2B podcasts.

She shaped and amplified the voice of brands like Mars Wrigley, Equinix, and Calibra. Her team has turned their business stories into impactful narratives that resonate with audiences and strengthen brand values. Alisa has a podcast of her own called What Rules!?, which is an awesome podcast where successful multicultural women in senior leadership share rule breaking strategies they’ve used to advance their careers. Welcome, Alisa.

Alisa Manjarrez: Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here.

Jeremy Balius: Alisa, I would love to start out by talking about how you got to where you are today. What’s your background? What’s your origin story?

What is the journey that you’ve been on to get to the point of advising brands on their voice, their go to market, and how they are positioning themselves in the market.

Alisa Manjarrez: I started out in the agency world. It’s funny. I went I was started agencies, and now I’m here again. And I thought I would never be back but here but it’s just funny how life goes.

I was a I worked in a small town. We had a big agency, and that was really where I learned about that was the first place I learned how to tell a brand story And working with small businesses, and I started to get the itch to work more with tech at that time. And Along came a client market research technology client that came in. They had just acquired about five companies, a private equity firm acquired them. They acquired other companies, and they were in the middle of a rebrand.

And I just remember, as a marketer, completely salivating over the chance to tell a big tech story. And I worked with them, and I was also at the time, starting my starting executive coaching at the same time. And so their CMO said, oh, you do coaching on the side. Why don’t you coach me, and it was really exciting because he was my first C-suite client. And I was living both of the lives that I still live today, coaching and marketing.

And the more I learned about him and the way he operated, the more I really fell in love with the company that he was building. And so when an opportunity to leave the agency and go internal and work for his company came about. I raised my hand and eventually was VP of marketing at this company. It’s now called Forstat’s been bought out a few times since I’ve been there. And the agency that I used at four at FocusVision, which it was called, they were called Stories Company, and I used to work with a guy named Corey from Stories.

And fast forward, now I’m a business partner with Corey from stories, and we’re called Stories bureau. But in the middle of that that time, I had I ended up leaving the corporate life. I went on my own doing coaching full time, and Corey kept calling me saying you should really do podcasting. The I feel like I’m hearing little projects you have on the side, and I had started a podcast with my brother called Seriously, Though. And we talked about Netflix and cocktails, “But seriously, though” and we then we talked about, like, how to get your life in order.

He’s a financial adviser, so we talked about finance. And then I was working with a couple of executives at PepsiCo doing what’s now called the What Rules!? podcast. And so Corey kept calling me saying you should really do this for companies. And for me, it was just a hobby. I learned so much working with my brother on a podcast ask because we had free reign.

My dad was our editor. We made our own music for it. It was really fun. And then I was using all those lessons learned on my What Rules podcast. And one day, Corey called me and said I know you said no, but Mars Wrigley called.

They want a podcast, and you’re doing it for them. And I couldn’t say no to that. It was a market research centered podcast called Future Imagined, and I really fell in love with the team that I had built creating the podcast. And I eventually was like, I think I wanna keep doing this. So Corey and I partnered up, and now we’re working on other podcasts with other companies, and it’s just been a fun, creative adventure.

Jeremy Balius: It’s so amazing to hear how organic that feels that you’ve been pursuing passions, that Some of those passions have just escalated either by way of experiences that you’ve picked up along the way or a network effect of people that you’ve gotten to know really well and to arrive where you are must feel must feel really rewarding.

Alisa Manjarrez: Yeah. It feels like I can use all of my gifts and strengths that I’ve been building over the years, And now I can put them all under practice under in a way that feels authentic to me.

Jeremy Balius: I can see that. Speaking of authenticity, I would imagine that there would be a blend between your backgrounds of marketing, podcasting, and coaching in helping people understand how to be more authentic.

Is that something that tends to form part of your coaching as you’re readying executives to to go live, to be on camera, to be in front of a microphone?

Alisa Manjarrez: One of my passions is to help executives use their voice and share their voice. And I can’t tell you how many a lot of times we think of is these people who know so much, and they’re leading these huge companies, but they’re humans just like everyone else. And I hear them saying things like, Does my story matter? Or what like, I don’t think anyone wants to know my story.

We should just keep it business. And I remember when I was VP of Marketing at FocusVision, we hired a speaking coach for our CEO, And we had him start using storytelling about his personal life and integrating that into his all hands meetings. So he would talk about his wife as a graphic designer with our Q4 goals. And it’s amazing what happens when you connect people to stories. All of a sudden, the company was really attached to our q four goals.

And the fact that a story can do that is pretty amazing.

Jeremy Balius: It really is. It really is. And it’s often, I believe, not considered or, traditionally, it’s not part of the process of leaders growing into their roles of being top executives. This isn’t part of the discussion of how to lead people, and so it’s amazing that you’re able to help them transition into that because We all know that the more personable and personal one can relate to your people, the better outcomes you get as a business and as an organization in terms of your productivity and a whole range of other benefits.

Alisa Manjarrez: Yeah. It really is. The there’s the saying it’s not personal, it’s business, but business actually is personal. And When you’re in a b to b space, it’s really important. The brands that get it tend to do really well.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. That’s something on our end, also working with B2B tech businesses is in a different in a different set of support. Oftentimes, people forget that people buy from people, and they’re accustomed to just putting products out there, not realizing that there’s real people who have issues, and they’re facing problems, and they need solutions to these. And why doesn’t the product sell itself? We need to tell stories.

Alisa Manjarrez: Mhmm.

Jeremy Balius: Exactly. Hey. So we are today talking about podcasting for B2B. Now a lot of the businesses, certainly, in our world that we come across, podcasting’s not even on the radar.

It’s not even been And I would imagine that if one were to consider it, that it would be chased out the door as quickly as possible because it’s so foreign. So if you could take us right down to basics and talk a little bit about Podcasting in general, where does it sit in the marketing strategy? What is its general purpose? Or if there’s multiple purposes that you’ve Seeing can you highlight those? What are the goals?

And why would one even consider YouTube or a podcast as a B2B marketer?

Alisa Manjarrez: You’re absolutely right that it’s an abstract concept. We have some of our clients, you would think it would sit in marketing, but sometimes with Mars Wrigley, it was in their ins their foresights department and that they were In charge of predicting the future, and they thought podcasting would be a great way to share that. On another client, it’s their VP of Product marketing. So they’re not usually doing these external facing things.

And then sometimes it’s head of digital marketing. I think at the end of the day, podcasting is another content channel. So it’s a way it’s Stories are content. Podcast is content. So it’s the same thing it’s the same way you would treat a webinar or a video series Or a white paper series.

It’s just another type of content. I personally think It should sit under the role of content management and content strategy because I think that’s where you can get the most bang for your buck if you really Make the podcast fit in with your bigger marketing goals and objectives.

Jeremy Balius: I’m fascinated by the fact that you’re being approached by teams that may not sit under the VP of marketing or the CMO that there are leaders in the business who are hungry to tell their story and might Feel that they’re not able to in the current construct of how a business is going to market. So they’re coming to you to say, how do we get our voice heard outside of The usual written content or digital content that a business is normally going with. I’m fascinated by that.

That’s really interesting to hear. Do they then bring challenges with them if they’re not in marketing either by way of How you need to work with the marketing team in order to get through different types of red tape, or do you then have to liaise, or do you take control over enabling them to get that that podcast through the internal mechanisms, Or is that already set by the time they approach you? What is what does that look like?

Alisa Manjarrez: It’s usually never set because podcasts, again, are still kinda foreign to people. So a lot of times, I am playing translator between The people doing the podcast work and the marketing team, and I’m helping them Talk to each other and maybe helping them figure out how it does integrate into their strategy.

So I can give you an example. Calibra, they have a podcast called The Data Download, and it is hosted by their Head of technology, and he is has a team of engineers under him. He’s not a marketing person. He happens to have An incredible personality. He was we coached him, taught him how to host a podcast, and he has A lot of competing interest as head of technology, as you can imagine, that are not marketing related.

So a lot of times, we are, I guess you could say negotiating. How much time can you spend here? And then maybe your content producer who’s Internal to your team, maybe she can help you develop your questions. She can help you figure out your wrap up because she understands The marketing goals. And so it’s it ends up being a really nice blend of that organic what are the technologists and the data people actually wanna talk about versus what does marketing think everyone wants to talk about.

Not putting marketing down, but it’s a lot different when you’re doing the work rather than just talking about the work.

Jeremy Balius: It’s really interesting, particularly the dynamics around Those who are from a more technical basis are speaking differently to the way that marketers, Uh, have traditionally or perhaps even need to in the way that they have to simplify and be Super concise, and they’re just not able to put information out there of such a either technical nature or talking about technical, which a CTO could do, off the cuff. Really interesting to hear that you become a translator in that space as well. I really like that phrasing.

You’re almost mediating as well to ensure that compelling stories are being told while still fitting within a wider brand strategy. That’s complex. You should you should pat yourself on the back. We I can sympathize with what you go through in order to achieve that, and it’s no small feat. So kudos to you for doing that.

Thank you. In your experience, what is generally holding back b two b companies and leaders from telling their stories? What are Blockers or inhibitors that you see.

Alisa Manjarrez: I would say that for podcasts specifically, it just feels too uncertain, Unknown. It’s not some even though podcasts have been around a lot, and most of the demographics of podcast listeners probably match B2B customers, B2B marketers.

So I would guess that they are all very familiar, but how does it work? How do we upload the podcast and then, like, where does it go? I get a lot of really basic questions, And sometimes that in itself is the channel is the inhibitor. And Mhmm. It’s really The people who can step aside and say, okay.

We’ll let you figure that part out, and now let’s just figure how it’s gonna work within our marketing engine. So I would say that the biggest blocker is not being willing to step into that unknown territory. Because once you do, it is a matter of A little bit of marketing operations, making sure certain links are certain UTM parameters are put on your links in your newsletters and all that. And You can connect it the same way you would a blog or a webinar, but it just feels foreign. So I think that’s the biggest inhibitor.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. I’m really relating to the latter point about attribution challenges as well because in my experience, um, non-marketing business leaders want to see like for we invested a dollar here, and we got ten bucks back here. Yeah. And they want that granularity as well to a degree that is fascinating as well as confusing because it’s not requested of other divisions in the business, but marketing has to come up with that, to that proof.

And podcasting doesn’t sit neatly within that. You don’t have the ability to say, Oh, we had this amount of listeners on the show, and therefore, we’re gonna pound them with follow-up emails until one of them caves to meet with one of our SDRs. It’s Yeah. The it’s the wider effect of generating demand, and maybe there’s a lack of understanding of how that works generally.

Alisa Manjarrez: It’s the same.

And when I was on the internal side, there was always a battle between what we are doing with marketing and Which lead belongs is attributed to which effort, and how can we measure it? And podcasting sure doesn’t help. I can say that. I can tell you that. But there the benefits of podcasting are the intangible benefits, I would say, definitely outweigh your ROI because if you have a person The say you have a customer or a potential customer as a guest on your podcast, I view that relationship that you’re building, that one on one that you wouldn’t get.

You’re not at dinner with all the formalities. You’re not in a Sales pitch. You’re just in a relational you’re, like, put into a relational setting. I really view that as three sales dinners with that customer because you’ve spent all your time just talking to them and finding out what Makes them tick, finding out where they come from. Just like right now, you’re asking me my story.

The focus is on me. Of course, I’m gonna feel good. I’m gonna love Jeremy at the end of this, and I’m gonna feel connected to you. And the fact that you can do that with your Clients or your customers or partners, prospects, anyone, the relationship side of podcasting, I feel like there’s no True measurement because you can really get a lot out of a thirty minute, one hour conversation.

Jeremy Balius: I’m not gonna lie. I’ve got I’m getting a bit of goosebumps because one of the things that I’m really passionate is, uh, attempting to be able to articulate these intangibles to business leaders in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s dark arts Marketing cauldron, we’re just throwing in all of these herbs to concoct this thing that somehow sells you know, they don’t trust that, and they don’t they don’t believe in anything that doesn’t have data behind it to some degree.

And so being able to talk about those intangible benefits, which I can relate to because I’m experiencing myself not to get all meta, but by producing a podcast, however grassroots this is, the Intangible benefits have been phenomenal, and we’ll continue to do it despite the time cost of doing it and The sheer amount of work that goes into publishing these and Tim, it’s a lot.

Alisa Manjarrez: It really is. Support that’s the real the realistic side of this is podcasting. You can make a simple Zoom podcast and not edit it and put it out there, and it’s they It can work, and there are ton of podcasts like that.

But if you want something of quality, even just using a platform like you’re using Riverside. We use Riverside a lot. There are so many steps and things and time and edits and all of that. If we produce Trace Route, which is a narrative sound rich podcast. It takes maybe a hundred hours to do a thirty minute episode.

Now this you and I, this is probably maybe six to ten hours, I would guess. But, it’s a lot of work. It’s a big commitment to say yes to podcast. And so as we were talking about the barriers, saying Yes to something that’s gonna be very time intensive and a big commitment. It’s I don’t blame people for being a little bit shy.

But I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been on the other side, and it’s great over here.

Jeremy Balius: Come join us over here. Now in terms of overcoming those inhibitions, In terms of addressing the pushback, in terms of talking about the fear of not Podcasting doesn’t really offer an opportunity to tiptoe into it. You need to commit to make it work because There’s no sense of virality in in any early stages.

There’s no sense of an ability to weigh it up a few episodes in. You need to strap in for the long haul without any, In their minds, potentially a guarantee of having direct attributional ROI. How would you talk about that in terms of join us on the other side? We’re over here in the sunlight come out of the dark cave of non podcasting.

Alisa Manjarrez: There’s a saying among a lot of podcasters, you’re not a real podcaster until you have at least ten episodes.

And so I always like to congratulate clients once they get to that episode ten because the people who are actually working on it On the internal side, on my side, it’s that was a lot. And I would say that The and most of the people that I work with, most marketers that are saying yes to podcast are the visionaries. It’s funny. Like I said, podcasts have been around for a long time, but the B2B tech early adopter types, those are the ones saying yes right now to podcast.

And they are the ones that see the relationships that can be built, and it’s weird when you think about numbers. The average podcast list the other average podcast has about thirty listeners. Thirty. And when we think about podcasts, we hear about, twenty thousand or all those top ones. That it takes years To get there.

So you have to be willing to put in those ten episodes. You have to be willing to see some small numbers at the beginning Unless you do a real big internal push at the start. But it all comes down to what are the goals. Is it really to connect with the people you’re interviewing? Then who cares how many listeners?

