For a discipline operating at the cutting-edge of transformation, in an age of the connected customer, marketing has never been more misunderstood.
Deep within the technology channel that is, a channel in which traditional resellers pour scorn on a practice saturated with stereotypes, yet lacking in understanding.
Harsh words perhaps, but for most partners, marketing is a dark art, a cost centre which offers little to nothing in the way of return on investment.
Slowly, but surely, such sentiment is changing as technology providers realise that to act on customer acquisition objectives, marketing must take a central strategic role.
“This brings up a fundamental issue within the channel,” acknowledged Martin Mason, managing director of Bang, a digital creative agency nestled in the heart of Sydney suburb Surry Hills. “The fact that marketing is still viewed as it was 20 years ago is a problem that partners must overcome.
“The notion that you can run a campaign and at the end of the quarter have some leads coming through just doesn’t work like that anymore. The way individuals and organisations purchase has changed.”
Tapping into a marketing mind housing more than 25 years of experience, Mason accepted that as consumers, buying habits have changed.
“We self-educate and we don’t want to talk to anyone until we are near the point of purchase,” he explained. “Therefore, talking to partners about these outcomes and what they can expect from a program is crucially important, as is those hard conversations with vendors also.
“If any agency touts a silver bullet and believes they can turn things around in a short period of time, they are talking nonsense.”
At 18 years of age, Bang has evolved into an agency with specialist channel expertise, built on the foundations of creativity, strategy and technology.
Acquired by Nextgen in July 2017, the business builds digital marketing strategies within the technology sector, backed up by a core team of designers, developers, writers and producers.
For Mason, marketing, when used correctly, is a mechanism to create long-term engagement through an experience that is relevant, authentic and in context.
“We have to shift the mind-sets of more established vendors and partners,” Mason said. “They are expecting customers to go through digital transformation and think differently, but they also must do the same when it comes to marketing.
“The days of 20 leads in a quarter are just gone, it’s almost impossible to achieve that today. The channel must think more long-term and work through programs which allow you to achieve that.
“Marketing is about initiating conversations and delivering relevant content and touch points, while also working with the sales team to taking them through the whole buying component.
Speaking as COO of Bang and group CMO of Nextgen, Scott Caulfield believes a mentality shift is required to instigate change within the channel.
“If partners want marketing to work, they must treat it accordingly,” Caulfield added. “Partners can’t simply throw a relatively junior person at the role for example, they need to perhaps replace one of their top sales people, put management resources and effort aside, alongside increased investment in technology.
“Quite often, partners agree that change is required but are not committing to the change, which creates a need for us to engage at a strategic level.”
Currently, 80 per cent of Bang’s business comes through the technology sector, with the agency counting partners such as Brennan IT, X Central, Fujitsu, Nexon, Macquarie Telecom and Vocus Communications as customers, alongside Loop Technology, Beyond CRM, Cisco and IBM among others.
“Engagement depends on the brief but we generally work with the vendor and they put forward partners,” explained Mason. “We run a marketing maturity test because it’s absolutely key that’s there’s some understanding around what marketing can do for the business of a partner.
“It’s important to establish some level of authority and to assess who the key stakeholders are that will invest in the campaign.”
In assessing a wide-ranging ecosystem of resellers, system integrators and managed service providers, Mason concluded that in general, the channel is experiencing an identity crisis.
“More than 90 per cent of the organisations that we work with cannot articulate what their brand proposition is,” Mason said. “When we ask why a customer would share their wallet with them, the answers are usually based around them having 20 years of experience and being a platinum partner in a specific technology.
“It’s exactly the same message that every one of their competitors will say also. We’ve been in forums and asked partners to write down their value proposition and on one occasions, four partners wrote the same.
“There was no difference at all which means a large part of our work is to uncover the unique value proposition of the partners we engage with.”
Central to this is intent data, and more specifically Bombora, billed a secret weapon in understanding interest levels of customers across the market.
Operating as the exclusive agency partner across Australia and New Zealand, Bang has access to a Bombora tool which collects data about business web users observed behaviour, specifically web content consumption.
Such information is provided back as insights into their interests and from this, an indication of potential intent to take an action is formed.
“We use sophisticated tools to provide a deeper insight into the market, with that information helping decide our marketing strategy,” Caulfield added.
Citing a recent example with an unnamed vendor, Mason said new tools and techniques allow Bang to identify customers showing intent in the buying cycle, before sharing such data and information with the sales team to create better company alignment.
“For example, we are working with a vendor running a campaign, and we used Bombora to run some testing on how many applicable organisations are currently researching what we are trying to sell,” Mason explained. “The commercial acid test that intent data provides is crucial, and part of our role as advisors is to say, now might not be the right time to execute because the market appetite isn’t there.
“We hear in the enterprise space that 5000 opportunities exist but that isn’t the case in Australia and at any one time, only around 15 per cent of enterprise customers are actually in the market for your product.”