Is it to connect with twenty Key prospects. That’s twenty prospects where you’re in their living room, you’re in their kitchen, you’re at their gym, you’re in their car. What is that worth to you? And if those twenty customers are each worth, say, five hundred thousand dollars, there’s a pretty big ROI with twenty people.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. Yeah. It’s really important to remember that we are awash with stories of insane numbers, and those are so rare. And as you said, take years to achieve that, uh, even just having quantifiable numbers that don’t stack up in that way, but are meaningful in the way that you’ve just pointed out in terms of potential revenue is great, but that takes coaching. That takes Mhmm. Encouragement.

That takes accountability. That takes a lot of reminding I would imagine.

Alisa Manjarrez: And it really takes vision and not just from one person. It takes vision with for a whole team Or any stakeholders. If you’re a person that’s yes.

I wanna do a podcast. I’m gonna pitch it To the rest of my team, you need more than one person that’s gonna come alongside you because it’s one of those ideas that can die on the vine pretty easily unless You don’t have unless you have the proper backup of key people key decision makers.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah. That’s such a good point. Just having the buy in across the board to stay committed would ensure the longevity.

Alisa Manjarrez: Mhmm. And we’ve had you know, in tech companies, I’m sure you’ve experienced this. There’s CMOs are usually there for one to two years, and then you have another CMO. It’s just the life cycle. And it’s been interesting to be in those transitions.

We have lately, we’ve had some that are like, oh, podcasting. Why isn’t the rest of this team on this? Because this is huge. This is the forefront. This is my vision, and why isn’t there more video with your podcast?

And it’s For me, it’s like all the things I’ve been saying. Finally, someone else agrees with me. And and it’s great when you have visionary leaders Who want who see the potential of a channel like podcasting?

Jeremy Balius: Amazing. It must feel amazing to see, them growing up in podcasting and using your language when talking about it internally.

That’s a lot of fun. Mentioned TraceRoute. Now this is Equinix’s podcast produced by Stories Bureau. I’m just gonna be totally open. This is an amazing podcast.

I think it’s so cool what you guys have done. It’s on a whole other level of what we’re even considering about doing with our own podcast. It’s so incredibly well produced. It’s engaging. It’s it’s clearly invested in heavily from a time perspective, And there’s having even this small podcast, I know for a fact that the amount of planning that must go into it must be extensive in the back and forth.

To get it right must be arduous to some degree. So it’s incredible what you guys have done. We’ll be linking to that podcast as well as the others that Alisa has mentioned. But how did this particular podcast come about. What was Equinix looking to do originally, and where did Traceroute come from as a result?

Alisa Manjarrez: Equinix had recently acquired a company called Packet. And Jacob Smith is the was one of the cofounders of Packet. And when he joined this conglomerate, he was like, I really wanna make sure That as we grow under this new skin, that we don’t forget the developers, the solutions architects. We don’t Forget the people that are building this digital infrastructure. So how can we highlight Those people.

And he actually worked with a different production company for season one. So you’ll hear a little bit of a difference between season one, Two and three. We’ve done two, and now we’re working on three. And so he wanted to really tell the stories, and They came to us. It’s funny.

They had the podcast, and they’re like, great. We have it. Now what? Now, like, how do we put it out into the world? And then that’s when Stories Bureau came on board.

And so we actually marketed a podcast that we didn’t produce for all of season one. We were very fortunate in that first season of getting on the top twenty five of Apple Podcasts and tech category. Wow. And now we’re, like, constantly competing with ourselves. So Once we started with season two, we wanted to take it a step further, get a little bit deeper into the human side of the stories.

And we have a producer and writer. His name is John Taylor, who has just really he’s a nontechnical person Who has taken these complex topics and really humanize them so that Not only people in technology understand and feel like they’re being, hearkened to a little bit, but anyone who has a Vague interest in technology. So we’re really trying to show that human side, as you mentioned, that we’re trying to peel back the layers of the stat To reveal the humanity in the hardware. That’s our mantra. And we’re doing that.

It’s a constant experiment. Even for season three, it’s launching this week. It’s we’re pushing it a little bit further, seeing how, how human can we get Here with under a branded podcast, and it’s a lot of trial and error, and, We hope that it continues to grow.

Jeremy Balius: I am so inspired by that because living and breathing a similar, uh, aspect of this, but more so on helping leaders take products and services to market and articulating the value of either what they are intending to build or what they’ve already built, and then they’re trying to figure out how to go out and tell it, and talk about it after they’ve already built it. But where I think the absolute magic is in what you’ve just described is being able to articulate stories in a way that engages techies, and that is getting the language right and the terminology and the phrasing in such a way that Techies feel like it’s speaking to them, but at the same time, you’re on this tight rope of making sure that it’s not so technical, that it’s speaking to people who have no technical background, who and who technically would find that off putting to speak to.

And that balance, I think, is the absolute magic. That’s amazing that you guys are pulling that off.

Alisa Manjarrez: Thank you. And we have a really great team. We also to make sure that we speak that tech language, We do have three representatives from Equinix who rotate as host.

Sometimes they’re all on an episode. Sometimes they’re not. And it’s really to bring back that technical angle. Behind the scenes, they’re also helping us find sources To interview for the podcast. Some sometimes they’re connections they have or just people they’re genuinely interested or following.

And so we really try to incorporate those voices and and make sure that we’re accurate in On the tech technological side of it.

Jeremy Balius: That’s amazing that you’ve set up those, risk mitigations because the risk I really see here is technical industry technology industry participants have an aversion, I believe, to marketers who don’t know anything about technology. And I’ve seen it happen. I’ve been in conversations where people are talking to other people, and you watch them shut down once they realize this person is just talking jargon at me or they’re just saying whatever to sell me. And, therefore, I believe that it’s so critical to ensure that even the nuances of how words are Phrased are important.

Even a simple mispronunciation of a single word gives a technical person insight that you actually don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s incredible. It’s so Mhmm. At the same time, it’s also so risky to ensure that anybody who’s ever involved in anything with b two b tech Has the adequate experience, has an in-depth understanding of the complexities that these guys face, and know the nuance jargon and language that they use.

Alisa Manjarrez: It’s funny you say that because we were really excited when we were talking about let’s peel back the layers of the stack, and we had all these analogies around it.

And as soon as one of the SREs heard it, she was like, Actually, I think of the tech stack more as a tech salad, and here’s why. And so we have an episode where she’s just talking about why she thinks It’s actually a salad and not a snack. And because there are so many nuances even between technologists that are hard to capture in, thirty minutes.

Jeremy Balius: Absolutely. And the whole ecosystem’s getting more complicated by the day with the different types of participants and ancillary support services and Types of companies and come very complex sales rhythms, and everybody’s in within Partnerships and channels and ecosystems.

And unless you have that ability to understand the lay of the land and navigate The salad as this person’s described it as, it’s immediately off putting to people. So that’s incredible that you guys are able to walk that tightrope for this podcast.

Alisa Manjarrez: And one of the I just wanna add that one of the risks that Equinix took with doing this podcast. It’s not about their products. We’re not talking about we are talking about people behind digital Structure, that’s what Equinix Metal, who’s the main team that we work with, does.

But it’s really interesting. They decided to go a little bit broader, still with their world, but it’s has we don’t talk about what they do ever, really. But what’s cool is because the product is always growing and changing in the terminology, trace route stays the same. It stays as a brand constant even when the product changes. So it’s been I think they’re just starting to see That it’s it seemed like a little bit outside of the scope of from a marketing lens, and now it’s actually the one thing that gets to say the No matter what happens with the brand, no matter what happens with the products they offer and how fast or Slow the scale.

TraceRoute the podcast is that consistent connection to their community.

Jeremy Balius: My wheels are turning because I’m totally in agreement with that approach As well

Alisa Manjarrez: as It’s risky. I wouldn’t always recommend it. But

Jeremy Balius: it’s it’s risky because and it takes vision and, I think, internal champions to really push something like this through. But I think what’s amazing here as a maybe after effect or a result of taking this approach is I believe and happy for you to talk about this, but I believe it’s or it sounds like Equinix has Found a vehicle for through which it can broaden the way that it engages its Community across all of these complex, um, partners and customers and prospective suppliers and and employees, I would imagine there’s an internal engagement through this as well.

It’s broadening out what is possible for marketing and but it’s broadening it out across divisions within the business, and I think that is rare that There are multiple people involved in this process, I would imagine, that don’t sit within marketing. And even if marketing owns it, This is now infusing the ability to communicate or vocalize a brand story across those whom traditionally don’t and don’t get involved. And I think that’s as that’s one of the intangibles that you mentioned earlier that I think needs to be highlighted. More people are representing the brand. There’s more ambassadors.

More people are talking about stories, and they’re not flogging product. They’re telling compelling stories through your guidance.

Alisa Manjarrez: Yeah. And this is year three, so it’s not like this is just and I everything that you’re saying is what I hope continues to happen with Equinix and their entire their customer base And their internal employees, I think they’re moving in that direction, I would say. They’re not quite there, but they’re on their way.

We’re just starting season three. We’ll see what happens. Different people get connected to different episodes, And there’s so many more stories and worlds that we have to share with this audience. I think what you’re saying is right on, but I can say that we’re in the middle of it, so I can’t tell you we’re there yet.

Jeremy Balius: It’s a journey no matter where you are and no matter what point you’re at.

So there’s no finish line here. So it’s I’m very much looking forward to the direction that you take that in. It’s always onwards and upwards. It’s amazing. What would you say to leaders who might be listening who may be subscribing to a podcast.

They’re obviously listening to this one. What would be your point of encouragement to consider podcasting as a beneficial, uh, vehicle of communication that they should leverage.

Alisa Manjarrez: If you are a leader who is looking to share your own voice. I would say start playing around with ideas of what how you wanna be perceived within your organization outside side for your personal brand. It’s one of those great tools that you can use for both.

You can use it for sales and marketing. You can also use it for sales and marketing for yourself. There’s a lot of opportunities there. And for the company, it’s a place you I think the main thing is to think, okay. We have this kind of nebulous channel that we can use, and the nice thing is you can mold it However you want.

So depending on your goals for your the year, the next five years, You can use podcasts in so many different ways, whether it’s a chat cast like this is, just interview. You can do panels. You can do storytelling, like traceroute. There’s so many different ways that you can get your message across, Whether it’s your brand overarching message or more specific, um, brand pillars that you wanna make sure are there. So I would say that the take advantage of the fact that it is a little bit foreign and it is a little bit of unknown because You can really make it what you want to make it.

You have an it’s like an open floor to create something out of nothing.

Jeremy Balius: Those are awesome words. An open floor to create something out of nothing. I love it. Let’s put it on the headline.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I’m coming away from this inspired. I’ve picked up a lot of learnings from your experiences, and really grateful that you’ve been willing to share your story, um, and your experiences with b two b tech companies.

Alisa Manjarrez: Thank you, Jeremy. I love being here.

Thank you for the intelligent questions.

Jeremy Balius: Now all of your social links will be in the text below as well as Alisa’s other podcasts do check her out, and go subscribe to everything she’s doing. Thanks, Alisa. .

Alisa Manjarrez: Thank you.

The theme of this third episode is Opportunities in the Channel.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things channel landscape is Jay McBain, Chief Analyst at Canalys.

Canalys is the world’s leading analyst firm with a distinct focus on channels, partnerships, alliances, and ecosystems. The 24-year-old market analysis firm strives to guide clients on the technology industry’s future and to think beyond the business models of the past – delivering smart, timely, and actionable market insights to IT, channel and service provider professionals.

Prior to Canalys, Jay was the Principal Analyst of Channels, Partnerships and Ecosystems at Forrester, has held leadership positions in channel SaaS companies, and got his start at IBM and Lenovo. In this conversation, Jay brings extensive insights to topics including the recent announcements made at Microsoft Inspired, how AI will be embedded in future partner services, how routes to market are diversifying rapidly and many other important topics relevant to channel and partner leaders. Enjoy the conversation!

Connect with Jay McBain on LinkedIn.

Discover Canalys.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the podcast episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi, and welcome to the B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast. I’m your host, Jeremy Baylis. Today’s theme is opportunities in the channel. I’m very excited today because I’m joined by Jay McBain. Welcome, Jay.

Jay McBain: Thank you so much for having me.

Jeremy Balius: Jay, you’re the chief analyst at Canalys. You’ve. Previously been principal analyst of channels, partnerships, and ecosystem at Forrester. You’ve had leadership positions in channel SAS companies, but I’d like to start prior to that with your experience at IBM and Lenovo with your channel origin, such a story as such, how did you get started in the channel?

And what was the channel like back then?

Jay McBain: Yeah, absolutely. I had a mom that was a computer teacher, and she would lug home an Apple computer when I was 11 years old. So I taught myself to program, built some programs. So my computer kind of thing started much more, much before the channel. But, when I went to college, my dad was on me to say, you should go grab an internship and show people what you can do.

And, that might lead to a full time job. Cargill Meat Packing Plant, came calling. As did IBM, so as part of their management training program, I could have pulled hides off of livestock for a year, at Cargill, or I could have joined the IBM helpdesk, the “1-800-MY-COMPUTER-IS-BROKEN and you put me on hold for 45 minutes and I’m really mad” helpdesk.

I chose the latter and quickly within a year got into a channel-facing role and have spent 30 years in this industry, trying to figure out how it works, the system behind it and connecting dots that people don’t have the time to connect is, is what I’ve tried to do.

Jeremy Balius: That’s amazing. And, I can’t believe those, two pathways, that you were choosing between, you pursued the channel. There’s a clear direction in your past that, goes deeper into channel over time. When you started out at IBM, what was it about the channel that started igniting this passion for you?

Jay McBain: Yeah, so I was, I started at IBM in the PC area and then that flowed into Lenovo later, 17 years later, the fact of the matter, though, is most of my colleagues at IBM, 500,000 colleagues were selling mainframes to banks. And they didn’t feel that the partners had a seat at the table and it was very much a direct focus and things like that.

But in my world, trying to cover, in those early days of the PC, trying to cover all of those opportunities and all the growth and everything else, I knew not only a resale channel, I knew a retail channel and later on, about a decade later, a new managed services channel, I recognize how buyers that would think about these purchases and the importance that partners brought not only at the point of purchase, but those moments before the purchase, all of the consulting work, the design, the architecture, the configure price quote.

And then after the point of sale, for, to win that customer again, and to get them to buy your laptop again, they had to have a good experience, implementations, integration, security, compliance, continuity, all the things that come in that full life cycle, three years later would lead to another, a customer purchase.

So that was always for me, surrounded by partners. And we’re at a point now where the average considered purchase in the 5 trillion tech industry. Is surrounded by seven partners that the customer trusts.

Jeremy Balius: So Jay, I was hoping we could kick off our conversation, with an overview of Canalys and what you do, your, what your focus is and what your guys mission is

Jay McBain: as a company. Yeah, sure. Canalys is a top 10 research and analyst firm around the world. We have a niche and our niche Canalys is Latin for channel.

So this company is over two decades old and it’s always focused on go to market and routes to market. You’ve got big companies like Gartner and Forrester and IDC and others that are more generic and they’ll touch on, different topics for different buyers like CIOs and CMOs and stuff.

We’re pretty much focused on the partner first, the vendor that supports the partner, which there’s 35, 000 today with channel managers and with a channel programs and running channel technology.

We’re focused on the distributors that support those vendors and partners. And there’s hundreds upon hundreds of those, today across the world. So we’re in this technology market. And the 73.3% of the $5 trillion last year that businesses and governments spent on tech and telco go to, through, and with the channel.

And that’s what we do.

Jeremy Balius: It’s incredible. And the pace at which you’re publishing research is just phenomenal. It feels like every day there’s new insights coming out from you.

Tell me more about Microsoft Inspired, today.

Jay McBain: Yeah. So Microsoft Inspired today announced a whole bunch of things around generative AI, which most people would have expected, but there’s a brand new partner program around generative AI. And you’re wondering, what does that mean? They just came out with a new point system last October.

Microsoft has the largest channel of any company in the world with 470,000 partners and 400 new ones to join every day. But they’re starting to show.

The education, the training, the certifications, the competencies, all of the different monetization or the multiplier around generative AI, how do partners make money?

And then how do they get recognized in this case by Microsoft? You’ll soon be hearing from AWS and Google and IBM and others. And the idea is this is a whole new, program that wouldn’t have looked anything like programs we’ve seen the last 43 years.

So again, what does this mean for the partner? What does this mean for other vendors that are either in this space or looking at this space?

And how do we make sense of this new economics of partner?

Jeremy Balius: Generative AI is such a hot topic. And this is something I wanted to bring up today. we’re seeing partners starting to come to grips with how do they use large language models and how do they incorporate, this into their day to day activity and their service models.

Do you see any movement in this space? In the channel already, or is it still we’re feeling our way into it?

Jay McBain: The channel overall, there’s millions of partners of different types that all the GSIs global system integrators have put out big announcements of their generative AI practices. And some like KPMG have signed the big deal with Microsoft, that was announced, not too long ago. And yeah, from the large perspective, but what we are figuring out, if I go back to this multiplier.

Is where the opportunity actually is, we know that generative AI, much like infrastructure as a service software as a service security is going to be in seven layers, out of the gate. You’re not just going to go by, business version of chat or a business version of Bart or Bard. Sorry, business version of Watson X from IBM.

You don’t just go buy that as a skew. What’s going to happen is you have to think through as a partner.

All of the compliance, all of the security, all of the data, and you’re going to work with companies, like Snowflake or Databricks and other companies that you may not have worked as much with in the past.

Around the large language models, you’re probably not going to host these models. You’re probably not going to be in charge of, feeding these models and writing the algorithms, but there are partners that will the average company to die today of mid-market size or larger has seven partners.

They trust and one of the main things partners take from this is there’s probably going to be six other partners in the room and you’re not competing over the same thing, but the larger opportunity around it, can really feed all the partners and being able to work and co innovate together, create value together, leverage each other’s network effects as you can take this to other companies, either around the world in the same industry.

Same buyer type, same segment or sector, same kind of 7-layer stack expertise. Same delivery models. So there’s so many areas to go take this and build your own ecosystem and build a practice that, can take you to new heights.

Jeremy Balius: It feels like such a new era because, as many business leaders are just thinking about the unwrapped. ChatGPT or BARD, as you called it, the, the opportunity really here is looking at how are other organizations going to put a wrapper over it and infuse it into offerings that evolve them into new heights that partners can take to market, which is fascinating.

And it’s all happening very fast.

Jay McBain: Yeah, and this isn’t the new, this isn’t the first time a new technology is taken over the consumer realm, you’re reading about it in the New York Times and you’re watching about it on, the news and, this is, become a consumer level frenzy of which every one of your clients is asking, okay, can you translate all that consumer stuff, Terminator 3 and Skynet and can you take all that and tell me from a business perspective.

Yeah. What I should be doing, but 10 years ago, we were in a flurry around Internet-of-Things. A year ago, we were in a flurry around the metaverse around automation, robotics, self-driving drones. I could take you through 3D print. I could take you through dozens of examples of these emerging technologies, promising huge things for partners of different types.

And what you’ll find out is all boats don’t rise. Internet of Things, 10 years later, it’s still not a common practice across the channel. There are companies making billions of dollars, bringing in plastic from China and getting it out there and building out the 5G networks and building out all the different, edge-to-cloud technologies and stuff.

But it never became a broad-based opportunity, even though you would think that every one of your clients, could succeed with Internet of Things. It really wasn’t true. It was very specific to certain industries, very specific to certain size of companies, your flower shop down the road, other than maybe a beacon on the wall had no use for it.

So this is, we’ve got to figure this out with generative AI as well. while we think it’s going to change the world and very important people are writing long letters to governments. Asking to pause it and, we’re coming up to Armageddon here. the fact of the matter is partners have been through this enough times to step back and ask important questions, intelligent questions, and very quantitative questions.

It is important right now, and customers are asking a lot of questions, but how much money is there to be made in consulting? In generative AI, how much money is there to be made and design and architecture at the point of sale? Any kind of co innovation in those 7 layers? Is there any kind of resale opportunity?

There’s most of this going to go through a marketplace. What’s the opportunity to make money in that marketplace every 30 days forever?

It’s not just going to be part of your managed services contract along with help desk and your security firewall and all the other things you’re doing. You’re not just going to add gen as your 21st thing that you’re going to help them with.

For that 113 a month, you’re charging per device. So you’re starting to think, how is the managed services going to wrap around this? The implementations, the integrations, the compliance, the security, the continuity. How do I charge for all that? How are customers ready to buy that today? And who are they going to be buying it from?

And again, let me ask intelligent questions about where the money is to be made, given this trend and given the.

Jeremy Balius: It’s good to take that commercial aspect because it really diminishes the media frenzy around, the ethical questions or the Armageddon, as you put it, very insightful there. You earlier mentioned the seven layers of technology. We here at Filament. Are, working at a nexus of enabling, vendors and their partners to go to market together.

Oftentimes that’s with multiple vendors, or strategic alliances and their partners who are end user-facing when Canalys published, the seven layers of technology, which is made up of the distributors and the cloud marketplaces and telcos and aggregators and so forth. That was a real aha moment because it visually gave us the ability to, show what is happening and the way that the different partners sit alongside each other.

And I think I even see the poster on your wall. of that image, in what ways can these partners or in what ways do you see these partners co creating together, co marketing, co selling in ways that they traditionally might not have when they were, accustomed to going it, going to market by themselves.

Jay McBain: Yeah. the seven-layer research was just to show that, if you focus on the way money changes hands. And that’s all you focus on the point of sale for 43 years, our industry has actually been pretty linear in terms of how that works. When I sold laptops for Lenovo and IBM, 80 plus per cent of our business, would go through resellers and retailers.

And that’s how money changed hands. So you set up programs and you set up coverage models, and that’s the way we’ve been working for decades and decades, and this is all changing pretty rapidly. Obviously, the cloud has introduced cloud based distributors that are distributing bits, not atoms.

They don’t have distribution centers, they don’t have 3PL logistics, they, but there’s a ton of orchestration that needs to happen. So there’s the fastest growing distributor in the world, like a PAX 8 doesn’t have traditional distribution value across logistics and supply chain, but have a ton of value for orchestrating the outcomes of what clients are asking partners for.

And that’s why they’re growing so quickly. they have a bunch of competitors around the world that are also growing quickly. You look at the next layer, like telco, that convergence with IT. Telco services are still larger than I. T. services. Not a lot of people know that won’t be a few years from now, but there’s still a trillion and a half dollars of telco services.

The 25 what used to be called master agents now text solution brokers. Have consolidated down to about four of them now, really large and very technology focused groups. That is another layer of distribution. Marketplaces are growing at 86% compounded. They almost double in size every year.

There’ll be 45 billion spent through marketplaces in the cloud by 2025, a year and a half from now. AWS is going to be a top 10 distributor around the world, along with TD Cinex and Ingram, on that list. So this is changing rapidly. And the buyer of technology will be a millennial in less than 2 years.

These are iPad kids digital first and how credits are going to work and how these new, how money changes hands completely changes the economics of what we’ve done for 43 years, new programs, new relationships. When you talk about the intersection of vendors and distributors and partners, all of the funding that takes place.

We just talked about Microsoft’s new program today. Almost no money at the point of sale because they’re not selling AI. It’s embedded in other things and the money and the economics is different. Because there’s no skew. So in that world, we’re talking multipliers, we’re talking marketplaces, there’s a lot of changing.

And I go down from there. there’s four other categories of how money changes hands. And it’s important to know that what’s fueled this industry for decades, since the very beginning, August the 12th, 1981, till now is changing pretty radically. And it’s changing so quickly that in the next three to five years, it’s going to be radically different.

In terms of how we make money as partners, how vendors support that and how distributors find a spot to orchestrate and add value so that they remain very relevant in that new future.

Jeremy Balius: It’s really fascinating because from our point of view, we’re starting to see business leaders within the individual organizations start to wrap their head around. How do we structurally shift? to meet this change and, from a resourcing perspective, even they’re starting to figure out if we’re going to market together with multiple partners, because we’re all in service of some end user down the chain.

And we’re all trying to sustain a larger, longer-term sales cycle to reach that end user business. how do we sustain it together? That makes sense. And. We might see in the B2B space, let’s say 12, 18, 24-month sales cycles. If you’ve got multiple partners in play, nobody really owns the sustaining of that sales cycle, across all of them.

And so it’s fascinating to watch business leaders try to figure out. Should sales own this? Should marketing own this? Do we need market partner marketing teams in the way that SAS is starting? I’m not starting, but has really shifted into there and leaned into their partner ecosystems.

It’s a hard change because they haven’t done that for decades. And it’s fascinating to watch it take place.

Jay McBain: It really is. And to pick on SAS for a minute, because that’s where you were going. 75% of SAS today is bought by business leaders, and it makes sense that a CRO buys a CRM that a CMO buys a marketing automation platform, plus the 11, 039 other MarTech and AdTech tools on the stack.

It makes sense that a customer success buys a ServiceNow, a HR buyer buys a Workday. It just makes sense. And they’re spending over half their time on tech now, as opposed to their day jobs. So this is just a tech economy where the people, the companies they work for, regardless of what industry are becoming more technology companies.

So everything’s converging at once into this space, but let’s pick on, one of the largest SAS companies, Salesforce. Here’s a company that is almost a hundred percent direct. Talk about how money changes hands only in a few places in Asia Pacific. Do they have indirect? And they might be growing that a little bit more based on some recent announcements, but let’s assume that 32 billion a year.

Is direct mostly, and that’s larger in size and revenue than SAP it’s, they got to a valuation higher than Oracle for a while. So this is big time stuff and they got there without a channel selling their stuff. But at the same time they’re recruiting 500, 000 partners. So why the heck would a partner sign up to somebody where you can’t sell their product?

every dollar of Salesforce comes with $6.19 of ecosystem or economic value, if that customer has 7 partners, they trust you’re all staring at the 6 dollars and 19 cents. So they’re spending $100 grand on Salesforce consumption or subscription, and now there’s 600,000 for all of us to divide amongst ourselves.

In richly paid services, like we’re talking 75% margin services, and we can break that down before, during and after the transaction. We can break it down into co innovation and the 6 other ISVs that will be sold with every dollar of Salesforce, break it down into the strategic and business alliances. But yeah, you’re going to have.

An ecosystem leader, you’re going to have a partner business development person that looks at your customers, your TAM, figures out who the seven people surrounding them are, figuring out who the most likely non-competitive companies you should be integrating with. And here’s another thing that’s brand new in the last six months.

Every buyer in every industry is becoming integration first. Ahead of price, ahead of service, ahead of support, any other part of the criteria. We’re integration first. So we’re buying tools now, not in terms of how much they cost, but how well they work with our already established system that we put in place, the layers we already have.

And to flip gears into consumer, 91% of us today would not buy a car unless it has Apple CarPlay. This in our personal lives and our professional lives, we’re integration first and partners need to be integration first because that’s what your buyer is. They don’t want a single throat to choke.

They don’t want a trusted advisor without a plural. They literally want you to plug in. And add your skills, add your capabilities, build out their capacity, and they’re free to spend, upwards of that 6 for every dollar outsourcing some or all of that technology services that they need to do to be successful.

And that’s it. That’s every neat buddy needs to look at this. And do you hire more direct sales people? Do you hire more marketing people? Or do you start looking at your customer and who surrounds them in the first 28 moments on average before they make a decision? Who surrounds them at that point of sale, because it really doesn’t matter for the first 30 days of a subscription or consumption model of where the money goes, who collects the money, but then every 30 days after that, your retention, your renewals, your upsell, your process, your enrichment, your entire lifetime of that customer.

The value of that customer is to keep them as a lifetime customer is partner driven. So I got to look at the entire journey now that never ends because it gets renewed every 30 days or every year forever.

Jeremy Balius: I just want to jump on one stat that you just threw out there, 28 touch points. Now we’ll be sitting across from business leaders and talk about 12 to 18 touch points on average 28 touch points. Tell me more.

Jay McBain: Yeah. So let’s not use the word touch point because that would seem more sales or marketing specific.

Let’s talk about moments. It seems more psychologically safe to use that word. so let me take you back to the last time you bought a car. And today there’s 63 major manufacturers of cars that built 365 brands of car. So you’re not going to go on 365 test drives. That’s one every day of the year.

You’re going to start to narrow things down. Do I want an SUV? Do I want it to be electric? you start to think, but what are the moments early in that journey as you start to build that funnel and narrow things down? Not till you want a midsize SUV that’s electric. Have you got it down to something that your head can contain and move forward with?

And you’re using YouTube, you might be using social media, you’re talking to your neighbors and friends. Those are all moments in time. They may be very simple, like reading a tweet. It could be complex, like reading an ebook or listening to a full podcast like this. It’s all part of the moments and we all have psychology.

Some of us love podcasts and others don’t use that medium. So in that world, as you move along your car buying journey and you’re narrowing things down and you’re getting reinforcement from those you trust. Guess what? Around the mid journey, you start going on the website, configure price, quote your car, build out the color and the rims you want to, you start to get, a little bit excited about exactly how it’s going to look.

And then, before visiting the dealership, you go and download the invoice price. You know what they paid for it. You download the back end rebates this month. any funny money that’s going on, within 100 with that car is going to cost. you don’t need that old school.

Eight hours as they try to get you a deal, the manager. You’d rather like Carvana, just deliver the car on my driveway, hand me the keys. I’d happy to pay you 100 more just to avoid ever going to the dealership experience. But that’s your 28 moments and you could count all the times and all the things you did and all those YouTube videos you watched of your car racing up against a Tesla or something.

Those are all moments and everybody’s competing for those moments. You can imagine 63 manufacturers competing for those moments. And guess what? In the post cookie world. You can’t go buy those moments anymore because your privacy is protected by Apple and soon to be by Google. They have 99% mobile share and 82% desktop browsing share combined.

You get to the Internet through two companies, two trillion-dollar companies, multi trillion dollar companies. And so when those two companies decide there’s no more cookies, there are no more cookies. So whether you’re Ford or Mercedes or Toyota, you can’t go buy. Your 28 moments, you’ve got to go partner with that YouTube creator, you’ve got to go partner with the ebook creator.

You’ve got to go partner inside those social networks and those circle of trust that you built. And if those people surrounding you have led you to a certain SUV brand, then they get credit and they should get credit in the new economics of partnering to getting you to the dance. If the dealership takes your money.

Perfect. they should earn whatever that’s worth, but it could be a digital. Most states and provinces are now taken because the Tesla are taken down the requirements you have to buy from a dealer. So you could buy it direct on a website, especially for electric cars. They look like a computer.

Then every 30 days after that, whether you take it to that dealership for service, or it drives itself to get its own service at 3 in the morning. I put a 20-minute video on the future of cars on YouTube myself. Talking about partnerships, but that’s it. That’s the 28 moments. The same goes for when you buy software.

The same goes when you buy any considered purchase. It’s the average of moments that land you in the vendor, the brand, the decision you make.

Jeremy Balius: I really appreciate the language that you’re using to describe this because we’re seeing a radical shift in how organizations are viewing demand and how they are shifting. Attribution and where they source, net new prospects and leads and how they qualify. This is all shifting very fast and, and it’s fascinating that it’s being driven, by them being forced to because of the two monoliths, are making changes that are, they’re pushing them in that direction.

And I think it’s positive.

With just a nudge, I wanted to take you back to what you were just describing around the services that are being wrapped around, SAS and, other providers and, and ask you about some research that Canalys published a few months ago around partners, outpacing vendors rapidly. Why do you think partners are outpacing vendors?

Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Jay McBain: Yeah. So in, in one case, vendors are limited by the product SKUs that they sell and either it’s a hot category, which, last year at this time, PCs were really hot, coming off the pandemic and stuff this year. It’s a disaster, they’re down multi double digits.

So as a vendor, it is what it is. There is certain demand for the product, but partners aren’t linked directly to the cell. Of the product. So if somebody is extending for it, let’s keep on PCs. If somebody is extending their PC life cycle and going to keep those laptops around for year four, maybe year five.

guess what services these things break more often. They need more managed services. They need more white glove service. You might need some hot spares. There’s a whole bunch of, I could think of 20 different services Around an aging fleet. So where Lenovo HP and Dell may not be so happy because sales are down.

It’s actually provided an opportunity for the partners to earn more money. Now, there’s 250 other product categories. If you think about software, if you think about other things, all of these, demand areas that the market, Tam, the current demand for a certain category. partners have all kinds of headroom to go build against the multiply, to go build new skills, go build education, training, certifications, competencies.

So where I was a implementation partner, now I can become an implementation and integration partner, because now I have an integration first buyer. I was a reseller, but I’m going to start to move into, managed services. I was a digital agency. Doing creative work, but I’m going to start working now more on compliance and other types of things.

So I’ve got all these opportunities again, upwards of six or seven times the sale of the product itself, where I can go build practices around and I could make two or three or four dollars for every dollar the manufacturer, every dollar the vendor makes. And that’s, the sky’s the limit in terms of that.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, it’s really interesting. And it seems like vendors are leaning in on this. We’ve been to some recent conferences where, different, vendor channel programs are announcing that this is the year of the partner. Or the age of the partner, and it seems to be a critical strategic imperative on their end to invest in partner value creation is something that’s evident on, in your research.

Jay McBain: It is, and I always ask the 2nd question because, for decades, I’ve seen it be the year of the partner, but, show me the money as the movie would say, right? But show me what that means to you. So define what partner means to you. If it’s somebody who helps the customer along those first 28 moments and gets recognized, monitored, measured and managed for that, a partner that helps that customer, procure and provision the technology, like 24% of marketplace deals are today are partners clicking by on behalf of the customer.

They’re not the reseller of record, but they’re literally have their finger on the trigger, that partner who helps every 30 days, get that product to be sticky, get that product to be. renewed and locked in. So you have a customer for life, that partner who’s doing co innovation creating, software and hardware, and it could be RPA or bots.

It could be all kinds of co innovation and value creation, all the kinds of strategic and business aligned. So there’s so many things a partner does. So if you’re still defining partner as somebody who collects the customer’s money, I guess the year of the partner ought to be paying them more for collecting the customer’s money, but.

What we’re seeing pretty much across the industry is that year or the era of the partner. Is to recognize what partners actually do and most vendors, this is going to ring true. You’ve always had a long tail of partners that aren’t active and you always get together with your colleagues and say, how do we engage them?

How do we enable them? If we just enabled our long tail, we’d be, guess what? After 40 years, we finally figured out they’re there for a reason because you’ve always measured them on their ability to sell. And 90% of partners are just not that interested in collecting the customer’s money. So you’ve got this whole laundry list of partners out there.

And you’re judging a fish by their ability to climb a tree. When you start looking at those partners and asking them the right questions, what do you actually do? Oh, wow. Thanks for asking. I do this, and this, which is hugely valuable. It allows me to grow. I’m very profitable. And by the way, if you just recognize me for that, I’d be happy, but you keep putting me on these spreadsheets and sorting by revenue.

I’m just never going to collect their money unless the customer literally. Forces me to, or they buy my procurement services if I’m a system integrator, but stop measuring me on only one KPI. And if you can measure me 10, different ways. I will show you, I’m one of your best partners. I should be a platinum, even though I’ve never sold a nickel of your product to most channel managers, that’s heresy.

But that’s coming to be true. And if you truly believe this is the era of the partner, you start to think seriously about point systems that do monitor, measure, and manage all of these points of value as opposed to just the point of sale. You start moving money around and opportunity around to all these points of value and you start to truly culturally from the top down, bottom up, become that partner first partner friendly company, not just when it’s at the end of the quarter and you’ve got to close your commission.

Jeremy Balius: Jay, this is just music to my ears because what we’ve. Been really championing for some time is the, not just the KPI of being increased consumption or increased sales of widgets, but the confines of that being on a quarterly basis is totally incorrect to place on a partner’s ,and their expectation.

and therefore in the way that you tier them in your partner program, because they’re out there. Selling relationships and attempting to create longer client lifetime value in a way that the vendor can’t recognize or reward them or support them. And,and that’s something that we’re continually feeding back into the channel programs is to divorce themselves from those quarterly business cycles.

Jay McBain: So if you look at your partner’s types and there’s over 20 models, but if you look where they land around the customer, and if you know your top affiliates, for example, your top one or 2% of affiliates should be platinum, your top one or 2% of advocates, ambassadors, of affinity style partners, your top one or 2% of resellers, your top one or 2% of MSPs, system integrators, implementers, integrators, Your top one or 2% of the companies that secure and make your product compliant.

The top one or 2% of companies who back up disaster recovery, make it,continuity. So if you think of all the steps of getting a customer for life and then start awarding your platinum status to the top, one or two that have just. Over and above, they made the professional leagues in that, slim category.

Those are your platinum partners. And then, the next year, your goal, the next year, but it’s not just sorted by revenue. That’s only 1 of the swim lanes of perhaps dozens. That you’re now measuring and I want to celebrate the best of the best at doing what they do. And again, that fish climbing the tree or let’s not try to get a football player to be a hockey player.

Let’s just celebrate that there’s professional leagues in every sport.

Jeremy Balius: I really appreciate this in the context of partnerships as well. it feel, moving away from just a single KPI, that is. Sales related into all of these lanes. It feels more like a partnership where you’re understanding the unique attributes of the other organization and the brand and the people they’re in.

and then what they’re bringing into your, channel program. And therefore you as a vendor, it just feels more. Like a partnership.

Jay McBain: That’s where we’re going. And people stopped using the word channel because channel was a shortened form of channels of distribution and that’s shortened for people who collect the customer’s money.

And so that was really for the 1st decades of this industry. The only way we could measure it was just too complicated. We didn’t have the technology 223. Entrepreneurial companies who are reimagining partnering there’s 11 islands of innovation. Now, just in these non transaction partners that we’re talking about, there’s 5 islands of innovation of where you can invest new processes and workflows and people and programs and underlying technology to automate all that.

This is where the future is going. Wall Street has got involved. they put in over 3 billion dollars into these categories last year. And they’re fueling this next decade of the ecosystem, as I’ve coined it. most companies, 82% of companies are investing more in partnerships as we speak in every industry of every size of every country, 76% of CEOs think they can’t do it alone.

Whether you’re in pharmaceuticals, banking, insurance, manufacturing, it doesn’t matter where you are. 76% of CEOs think their current business model. Will be unrecognizable in 5 years and ecosystems are the number 1 reason why it’s happening everywhere. And all of us, this will raise all boats when we realize what this change is happening, how quickly it’s happening and our clients.

Our vendors, our distributors, our partners, everyone’s in this together and. Again, we’re all part of this bigger economy around ecosystems, which will be tens of trillions of dollars by the end of this decade.

Jeremy Balius: That’s fascinating and exciting. I wanted to shift gears into another topic, albeit from our limited view, something that we’ve been seeing come up in Strategic discussions, I’m based in Sydney. We’ve just started a new financial year in Australia, in strategic conversations, there’s been a increase in focus around accelerating, various service.

Components most popular being partners, shifting into managed security as a service. We’ve seen some unified communications as a service. there’s been some talk, although I haven’t seen any real go to market for it, but there’s been some talk, even as contact center as a service. Do you, from Canalys’s point of view, see increased investment in these additional as a services?

Jay McBain: Yeah. So aligned with my previous stat of 76% of CEOs. think their business model will be unrecognizable. The future business model, by the way, is subscription consumption. Everyone who sells you your toothbrush right up to your car, everybody who sells you software, hardware, and services are thinking about how to charge you monthly forever.

A Dell, a Cisco, an HP, a Lenovo, all the client server, biggest companies are all 100% committed to subscription consumption. It helps their valuation with Wall Street, and you even have Michael Dell out talking about 10% of the orders now in infrastructure are coming in via apex. You have, Green Lake having triple digit growth quarter on quarter.

So everything’s changing into this new model. So when you put a S on the back of 250 categories in the tech industry, the $5 trillion industry, we’re in, guess what? There’s a huge partner opportunity to go and make that a reality. So that’s where everybody’s thinking is, and it’s just a race on who can get there the fastest.

So it’s not just security in the $82 billion security, software industry. It’s the $300 billion dollars of services that kicks out and the most successful services are not project based because if you get a valuation for those, or you’re going to be acquired with those, people are going to pay, either pennies to the dollar or up to a dollar.

But if you can translate that into MSSP managed security. And you get a longer-term, more sticky customer base, that’s more predictable. Guess what? The multiples on your EBITDA or the multiples on your revenue start hitting maybe 10 to buy into something as hot as security that’s growing at 27% a year, buying into a place like Australia that is growing rapidly and people that can corner the market, very smart distributors.

Like a next gen in Australia, really coming around security to orchestrate a lot of that value. And again, the partners, the vendors, I know the vendors in Australia that have had a lot of success, triple-digit growth. And it all comes together again. Let’s, the train is, left the station.

Let’s hook our caboose to that train. And again, all boats rise. But as a service is driving so much of this multiplier driving so much of this valuation that you need to be on that.

Jeremy Balius: Agreed. Totally agree. It’s a, a fantastic shift. we’re seeing people move very fast, which is, excellent. Cause as you say, it’s ripe for the picking. last comment, I’ve been following you online, for a long while now, I found an article that you wrote. Four years ago, you were, talking about, how channel marketers need to consider themselves as community managers.

one of the key phrases and key takeaways from that article, you were, encouraging marketers and leaders to be visible every day. It’s four years later, 2023. Is this still part of your thinking or in what ways have you evolved?

Jay McBain: No, this is, not only as a part of my thinking, but if I go and look at the fastest growing companies, for example, around managed services, the companies that have created billionaires like Datto and ConnectWise, these are all community driven companies.

There’s nothing remarkable about their sales or marketing. They never ran a Superbowl ad, but they were in the grassroots of the community. people who recognize in Australia that there’s 15,000 VARs and MSPs. They might read CRN or ARN. They might read, Channel Life out in New Zealand.

They go to the Hamilton Island event, which I spoke at every single year. they go to maybe a Telstra event, which I also spoke at. So I got my two or three trips to Australia every single year, but they understand the community that they understand the podcasts like yours. They understand the associations like CompTIA and Moheb Moses and the work he does there with the CompTIA.

They understand that there are 14 spheres of influence of every partner. ’cause there’s not just 15,000 partners. They have on average eight people each. So you’re starting to talk about hundreds of thousands of people in Australia in this industry. And if you focus on what they read, where they go, and most importantly the people they follow, you’ll find that winning in the country, winning in the region is a bottoms up community play.

So I pointed at, like a Datto and their local person who lived this was James Burgle. Now with PAX8. globally was Rob Ray, also now, with Pax 8, but they get this and they know that you don’t just go into Australia and run a big set of TV ads and get billboards up and down the Gold Coast.

You engage with people the way they like to be engaged with, surrounded through, to and with the people they trust. It’s not you standing out on the platform. It’s you working inside the community, earning trust for yourself and your company. And getting those loudest people, most influential super connectors in the industry from Sydney to Perth and from Melbourne to Brisbane, talking your story in every little event, in every article, in every blog and every ebook and every podcast and every association meeting and every peer group meeting, every vendor thing, every distributor thing.

You start to show up every day and you start to get to that seven times marketing rule. That’s community. I heard that at Dicker Data. I heard that in ARN Magazine. I heard this over at CompTIA when I went to my association meeting. I heard that over in a podcast. I heard this over in my peer group that I did with, Connectwise.

I heard this in the, guess what? It adds up. in the seven times rule, you’ve heard something seven times, the human brain tricks and goes, I need to learn more about this because I’ve heard it too many times to be a coincidence. I need to go to that website. I need to read more. I need to ask some questions.

And that’s community. You don’t get that in any other medium and rather than hiring your next batch of salespeople, your next batch of marketing people, given today’s economy, you can’t do any of that. You’re it behooves you to go and figure out the community thing, because 99% of vendors don’t get it. And this is the 1 thing that’s blocking their growth.

And it’s 1 thing their fastest growing competitor probably does get it.

Jeremy Balius: We had James on the podcast talking about PAX8 Academy and while that’s the wrapper that they’ve put around it, it really is community building and we really attributes their fast growth, at PAX 8. around that community building that it’s underpinning, and over time, whipped into a, an incredible growth story.

And, and we really see that as a prime case study for what you’re describing.

Jay McBain: Okay. And we had, we were there, they were at our event, Signapore last year and they had signed up 700 new partners in their first few months. it’s absolutely the fastest growing in the region. I just went and, spoke at their big event here in the U S a big global event.

First one. And it’s just, there’s 1300 people in the audience, standing room, only waving money at how excited they were. And again, no TV advertising, no traditional, floors full of salespeople the way you’d expect another distributor might run, but you can’t go to any Marriott or any Holiday Inn or any, hotel anywhere with 20 partners without seeing somebody from there or something from there contributing.

And that’s just it’s a feeling. It’s a culture. It’s again, top down. I know all the founders really well. Bottoms up. I met with their board while I was there. I met with investors while I was there. Everybody feels it. And you can’t mimic that in front of a partner. You can’t pretend you can’t just have one channel friendly person in a channel, unfriendly vendor that only goes so far, but when they just feel it from again, the mail room to the CEO and everybody around, that creates a movement that creates momentum and everything comes from their community is probably the most important thing I talk about to anyone in this industry, partners, vendors, distributors.

Jeremy Balius: Speaking of community, Canalys forums are coming up. Wanted to conclude, with that, in what ways are you excited about, about the forums later this year?

Jay McBain: Yeah, I published a list of 218 channel events around the world, and it behooves, my company, because we do run events, but most of them are bottoms up, most of them are, focused on getting.

every MSP and every VAR and everybody in a room, the forums forever for two decades have been top down. They’re the biggest events in Europe. They’re the biggest events in Asia Pacific. But the CEOs Lenovo and Michael Dell and others will come. There’s a captain’s dinner the first night. It looks like a Davos conference, private jets coming in and, billionaire partners and really large vendors.

It’s a really important event, not only for kind of the research and the. The conversations that happen, but connecting people at a very senior level. So if you’re a partner, if you’re a vendor, if you’re a distributor, thinking more top down, the biggest chunk of your TAM is sitting in one room.

This year it’s in Bangkok, other years it’s been in Sydney. Last year it was in, in Singapore, but it’s that type of event that’s focused that way. there’s over a thousand people there, but it’s not intended to bring 10, 000 people. It’s not a trade show. There’s no trinkets. There’s no trade show booths.

It’s intended to get there and have one-on-one meetings. You want to meet with the head of Pax 8? They’re there. You want to head with the, the head of Ingram or TV Cynics or other distributors? There’s a hundred distributors at a C suite that are there. The vendors of the C suite are there.

The partners at the C suite are all there. And that’s what makes the event different than anything else that happens in our industry.

Jeremy Balius: Jay, I’m deeply appreciative of your time. I thank you for your insights. we’re big fans of all your work. Down here in Australia, we’re, continuously cheerleading what Canalys is doing, keep up the great work and, can’t wait to catch up again and, pick up the conversation around, the next step of the, economy’s evolution.

Jay McBain: Thank you so much. And here’s a quick story to close it out. My mom lives in Canada, but she owns a camper van in Australia. And once a year, she’ll go and drive from Sydney to Perth. In a camper van, spending upwards of, four to six months in Australia every year. So I’ve got a strong kinship, in, in, in addition to all the travel that, that I do each year to, to, to Australia,

Jeremy Balius: That’s amazing. Thanks Jay.

Jay McBain: Thank you.

The theme of this second episode is Selling To and Through Partners.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things partner sales is Bryan Williams, Founder of Hockey Stick Advisory and the Co-Head of APAC for Partner Leaders.

Bryan works with ambitious Tech Founders, C-Suites and Partner Leaders to develop and deploy effective partner-led growth motions, as well as establish partnership ecosystems to enable revenue growth through network effects.

Prior to Hockey Stick Advisory, Bryan was the Director of Partnerships, Ecosystems, and Apps at accounting software Xero, where he was responsible for the growth of ecosystem partnerships in Australia and New Zealand.

With such significant experience, Bryan brings a wealth of expertise and valuable insights for anyone building partner programs or looking to expand on their partner networks, as well as for partner marketers who are selling to and through partners.

Enjoy the conversation!

Connect with Bryan Williams on LinkedIn.

Discover Hockey Stick Advisory and Partner Leaders.

B2B Tech Marketing Talks is a podcast bringing you insightful conversations with leading marketing and channel leaders about B2B tech marketing. Our goal is to provide you with valuable insights, fresh perspectives and practical advice from experienced marketing leaders who have successfully navigated the challenges you face daily as a B2B tech marketer.

Subscribe to our new YouTube channel.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the episode

Jeremy Balius: Hi there and welcome to the B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast, where we speak with marketing and channel leaders to get their insights on B2B tech marketing and effective partner marketing strategies. I’m your host, Jeremy Balius, and today’s theme is “Selling To and Through Partners”. I’m joined today by Bryan Williams.

Welcome, Bryan.

Bryan Williams: Hey, Jeremy. Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jeremy Balius: That’s awesome. Thank you. Bryan is the founder of Hockey Stick Advisory and works with ambitious tech founders, C-suites and partner leaders to develop and deploy effective partner led growth motions, as well as establish partnership ecosystems to enable revenue growth through network effects.

Prior to Hockey Stick, Bryan was the Director of Partnerships, Ecosystems, and Apps at accounting software Xero, where he was responsible for the growth of ecosystem partnerships in Australia and New Zealand. Bryan, I’d love to kick off with your origin story. You are living and breathing all things partner landscape today.

How did this start? Where did this come from?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, thanks, Jeremy. Yeah, set the scene. It’s a bit of a backstory, as I was thinking through it ahead of his call. So if I rewind 2007, 2008, fresh out of uni, out of Gold Coast up at Griffith up there, I went over to the UK and, I was a sales and marketing manager for a gym over there.

And so full of good ideas, theories and hunger to get going. it was a dormant gym, which I was leading around how to grow this component. And so from those early stages of my career, I started to get a lot of partnerships surrounding the gym up and running and going, at length.

And it worked really well, like we tripled the revenue in 6 months, along with the membership to go with it. And then following that, some roles in business development throughout Europe and in the Middle East, really hammered home some referral strategies and reseller strategies, working with some international financial advisors.

And. And more so in some other sales roles, I’ve always let on the partnerships components come to life. And so throughout my career, uh, I always sort of value of it. Um, but although sort of earlier days, um, at that stage. And so in terms of sort of jumping out, um, and building the business with a partnership focus, in my zero time, I noticed there was a gap, uh, in the market of A, uh, operators, people who have sort of been there, done it, um, senior experience.

And secondly, Um, for anyone to sort of be able to advise on partnerships on best practice, partnership excellence, and then more importantly, how to execute to go with that. And through that lens, that’s where I was able to sort of draw on over 400 conversations with various tech companies over my zero tenure and previously when I was the first hire at Vend in Australia.

Um, and growing, um, the app partner sort of relationships in around a lot of the key accounts a bit over 10 years ago now, as we’re all getting a little bit older and helping the next generation of companies or B2B tech companies who want to refine their partnerships motions. How do they, how can they create more impactful partnerships to go with it?

Jeremy Balius: That’s incredible. It really feels organic that the growth there within your own career, but also in your own self-education and also in terms of how you’re growing relationships strategically, tactically, and, using that in a way to grow these businesses.

Bryan Williams: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So it’s a, you know, I’ve seen, I’ve seen it happen from my own eyes and had some success early, you know, early stage and along the way through the value of partnerships of what it can bring to the forefront.

And, uh, I still feel it’s early days itself in the industry is still emerging, still evolving. There’s a truckload of partner tech coming through now, which is really exciting. Um, a downturn in the economy is really amplifying partnerships around what can you do to deliver, either protect customers, add more value, increase NPS, reduce CAC.

There’s lots of goodness to go with it. So, um, yeah, I think it’s definitely got its time to shine, its time in the market.

Jeremy Balius: I totally agree. I think there’s also a movement now where the channel partner programs, which are very prevalent globally are starting to really reconsider how they approach their partnerships and how they can use partnerships to grow their footprint in regions beyond, just the traditional channel.

Bryan Williams: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So when, when I think about channel traditionally, it’s, it’s narrow and deep. in terms of transactional to go with it. And on the other side of the ecosystem, it’s much more broader and narrow and a more interconnecting to go with it. And so you get the playbook to be able to have a bunch of partners to resell your stuff or push it forward across regions is, uh, is changing as markets change and, uh, More importantly, as a lot of tech companies sort of expand into new geos, there’s usually a land and expand through partnerships or hopes and dreams.

And, uh, however, I think the problems I see in market is, is companies typically throw their existing playbook into new geos and hope for the best. So, do they have product market fit in those regions? do they have to playbook around what’s required to the local components? And, um, interestingly, my own business over the last sort of, Um, year plus, I suppose, um, I have been working a lot of international companies sort of expanding out of APAC or expanding into APAC just without exact needs.

Jeremy Balius: That’s amazing. Tell me a little bit more about, HockeyStick and the advisory component you’re, you’re helping enter APAC, you’re helping, take beyond APAC. Are you, more focused on growing new partner programs? Are you advising existing programs to figure out how can they become more robust and best practice led or all of the above?

Tell me more.

Bryan Williams: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s interesting over time how it evolves and, uh, to get with. So the first bucket, I suppose, is, uh. What is great. So company emerging companies picture scale up product market fit well funded. The leaders kind of get that we need to figure out partnerships who can help with them and sort of to bring me in and to help advise with that around how to play and where to play and how to resource and set up a partnership motion to start off with.

The second bucket is I get a lot of engagement from partnership managers out there who are in the role, in the trenches, trying to trail blaze to go around it. They often don’t have P& L necessarily themselves, and they’re trying to do their best to sort of get along. That’s where partnership leaders is an amazing space and community to be able to help connect with them.

And I’m often connecting them into various people or resources that sort of help them grow. And then the third bucket is just as you mentioned, bigger companies such as Uber where I’m helping refine their partnership. Um, models, their strategies, how they’re going about it, uh, helping them benchmark around what are they doing against sort of market trends and analysis and how can they go faster or build more impactful partnerships.

So, interestingly, it’s evolved to the earlier stage companies getting going and a bigger end of town as well, trying to, um, just refine or be more effective.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, it’s so awesome to hear and I think there’s probably so much more of that required out there that, partner leaders or channel leaders aren’t even yet aware of some of these issues that you’re resolving for.

So very excited that you’re out there supporting them. I think there’s a great segue into today’s topic. We’re here to talk about, selling through and to partners. it’s a great topic to unpack because it. Often gets so confused or it becomes a bit of a grey area in partner programs. As you mentioned, it still feels very new.

And, I think it’s so important to really hone in on where are these differences and how can we apply our strategic thinking. To them, that still maintains relationships as the ultimate goal and trust as the main currency there between those relationships. tell me a bit about how you would separate out the differences between selling to and through partners.

Bryan Williams: Yeah, let’s start off with selling through partners. Um, you know, in what I’ve sort of seen in recent years is as, uh, you know, the ability to sort of email to out outreach, um, outbound of various capacity, even even inbound efforts and building that engine to go with it as CAC increases across the board.

Companies are looking for more efficient ways to be able to go to market. And the way I think about it is, uh, yeah. There’s a nice acronym called, uh, OPM, and that’s, uh, other people’s money. So who can you partner with across our product, uh, sales or marketing efforts to go to market together to bring out, provide, uh, greater customer outcomes to go with it?

So if on a product side, if that’s like some features that you don’t have to build, so therefore as part of your sales cycle to prospective clients or to existing clients, to be able to sort of help them win and drive up n p s or convert deals faster, that’s a component. In any sort of marketing efforts, how can you partner up with, uh, for either webinars, content series across the board, you effectively got a whole another, if you’re able to effectively, you’ve got another whole team of resources, which are not on your payroll or under your budget to be able to have a reach together.

There’s a bunch of really exciting emerging account mapping tools, such as cross beam or reveal coming through, where you’ve actually got the capabilities to actually cross reference wherever gaps are across your customer base and use that as a basis. And then on the sales front, uh, where you’re looking for introductions, where you’re looking for, where do customers turn for the trust or respect or to have that way to decision if, if you and I go, you know, um, on holidays or we’re looking for recommendations or restaurants, we usually ask our trusted network of, uh, friends, family, et cetera, around or check reviews around to go with it.

And so how can some partners, um, how can you work with them for sales efforts to be able to sort of go faster and. Especially in the US markets with significant layoffs and downturns of VC backed companies, we’re seeing that come to light more than ever, which is really amplifying a lot of case studies, testimonials, and growing the sort of partnerships vertical, uh, much more to light than it has been in the past.

So that’s a, there’s a lot in that, um, that’s sort of just observation of what I’m seeing, you know, selling through partners. Um, anything to add to that one, Jeremy, before we get on the other side? Yeah,

Jeremy Balius: I wouldn’t mind jumping in and pulling that apart. These are really big topics. And I think what’s really interesting here is that a recurring conversation that comes up on our end quite a bit is, Who owns the partner marketing motion in organizations.

And while there might be partner leaders, partner managers, channel account managers, et cetera, because there’s multiple people potentially co selling or co-marketing, it becomes a bit blurry as to who’s actually owned it. What do you do when you advise, multiple organizations or multiple brands that are trying to partner marketing or partnerships.

Bryan Williams: Who’s driving forward and unlocking those conversations there in lots of ways, just the gateway or the API layer or the access point into these other companies. But when a magic happens, it’s really cross functionally. This is where strong partnerships actually hum. So. On a on a sales front where a partners being mentioned or coming up in conversations, how can you connect the account executives to the business development people on either side and customer support?

Where are you seeing complaints around integrations or work or components? How do you combine those team on a leadership level? What does that look like? How are we trying to achieve similar things? Great partnerships are often quite aligned in terms of the sort of similar focus. to go with it. So, you know, it’s definitely not one dimensional anymore.

The partnerships is a is a broad strategy underpinning across the company for for those who do it well. Um, and not just an isolated department between two partner managers. Um, you know, I’m going to do a few sort of ad hoc activities together.

Jeremy Balius: It’s so great that you vocalize it in that way, because we on our side often get exposed to where it is just a couple of roles trying to figure out how are we going to make this happen?

And it’s amazing to hear this, cross functional, across the business, mentality where even leadership’s bought in that’s incredible. Yeah,

Bryan Williams: Absolutely. Yeah, that really has to start from leadership down as a key core priority. And how does that sort of ripple across the organization? And the best organization to do this actually have KPIs against it.

So is there a partner involved with every deal? Is there any partners that can help on a customer support level? Is there for the account management team and what other partners can come in and help to go around it? And so the more you can do that sort of exercise that partnership muscle, then as you’re working with these partners and the partner manager, you’re making their job much easier as they’re starting to say, Hey guys, can we do some more activities in return around it?

Cause you. You know, cross functionally, you’re really bought into the partnership of what you’re, uh, and how you, what you bring to light.

Jeremy Balius: You mentioned they’re often without P&L. Is that why webinars become so prevalent and, on trend at the moment?

Bryan Williams: I think webinars is a, is an output from a COVID, uh, environment.

Okay. You don’t always have to go necessarily to an in person event, um, to go with it. We all lead busy lives to go with it. Uh, everyone’s got a customer database of some description. So for for two or more partners to be able to get together and rally together to uphold a webinar, they’re cheap to implement.

Um, there’s a recurring playbook that you’ve got to be able to sort of roll them out at scale. You can have really clear call to actions and follow ups are part of it. And so it’s just quite an efficient vehicle to sort of work with. Um. With various partners to go with it. And some of those tools I mentioned before, uh, to go with it.

So picture doing a webinar with mutual customers who maybe aren’t using an integration or working together or looking at the best practice of workflows. That’s one bucket. Uh, doing another webinar with your partners to access their customers at a time, you know, which is timely and contextual manner.

And then in return, how can you sort of unlock some of your customers to help them win for various partners? So, you know, whether it is demand generation, um, on one aspect, or you’re looking for account management or upsell opportunities, there’s a few buckets to go about it. But, uh, in terms of the playbook to get them out in the market, they’re quite repeatable.

And dependable and, and, and they’re quite familiar for a lot of people as everyone’s, you know, have a zoom course or a webinar these days.

Jeremy Balius: It is very straightforward and so effective at the same time as well. We just find that attendees of webinars tend to have already a known need. They’re able to articulate that pain point as such and therefore have much more meaningful conversations off the back of that.

Bryan Williams: That’s right. Yeah, if I attend, it’s, uh, it’s quite common to see people attend the entire webinar. So they’re quite engaged. They’re already at the very bottom of the funnel in terms of. If they’re turning up, um, from one of your partners, you’ve got that transfer of trust happening around it. You know, there’s an intent around it.

Um, there’s very clear call to actions of follow up afterwards or hear more or book a one on one demo to go around it. And so it’s a, it’s a highly effective, um, channel to market. The considerations around how to deploy it is. Uh, the regularity of how often you would, you would actually use these as a, um, as an option.

How can you include multiple partners of relevance, um, at one time, um, to go with it? And, uh, you need to be very selective around who you want to partner with, um, in terms of deploying the webinars.

Jeremy Balius: Do you find it more effective to, go to market or to, co market, between just a few partners?

Have you seen scalability to bring in, more and more partners to have some conglomerate motion together? I don’t have the right language for it because I haven’t seen it, but interested if you have.

Bryan Williams: I think in my view, I sort of see best practice is probably like three panelists or potential partners on a webinar.

You think about 45 minutes to an hour, be able to feature one for 10 minutes each and then sort of set the frame and sort of and do it by verticals and similar size. So it’s relevant to your customers would be my recommendation. Any bigger. It’s just becomes too diluted and like a little bit messy.

That’s where you can just set up a series of them ongoing and be able to features others. Ahead to go with it, um, is sort of what I see as best practice.

Jeremy Balius: Awesome, so in contradistinction to selling through partners, selling to partners. What’s the difference there?

Bryan Williams: It’s a different value proposition of what you’re trying to achieve.

So it comes back to understanding your, your buyer as per on both examples, I suppose. Um, what is the company trying to achieve? Um, what is the partners trying to achieve? Um, and then what is the person individually trying to achieve and how can you help them win? So if you’re selling to partners, um, potentially, are they right?

The right decision maker around it? Do they have budget? You’re going to need to make sure you qualify them in. How can you provide service, contacts, networks, a solution, workflows to help them achieve themselves what they’re trying to do sort of moving forward. And so effectively it is a it’s a sales methodology, but it’s a partner led sales methodology where you’re looking to actually, um, help others win who are who are alongside you and it should be a channel alongside other ones to compliment.

Um, you’re more broader offering. So slightly different nuanced approach. Um, but it also has the ripple effects because if you can help them win and get them on board, what you often see is the downstream effect of their effectively dog food in your solution of whatever it is. And then they’re able to sort of recommend it parcel as well.

So there is a ripple effect to go around it. And that’s why you see a lot of Um, tech solutions, um, so two partners deliberately and often they might give a free, um, license or user or want to get them on board knowing that they might have this downstream network of customers, which they can talk to really easily to go about it.

And as you and I know, if there’s the software, which you or I understand we can talk to around it. You’re effectively an onboarded sales rep out in the market to be able to sort of have a distributed conversation again, as well as being an active advocate of the solution that’s also not on your payroll.

Jeremy Balius: It’s fascinating. Do you see much of a difference, if any? between SaaS partner ecosystems and, partner, channel ecosystems where you’ve got a B2B businesses who are going out to integrate systems, deliver, IT services, cloud infrastructure, et cetera. Is it similar approaches or do you see them, massively different?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, they do differ. And I think this is where, um, people in partnerships roles, especially early stage, I just sort of go find opportunities to go with it. But the agency model, call it that, or system integrators or cloud integrators around what are they after? Typically, it comes down to two or three things.

Number one, picture an e-commerce agency, they’re looking for net new opportunities. Um, start off with and secondly, we’re looking after, uh, opportunities for service retainer work or to uphold that or to extend it to go through it. So if you go knocking on the door, or if you’re looking for the channel to unlock those agency partnerships, whatever your solution is, product services to go with it, you need to make sure that your offering is, um, juicy enough, attractive enough, got enough services revenue too, because you’re now competing against whatever else they’re doing, um, day to day.

So if I’ll have their whole business model against it, they’re going to have their teams trained and around it. They’re going to be already engaged and active motions. And so where I see companies go wrong is I’ve set up, um, you know, BDs and account executives to go knocking on the doors of agency partners.

So hey, go try and chat to everyone around it. They might get a meeting. They might get a lunch. They might get a breakfast. I might meet them at the networking events or conferences. But if I don’t have something which is really attractive, solves a problem for their customers and is effectively a whole new either services revenue.

Or a channel for them, um, maybe more attractive commissions or attractive, um, services out of the box. That’s really easy to frictionless, but then I just don’t make, but I struggle to get traction and generation against existing motions.

Jeremy Balius: So this is a topic that I’m. So passionate about because what we’re really getting into is how do you change habits and, I’ve been a part of processes where guys are onboarding new partners and it’s taken them a pretty seriously long sales cycle to onboard them as a, or to attract them and to bring them in as a new partner, only to find that.

There’s zero bump in revenue from those partners, even if they were a whale of a partner and what wounds up being missed is how do we excite and how do we create urgency and how do we change, human behavior within that organization to actually care about how much better Or, how much value our brand can offer and bring to their customer base and to their net new sales.

And for some reason, there’s so much disillusion that arises as a result of not unlocking that immediately and not realizing how much hard work is involved in fostering and deepening that relationship over time that people almost think that partnerships don’t work for them.

Bryan Williams: Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve had a chat to, uh, some companies along the way, which have been introduced and said, I’ve tried partnership till three times, didn’t work for us.

You know, we’ve got our top head sales guy and we told him to go get lots of business and didn’t work and we had to fire him. Even though it was good sales, couldn’t crack it. And it actually comes back to, uh, two things which is sort of done wrong that I see. So first of all, they’re given a sales type target to go extract a business without offering anything in return or considering.

So we’ve got no partnership value proposition. There’s no reason for these companies to partner. Uh, with them to start off with. And so they’re not set up for success. Right. Um, the second component is they haven’t spent the time to consider who their partners partners are. And what I mean by that is, is they’ve already got those existing motions in play.

Like I mentioned before, Jeremy around whole businesses operating on certain services or products. And then you come knocking in the door and So they’re going to be trained on it. We’re going to be familiar with it, going to have deep relationships with them. You’ve got existing motions, which provides cash flow, continuity, sustainability of a business.

And now you’re sort of coming to the forefront. So, hey, please sell or recommend our place. Like, I wouldn’t do that. Would you? Like, it just doesn’t, when you take a moment to think about that, it’s quite simple, but it’s, uh, it’s ineffective.

Jeremy Balius: Even if the commission structure is developed in such a way that is extremely welcoming by the guys and there is this offer in play to show how easy it is to sell the solution, even that tends to not be enough to motivate somebody, it’s not built into their KPIs.

It’s not built into their day to day as a such. And, It falls over immediately, all this planning, all this structuring, all this selling only for it to just whimper away. And it’s really unfortunate.

Bryan Williams: Yeah. I mean, it’s, there’s a potential to go one layer deeper as well of beyond what if the company sort of KPIs are in the department’s KPIs of like, what is the person trying to actually achieve themselves?

Are they trying to get promoted? Are they behind in their targets? Are they looking for other opportunities? Are they stale in their role and have been there a long time? If you don’t actually align on that level to your point, then you haven’t really got any intrinsic motivations of why they would want to work with you.

Um, one sort of aspirational challenge I say to companies I work with, let’s, let’s try and get all our partners promoted or highlighted or Let’s get to put them up in pedestals and make sure we showcase their work. Make sure that you can be like a really easy partner to work with, um, because they’re going to start to reciprocate in your return.

You’ve got like a really great relationship that you’ve sort of built together.

Jeremy Balius: Hey, I got a question for you about naming conventions. We’re seeing a lot of traditional channel heads, calling their channel programs, partner ecosystems, probably as of last year, it’s becoming more increasingly common.

I’m also starting to see a trend on LinkedIn of a partner leader saying, no, those are not partner ecosystems. You’re just a channel. you need to do X, Y, Z to actually become a full-functioning ecosystem. What’s your say on that?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, it’s a bit. It’s a bit of a buzzword with various interpretations and platforms and other one, which I’ll have a good rant on shortly.

Okay. Um, so I like reveals definition of an ecosystem, which is, um, which partners have access to the customers. You want are talking to or have today around it. And so my view of a tech ecosystem is all the interconnected touch points across the board, either across all your business units, with your partners, the community out there together, collectively.

Right. And so it is, it is broad and wide to go with it. Yeah. The channel chiefs out there are sort of saying ecosystem without really having the underpinned. Um, characteristics to go with it more so on platforms. A lot of companies are calling themselves platforms today, which all they are is they’ve got various features or modules of what they sell to go with it and equally, you know, platforming that tech view, uh, there’s usually should be an open set of APIs.

It should need to have governance around. How did how do you deploy that? There’s got to be value which happens on all sides around how that interconnects. So I think the likes of Shopify in the app marketplace, um, Atlassian, um, Slack, uh, various others, they’re true platforms because there’s information passing left and right to be able to make, um, all offerings even better off and for value exchange to go with it.

So I think it’s just the nature of the industry still evolving and still an argument around, uh. You know, how this is, you know, I suppose, um, defined, um, and it’s just emerging, right?

Jeremy Balius: Yeah and that gives me so much optimism as well. if there’s this much debate about the definitions, that can only be a good thing as we’re trying to push this whole concept forward and trying to create value for each other.

And, and the rising tide lifts all boats, as they say.

Bryan Williams: Yeah, absolutely. And some of the takeaways from, uh, From Crossbeam’s annual conference in, uh, uh, San Diego a few weeks ago, Supernode, I couldn’t make it. I had another conference up in, uh, in Cairns Tropical Innovation Conference, which is worth everyone checking out ahead.

So, um, good shout out to those guys. Um, but the, the takeaways I read from Crossbeam is that, um, everyone in partnerships who are coming through at the moment has really got the chance to shape. And, uh, define the nature of it because it’s still early days. A lot of people are sort of trailblazing, um, in their current roles and trying to figure it out and challenging and the partner tech is coming alongside it at the moment.

So to your point before, it’s, it’s exciting for all of us as, as we all know, it’s possible. We’re seeing green shoots everywhere. Um, but, uh, in terms of how it’s standardized in a programmatic way of how it’s deployed across various verticals is still coming to forefront, which is The opportunity for all of us to sort of lead the way, unpack and, and, and bring it to life, I suppose.

Jeremy Balius: Yeah, I agree. I agree. a question I, came up with as I was reflecting on our, conversation and my preparation, something that I think would be really interesting to pull apart is, do you see any opportunity for partnerships or partner marketing in cloud marketplaces?

Bryan Williams: Yeah, that’s quite a common one, which comes up with and what I see companies struggle with is, um, cloud marketplaces are typically they’ve got critical mass.

Yes, they’ve got a very defined partner program because of the nature of how many and they’ve got every small and upcoming company wants to work with the master. Platform orchestrator, we’ll call it, of the cloud marketplace, or how did it go about it? So, unless you meet certain criteria, you don’t earn the rights or the access to, to, to be able to partner with those, uh, the cloud marketplace itself.

So, You know, when at my time at zero, every small upcoming company would reach out. Hey, Brian, I’d love to work out. Can we do a webinar? Can we do some marketing? Can we run some events together? Can you put some budget in towards this around it? And it just doesn’t work that way. Um, the recommendations around how to go to market in that space, Jeremy, is that I sort of put forward to companies is Upon looking at some a prioritized list of all partners, you want to start to think about which actual companies are of similar size to you with similar resources, similar aspirations, which are the closest to the core of your offering.

And why I say that last one in particular is it’s likely that someone’s either using their application before you alongside or afterwards to go with it. So you’ve got a straight away, you’ve got a better together narrative. Also, in terms of my definition of the ecosystem before. It’s highly likely they’re talking to the same customers you want or you want access to to go around it and also inversely in return.

So being that they might be of smaller nature, they won’t have the full size, the opportunity, the cloud marketplace, which everyone sees as the promised land to go with it. But what I do have is they have, um, they have customers which you want to after, which are further down the funnel, which are receptive.

They’ve already got strong NPS. They’ve already built a trust relationships and there’s opportunities for just to be able to introduce yourselves. And back and return to sort of go to market. And so, um, you asked a question earlier around, you know, field heaps of partners or a select few. I’d encourage a lot of companies to go deep with a select 2, 3 or 4 close to your core and work with them in order to play by the rules of the cloud marketplace of who they are and what it’s about.

But don’t spend a lot of your efforts there because you’ll be knocking on doors and wasting efforts and getting nowhere in a hurry.

Jeremy Balius: Which is what I see most commonly channel leaders doing, right? We,the, there is the, volume need in total partner numbers, which I don’t know, attributes some type of clout or announced to the size of their program when in actual fact, it’s just a handful of partners that’s driving most of their business.

Bryan Williams: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Um, a presentation I did recently was I said, write down all the biggest halo partners you could possibly think of. And, uh, those dream aspirational ones, those two on a two. And then upon doing that, um, get your pen, pencil, mirror board, and then just strike them out. Just, just don’t spend time on them around to go about it.

Play by the rules, get within their environments, make sure you’re part of, um, the ecosystem to go around it. But then, then work with the upcomers who are at the same stage of growth of you. Which solves customer problems close to your core, you’ll get much bigger buying, um, traction and be able to sort of grow together.

Jeremy Balius: Awesome. Look, these are all fantastic, insights that you’ve provided. What’s the best way for people who want to find out more about you or from you or hear from you, what’s the best way to find you online? Yeah,

Bryan Williams: thanks, Jeremy. Um, I’m pretty active on LinkedIn, very, uh, sharing various platform using or sort of lessons or observations I sort of see along the side.

So, uh, check it out there. Also check out my website at, uh, where you can find a little bit more about who I work with and kind of services that I offer sort of day to day.

Jeremy Balius: Awesome, Bryan. Thanks for joining

Bryan Williams: us today. Thanks, Jeremy. Loved the session. Thank you.

Jeremy Balius: Thank you.

The theme of this first episode is Partner Enablement.

Joining our host Jeremy Balius to discuss all things partner enablement is James Davis, Director of Academy Asia at Pax8.

James brings a refreshing view and deep insight on what it means to build and deliver partner enablement programs in channel programs or in a cloud marketplace ecosystem.

Enjoy the conversation!

Connect with James Davis on LinkedIn.

Discover the Pax8 Academy.

B2B Tech Marketing Talks is a podcast bringing you insightful conversations with leading marketing and channel leaders about B2B tech marketing. Our goal is to provide you with valuable insights, fresh perspectives and practical advice from experienced marketing leaders who have successfully navigated the challenges you face daily as a B2B tech marketer.

Subscribe to our new YouTube channel.

Watch the podcast

Stream the audio podcast

Read the transcript of the episode

Jeremy: Hi there and welcome to B2B Tech Marketing Talks podcast. I’m your host Jeremy Balius and today’s theme is partner enablement.

Joining me here today to discuss all things partner enablement is James Davis, who’s the director of Academy Asia for Pax8.

Pax8 is a cloud marketplace that simplifies the way organizations buy, sell and manage cloud solutions by way of consolidated billing, automated provisioning and industry-leading PSA. software integration. Welcome, James, and thanks for being on the show.

James: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Jeremy: Before we get into your role and all things Pax8 Academy, I’d love to hear a bit about your background working in the channel and with IT businesses. Could you give us a bit of context of where you’re coming from prior to this?

James: So the summary version is actually not from the IT industry originally. I started a small gardening business when I was 20 and did all the wrong things and learned all the wrong mistakes and worked too hard for not enough money.

And then I transitioned into sales and then fell into being the first salesperson in an MSP in Canberra. And I built that up and I learned a lot, got bored. went back and created another business that I grew way too quickly and burnt myself out again.

And then ended up back into the MSP as the General Manager and then helped the owner achieve what he wanted to do. And then I realised other people needed help.

I was in the HTG program back in the day, and I just started helping people and fell into paid coaching engagements. Then basically I kept doing that and then met the guys from Sea-Level US. and they had a program that they developed and were struggling to get traction down in this part of the world.

So we joined up. I started Sea-Level APAC in 2020, started building that up and then got acquired by Pax8 last year in April. So I have been with that for a year now.

Jeremy: Yeah, fantastic. So in this most recent consulting background, tell me a bit about in what ways you were working with business leaders.

James: So it started with helping develop their people, helping their service managers and stuff, because there wasn’t really a whole lot of education and I was sort of the one that had been there and done that and people knew who I was.

They were asking me to help their service manager do better things and then I realized I could only make so much change with the service manager that I had to start working with the owners.

I started to then work with them so they could understand their finances. develop better sales strategy, how to structure their teams and their organisations, how to utilise their tools better, etc. etc. etc. across the whole gamut of the MSP business to help them grow.

I have helped quite a few partners, MSPs, grow over the sort of last six years and make more money than they ever have.

I just keep finding new challenges and new parts of the IT technology business industry to work in and just keep learning and keep growing to help others grow and achieve better things.

Jeremy: That’s amazing.

I want to drill into components of that when we talk about the context of the Academy that you’re leading in the way that you’re working with those businesses. But so you say, Pax8 acquires Sea-Level. You come onboard.

You’re Director of Academy Asia. Tell me what that means. What are you responsible for?

James: At the moment I’m responsible for enabling partners through education.

It’s the high-level tagline. And what that basically means is providing different streams of information in different packages to help our partners grow, to help them reduce their risk and become more efficient, improve profits, develop their people and give them a competitive edge.

It’s a different kind of enablement and a lot deeper than when you hear that enablement term. I think it’s becoming a bit of a throwaway term in our IT industry now that there’s a lot of lip service to it, but I’m very privileged to be in my position where we’re doing things that are actually matter to the partner and mainly due to the types of people that are in Academy, we’ve all worked in partner businesses.

We don’t have this vendor slant of a corporate enterprise level approach. We’ve been in the trenches for a decade plus.

There’s a reason why I’ve got white hair because I’ve been working in an MSP. We’ve been there and done that. So there’s a different, there’s more of that real partner first focus.

Jeremy: I want to drill into that last part there, because I think that’s really important to talk about where vendors or distributors or marketplaces tend to not have ex-MSPs or people who have that “blood, sweat and tears” rungs on the board, or they don’t have the scars of what it takes to run these businesses.

What’s the differentiation there?

Because this isn’t kids or SDRs trying to sell to MSPs. This seems like management consulting blended with sales development, blended with marketing enablement, right across their business.

James: It is. And that’s like the C-level, I used to C-level business because that was much more structured than me do my own cowboy coaching. So C-level was founded on the back of three, three guys in the US like, it’d be like 13 years ago now, who had worked in MSPs for 10, 20 years by that point.

They created a structured program of like the best practice operational practices for MSPs. And the whole business was based on coaching the owners and their leaders on how to implement these best practices in their business so that they would be more profitable.

They’d be more efficient. They’d have happier people. All the benefits of that.

And through that, there’s a lot of knowledge and experience on that business consulting side. And we know the business model inside and out. because we’ve been there and done that. And I think that’s one of the most important parts of enablement. And when I look at people that talk about enabling and I’m a bit of a, I caused a bit of mischief in this.

Now I’m actually in the channel rather than being a channel partner. I challenge people all the time to go, well, do you know… how this MSP operates or how it actually affects this product affects them and goes through the change and most people don’t know. And for me, you can’t really enable someone if you don’t know the person on the other side.

That’s where even MSPs can learn from this is we’ve got those client engagements that we’ve got. Often we know parts of their business, but we don’t know their full business operations. We can’t talk to them.

We talk about how they earn their money, what are their key processes, what’s their industry challenges, etc. etc. When you know that, then you can speak their language and then you can actually work out how to help them because there’s no one size fits all to your enablement practices and the way you talk about things.

But if you don’t have a true understanding of the other person on the side, on the other side, it’s very difficult to educate them in the right way. It’s very difficult to get them engaged and bought in and then actually give them the results that they need and want.

The absolutely have that experience to know they might not even know they need or want it until you tell them that in the right way that this is actually the problem that they’re facing.

It’s a very difficult position to be in, but that’s the sort of consulting coaching business management side makes this a very unique thing that we can have a huge impact.

Jeremy: So what really resonates with me, what you’re saying here, is the level of empathy that you’re bringing to the table because you personally and the team, because you’ve experienced this and because you’ve run your own businesses, you’ve suffered in the way that these guys do, and you’ve made all the mistakes in the way that they do.

You learn the things that they’re learning. I think there’s a level of understanding that you’re able to bring to the table to help guide, but also just to be a sounding board in a way that a vendor channel manager who’s been working for multinationals their whole career, they just haven’t been exposed to that level of stress of how am I gonna pay my guys?

Or more bluntly, how am I going to feed my family?

And I think that’s what resonates with me the most here, is that level of empathy.

James: And you touched on the point there around like the making payroll.

It’s a question I ask people all the time as a sort of a level setter Yeah, we’ve got a lot of in the vendor / disti world.

There’s a lot of very clever highly educated people Very capable do capable and do some awesome things but if you’ve never had to worry about feeding like 20 people’s families and You’re struggling with cash flow and you’re getting up a day or two out and you might not make payroll, you’ve never really felt what stress is.

But all the partners out there have lived that. And that sort of that core behaviour affects a lot of the mentality of how they go about making decisions. And that’s where that disconnect starts happening.

Even that appreciation for how busy small business people are. compared to being in an enterprise, corporate environment, like always, hear people go, I’m super busy in this job. Got one job, you’ve got a certain amount of tasks to do.

Sure, there’s a lot to do, but just imagine a small business owner that does your job as an account manager, does the marketing, does the service delivery, does the billing and the finance. You don’t know what busy is and that appreciation.

That’s where that enablement piece comes in, because it’s not just understanding and having that sort of compassion and empathy for what they’ve going through. It’s knowing the other side of what’s possible when you help them solve their problems.

Jeremy: Right, right. Now, you mentioned one size doesn’t fit all.

You’re working across ecosystems, managed service providers, system integrators, resellers, et cetera.

You’ve got the Academy built in such a way where you’ve delivered flexibility and choice around how the guys wanna engage you in terms of whether it’s on-demand courses, instructor-led courses. You’ve got peer groups, you’ve got business coaching directly, which is, I presume, what we’ve been just talking about.

Tell me a bit more about how different organisations and IT companies are engaging you, and in what ways they are in different stages of their own life cycle and how they’re benefiting.

James: So the reason why we, and you’ve touched on this point in how you just introduced this, the reason why we have different streams is because businesses are at different points and it’s a combination of a few things. It’s mindset, it’s operational maturity stages, it’s size of business and it’s growth rate.

Also I don’t talk we’ve been talking about the small business owner. It’s the small business owners direction of purpose for way bit what they’re doing as well because at the end of the day, small businesses revolve around the owner, like it or not. It takes a long time.

You probably only get up start getting the owner out of the business really past maybe 200-300 people It’s still very much that owner’s culture and what their skills are and what their personalities, all that kind of stuff and what they value. So that’s delivering in different methods allows us to have different cost structures to it.

Our content, our LMS library of resources, is free to all partners. One of the reasons for that is obviously is an enablement program. You need something that you can give away.

Like I do thought leadership stuff. That’s all free obviously because there’s a stage where you need to educate people on a future vision and you’ve got to give them awareness that they’ve got problems.

Then what’s always missing from some of these strategies is the actual practical resources to takeaway, like I’ve been in the industry, I’ve gone to all these industry events before you hear for a long time.

We’ve had the people from the US come down and give these great keynotes or sort of great sessions where it’s thought-provoking, but there’s no follow-up behind it. And that’s not enabling.

If you just create, if I just rocked up to you, Jeremy, and told you, you’ve got all these problems with the business and got you pumped up or gave you a vision for what could be next and I just walked away, how does that help you as a business owner? It doesn’t.

So that’s our LMS is all about that practical awareness level stuff. It’s a resource that you can start and use.

The instructor-led courses are topic-based, instructor-led virtual sessions that have a structure to them and are led by people, experienced people that are instructing. So if we do a course on service management. they’ve been a service manager and they’re able to interact with people.

And, you know, we all know courses, but the reason why we do it as instructor-led is because people need accountability and they need the interaction. So while the LMS resources are fantastic and you can learn a lot, most people don’t learn by self.

They’re not self driven to learn. But if they’ve got a set time that they need to rock up, someone’s giving them the answer. someone’s sort of holding them accountable for their learning.

People engage with that a lot better.

Jeremy: I’m going to jump in there as well. It sounds to me also that deep thought has been given to how do we break down the structures of habits in people’s lives, right?

Because you hand them all the resources and send them on their way, normal human behaviour is to revert straight back into whatever’s been done the moment you hit the slightest snag or problem or crisis.

You go back into your normal everyday behaviour. So it sounds like you’re really trying to break into a “How do we reframe your approach and break down what you’ve been doing to ensure that you’re thriving into the future?”

James: And you need to, like I spoke about before, how busy all the employees and small businesses are alike. Like it’s not obviously human nature very much. We all do that. Uh, different personalities. All right.

I love learning. So I, I’m self-driven to do it. But when I get busy, I do less of it. It’s only natural, but if you’re already busy and you don’t know a lot of this stuff and you, it’s not necessarily that you’re not driven to learn.

It’s more. you don’t know what you should be learning and you need a bit more of a structure to what you’re trying to get out of it um and that accountability from the actually having interaction is important and that’s where I’ve seen a lot of um programs and having been in the being in the partners and having to learn all this stuff in the industry

That’s where everyone thinks, well, scalability is super important. I get that. I run a business. I’m building this up.

So they all default to, let’s check it all out as, um, online resources. They miss how people learn. They miss that interaction.

They miss that knowledge of even as simple as something as most MSPs don’t actually dedicate time. in a structured way for people to learn. And most, when I talk to service managers and business owners, they’re all telling me that their people aren’t taking time outside of their business day to go and self-learn.

So if it’s all online and there’s no structure around it, could be the best content in the world, but if no one actually looks at it in the first place or takes the time to go through it properly or then has that sort of accountability at the end. It’s a whole lot of waste of time for everyone a lot of the time.

That comes from living it and breathing it and sort of spending the time to think about, again, that sort of impact and how to influence people to change.

Jeremy: Yeah. In terms of common challenges that you’re seeing across IT ecosystem and landscape, in what ways do you see these businesses and these partners engaging the Academy?

Are there commonalities? Are there hot topics or courses that are exceeding the others because it’s just so… so empowering and so prevalent to solving the issues they’re facing.

James: Yeah, there’s a few. There’s a few topics.

There’s the ones that have been around since I started in the industry, which worries me. Like things like how to service management and project management and account management, like the staples of our sort of operational operations of our technology businesses and then the people.

So there’s a constant challenge of lack of experience in the anyone with any sort of real talent, they’re in sales, they’ll outgrow their MSP typically. Same with the service managers as well.

There’s more opportunity to go to corporate or do your own thing or something like that. So there’s this constant cycle that’s sort of mid-level job roles.

And because most of our businesses aren’t operationally mature, keep cycling through the same processes. So those are always around.

Cybersecurity is a big one at the moment too. It’s like the sort of the hot topic for everyone. But most people, what I’m finding fascinating is, and it shouldn’t be a surprise because most of the owners are technology-focused people, the technical people have been doing this a long time.

They’re very excited about the technical side of the cybersecurity, but when it comes to the real needs around cybersecurity, like managing to a framework, operationalizing those practices, they’re not quite there yet.

They probably haven’t experienced enough pain of what they’re doing. Um, that they, they’re not, it’s not as popular as it should be.

Probably the other topic, um, because of cyber security that’s coming up a lot, is people realizing that they need contracts for their services. That’s an industry we’ve gotten away with it for a long time, which is doing handshakes and we’ll be right, but that, that formality is having to come into play.

Jeremy: Hmm. Look, I totally get that. And I think there’s, as you mentioned, a lot of these issues have been prevalent for a very long time. What about, not so much in cybersecurity, although I’m sure this fits in it, but are you helping businesses take new products and services to market or are you giving them frameworks to do so?

James: Yeah, we are.

So I have just been working with a lot of Southeast Asian partners as an example. The market’s very different to ANZ, a lot of them are a bit more aligned to the SIS sort of business structures and a lot of them are wanting to do managed services.

So helping them build out that sort of product and service solution package I’ve been doing directly through coaching.

I’ve been helping some other businesses around business digital transformation type opportunities and even things like security awareness training is a really good and exciting example around this most people go.

‘Well, I’ll just buy a product and I’ll just resell it out’, this is where I’m sort of sharing my experience around building these educational offerings and getting them to think about instead of just selling the product and it’s just online training and most people won’t necessarily buy into it.

Packaging up a service where you’ve got someone actually providing some actual virtual training or face-to-face training and getting recurring revenue out of that. Not many, not many MSPs are doing that. So I have that sort of high-level coaching.

We’re doing it and we’re feeding more, more resources through courses and the LMS as well to help people package up this and enable them to actually just not just sell a product but actually make the money around all the services you’re trying to deliver because I think this is often forgotten by a lot of vendors when they’re just thinking about the licenses that they’re trying to sell.

Licenses don’t make the partners a whole lot of money but a lot of this stuff makes their service delivery run better, it makes the client’s environment more stable or it’s something the client needs to be productive or help them do their job. The real money that…

Jeremy: Or more simplistically an opportunity fell in their laps and now they’re trying to figure out, “hey, we’ve got the opportunity to make some money. We need to get this off the ground super fast.”

James: Exactly. And so where our partners all make their money is out of their services.

There’s often that disconnect of understanding what the product does, how the partner can actually productize that and sell it and deliver it, manage it, maintain it, and what it actually means to the end client at the end.

Because what’s often, it’s always forgotten is the client at the end doesn’t care what the brand, what the label of the product is. They don’t care. It’s technical.

I’d say vendors push all this vendor branding and technical stuff. End clients don’t care. Our partners are the ones translating it into going, here’s the solution, here’s the problem that we’re trying to solve.

They’re not, they know and sense these opportunities, like what you’re saying, like, oh, there’s an opportunity that fell on my lap or the client’s requesting some solution for something, but our partners aren’t necessarily able to articulate that problem statement in a repeatable way.

And that’s where I see you, like what you do is help that help them and enable them to sell those kinds of solutions better. The products just slot into those solutions for like an MSP or an SI to actually then go and deliver and make a lot more money out of what they’re selling.

Jeremy: I think this is fantastic and this is very much our focus here at Filament as well is these businesses are run by hyper-intelligent people who have built incredible services and are delivering customer excellence and outcomes for their end users.

But they’re still very much of the mindset of if you build it they’ll come. And the best product always wins. And if they simply bring it into their catalogue, that it will somehow sell itself.

And there’s this disparity, because these are very smart people, and yet there’s this gap in their understanding of, as you say, translating it into an environment where an end user buyer or a prospect or profile or buying committee is thinking about the issues that they’re facing in their higher education institution or their fleet management or their chain of supermarkets. And the problems that they’ve got are esoteric and they don’t know the ins and outs of the technical issues and they need these trusted adviser types to… solve it.

And as you say, these products can’t get bolted on from a pushing features and specs perspective, which is what’s so normal. I mean, that’s prevalent right across the ecosystem.

James: And what’s often forgotten too in our industry is, especially coming from like a vendor, I know I’m picking on the vendors, but I can do that because I came from dealing with them.

You’ve got that salesperson in a corporate enterprise environment, that’s a salesperson, they’re a professional salesperson. So they might not have had that role the whole time. They’ve been a salesperson for a long time, or they’re a super junior person, like you said, they might be like a kid that’s in SDR.

They already don’t have a peer relationship with the owners, but also most owners are very anti-sales. There’s a big pride of a lot of the owners will go, I don’t sell. We don’t believe in sales in this business. So there’s a complete different mentality shift.

The vendor’s going, well, I can just give you, here’s some marketing collateral and you can just run off and go sell it. We touched on the problem around just selling products, doesn’t work in an MSP, that’s not how the business works. But also, even if it did, no one has the appreciation that.

Most MSPs don’t have an engine to even do a mass email broadcast, let alone run a proper campaign. So even if you give them all these resources, then what?

They’ve just got this pile of work where they’re not able to actually disseminate it and push it out through any kind of systems. And this is that continued disconnect of why I think it’s so important to understand who you’re trying to enable, what their challenges are, because that’s what enablement is.

You’re removing the roadblocks and challenges of people so they can progress in whatever they’re doing. My role of enabling through education at the end of the day is to make people, create better businesses for our partners so they buy more licenses from us.

I don’t need to hide that fact, but there’s a lot of work that goes into that to do it. It’s not just throwing some… resources over the fence to them. That’s not enablement to me.

And that’s where both for the vendor and also the MSPs that are needing to look at enabling their clients as their client needs change and it becomes more of the digital transformation stuff.

Even with security, like I touched on security awareness, it isn’t just throwing these resources at them. It’s that people and process side, that’s enablement. It’s not technology.


I want to jump onto what you just said and zoom back out to Pax8 investing in the Academy.

This is obviously, as you mentioned, an exercise in enabling and through the benefit and the investment into partners to increase consumption of Pax8.

In the time that you spend at Pax8, what do you see that correlation being? Do you see a deeper involvement in the businesses means the relationship between a cloud marketplace and a partner is deeper?

Do you project better partner lifetime value? What are you sensing there in the time you’ve been there?

James: Yeah, even in the time I’ve been there, that sort of value chain of the Academy. So if you look at the LMS is the cheap and cheerful stuff. It’s valuable, but it’s still free. And it’s still awareness level and it’s still like individual sort of resources.

That has an impact on people. It’s a smaller impact, but we’ve seen people grow by utilising those resources. We’ve seen instructor-led courses has a big impact. I’ll just pick on one of the ones that we did last year as an example.

We’re doing courses around CIS controls and applying that framework in an MSP, like operationalising security. It’s not just a benefit for us. We’ve saw increases in license sales, but actually it reduced the risk for a lot of… the MSPs that took it.

We had people come back and tell us, “Oh, I’m so glad I did that course because I had our biggest client go through a security audit from the insurance company and we got 90% instead of the average 60%”.

So not only did we get increased revenue, we’ve just then bought trust with that, that partner because they’ve got the real world benefits of it. And we’ve just like made them look really awesome in front of the partners.

Peer groups can help people grow dramatically. The numbers from the US are like 300% uplift of our licensed sales for partners that are in that program, which correlates with them growing at that sort of rate over time as well.

And then the coaching, which is obviously the premium offering that we have super deep relationships, like I’m sitting at the, the executive table on, on MSPs, helping them with their strategy. They deeply bought into the partnership and it’s both, it goes both ways.

I’m obviously there to be advocate for them to grow their business. And then as they’re growing their business, they’re looking for better partnership opportunities and they, they bring more business to the. to the table.

Jeremy: I get so fired up by this because the whole concept of eliciting and developing trust is so fundamentally critical, but because there’s no hard metric behind it, there’s no trust meter dial.

I think this is something that gets missed in planning, in discussions, in even thought processes around “How are we building out deeper partnerships for the long term? How are we giving to get over the short, medium, and long term without having that metric dial of understanding that if we put in $1 here, we get $10 here.” It’s “no, we’re investing because we know this is going to come back to us in multiple”.

James: That’s why I joined PAX8. I didn’t have to sell my business. It was very early on in the life cycle. I personally wanted to join PAX8 because it wasn’t just a lip service. You hear a lot of people talk about partner first, client first cultures and then you actually scratch the surface and it’s all just lip service where I can see.

I live it that there is that investment in partners. And I think this is where, this is where vendors and a lot of distributors don’t value that soft side because they are big corporations. It’s all about the numbers.

Where actually our partners, this is how they operate. They’re all based on trust. They’re all based on relationships.

Like I mentioned before, for a lot of our existence, we’ve done month to month contracts off the back of basically a handshake.

We’ve got these clients, most MSPs, average MSP of $3M revenue. They have somewhere between 50 and 100 clients on their books, but they’ll have their top five to eight that are generating 80% of their revenue and margin. And that’s still off the back of that handshake agreement.

They know our partners are all based on that sort of reputational thing, because it’s their business. they’re making money because their clients can trust what they’re doing. And this is why a lot of the time there isn’t good relationships and partnerships with the vendors and disties because we’re not actually meeting halfway. And for me, most of the, having been in the industry, it’s mostly the vendors and disties that don’t do the right things.

It’s, we’ve sowed the seeds of distrust in the industry that to gain that and have that engagement and those sort of actual partnerships, the vendors and the disties have to do a lot more work than what they’re doing to build up that trust. And that comes from a lot of different things.

But that’s why they struggle with initiatives to do like MDF funding. struggle with enablement things and building real communities because they aren’t generally coming and trying to build a partnership. They’re coming to blatantly sell and make money.

There’s not this long-term approach. It’s very quarter by quarter by quarter and I don’t think I truly appreciated that laws on the other side here and seeing how things are done and seeing how vendors interact and stuff.

As a partner, you don’t operate quarter by quarter by quarter in your thinking. You’re generally thinking today and long and sort of just like you’re expecting to be around for a long time. And you just everyone’s on a different on a different track and working at different speeds.

Jeremy: And what’s interesting is those quarterly sales KPIs are in the context of, or are targeting guys, as you were just pointing out, who don’t wanna be sold to in that way, and adds that incongruence there.

James: It is and I think that goes back to that, just that understanding that genuinely, especially in this industry, most people want a partnership.

Small businesses want people that they can trust and work with. And they will give, give and take. Like everyone surprised when they, you know, vendors and stuff go into competitors will be sharing information of how to run their businesses better.

But that’s the type of industry we are. Like even when I was working my MSP, we had a competitor on the other side of the car park. We’d share what’s going on and we’d be like coopetition and it wouldn’t matter. And there weren’t these walls up.

We all want to lift the industry together because that’s how we all make money.

That’s not how a lot of vendors and disties are creating their ecosystems. Because again, they’re treating it as like sales exercises and, and this sort of Academy type of approach that a lot of people are doing, they don’t position it in the right part of their organisations is probably my experience.

So it’s, as soon as you start putting sales targets on it and things like that it’s never going to succeed because it’s a long-term exercise and there’s a lot of intangibles to it.

Jeremy: This is something that we should come back and talk about again: developing out channel or developing out ecosystems, I think would be such a good topic to drill into.

You have just come back from a massive tour. You got the PAX8 band together and went on tour.

What’s next for you? What do you have in the plans?


We’re going out again to do Adelaide and Perth very shortly. I can’t remember the dates but in the next couple of weeks and I’m sure we’ll be out on the road again and we’ll probably be hitting up Southeast Asia in not too long.

For me at the moment a lot of it’s just getting traction and continuing to build the foundations of the Academy to help partners at the moment, so it doesn’t stop.

Jeremy: Yeah, never does. Well, hey, James, really appreciate you coming on the show.

I think you’ve given us a lot of insight. I think it’s really special what you’re driving at Pax8 and what Pax8 has been so bold in developing and what you’re expanding into the future.

Thanks for your thoughts on partner enablement today.

James: Thanks for having me. Hopefully it’s been useful for the people who are listening.

Jeremy: I think so. If people want to tune into more from you, where’s the best place to find you?

James: Just find me on LinkedIn.

I’m sharing a lot of stuff and feel free to reach out to me. I always like having conversations with different people in there, around the industry and keep up with what’s going on.

So just look for James Davis and the non-smiling photo and you’ll probably find me.

Jeremy: We’ll drop a link into the show notes. Thanks again and thanks to you for listening in to Filament’s B2B Tech Marketing Podcast.