The 2 Biggest Marketing Mistakes Vendors In The Channel Routinely Make That Cost Them Dearly

Posted On May 24th, 2019

Crying at workA few months back, one of the vendors in the channel inquired about having me do a webinar  on marketing for their resellers partners. Like many, they rely on their resellers to do their own marketing to fuel sales – and like all IT channel vendors, they were frustrated with their reseller partners lack of marketing and sales efforts. Hence the call with me.

To get a sense of the project scope, I asked about their list. They had just over 5,000 partners and a list of close to 80,000 e-mails. This is good! When I asked how many of their partners they were able to get on their last three webinars they conducted they replied, “About 40 to 50.” Um, wait a minute… I asked again, “Do you mean 400 to 500?” No, he clarified, 40 to 50. Apparently he didn’t realize how abysmal that number is. So I asked, “Besides e-mail, how do you communicate with your partners? Do you do any offline marketing? Phone calls? Newsletters? Anything?” He said, “We definitely don’t do offline. Just e-mail. But we get a 30% open rate!” I didn’t say it, but I thought it: he’s essentially saying 70% of his partner base never sees ANY communication from him – and not only is he okay with that, but he’s bragging about it.

Therein lie two of the biggest mistakes I see channel vendors making when it comes to marketing – 1) they fail to communicate with their partners using multi-media, including and especially offline, with over reliance on e-mail, and 2) they fail to hold the interest of their resellers (clients) because they fail to send interesting, relevant information and content.

So why should they care about this? Because maintaining and sustaining a productive relationship with your clients where they want to pay attention to you IS the secret sauce for ANY business’s success. In this hyper-connected but overwhelmingly distracted world our clients live in, ATTENTION is by far our most precious commodity – and it must be EARNED.

When you have “readership” and attention, you have a far easier time in marketing and selling (of course), as well as getting buy in to new ideas, compliance with requests, fueling referrals AND retention. The financial payoff is HUGE if you do it right, giving you a much larger multiple return on everything you do. Fail to hold attention and readership, and you’ll end up really struggling to fill seminars and webinars, upsell and cross sell other solutions and/or to simply get your resellers to take an action you want them to take, like upgrading their service.

How do you fix this? For starters, you have to be extremely careful about providing only INTERESTING, relevant information to your reseller partners. News about you is not all that interesting to them, nor are generic, academic articles that don’t provide any real meat on the bone. Being interesting – and staying relevant – to a group of clients is extremely difficult. Therefore you cannot just slap any information into an e-mail, shoot it out to everyone and call it “engagement.” It has to be entertaining and engaging…there has to be story to it…and it has to be interesting to read. I could spend two days on this topic alone. It’s that difficult and complex.

Second, you must – and I do mean MUST – get offline communications to your clients. MSPs and IT services companies are hyper sensitive to getting a barrage of e-mails and block, screen and delete them faster than most other industries. They also have multiple junk e-mail addresses they give to vendors that they never check – so even if they are delivered, they are mass deleted.

Take a good, hard look at your last e-mail broadcast. For starters, I’m certain you’ve had a number of clients opt out over the years, which means they aren’t seeing ANYTHING from you. Are you sure you’re okay with that? Then there are hard bounces and those that never open your e-mails. A 30% open rate is higher than average, but that’s 30% AFTER you’ve removed opt outs and hard bounces, so it’s not 30% of your entire list but a subset of it. By the time you get right down to it, your e-mail messages are probably only going to 10% of your list – and an open ISN’T an action, so it’s one metric to look at but certainly NOT to be confused with a ACTION like buying something or registering for a webinar.

In our marketing (and we carefully track everything), a solid 80% of our results in getting people to seminars and events is driven by direct mail. Read that again. It’s an important, uncomfortable truth that most digital marketers scoff at. They prefer to focus on the number of subscribers, “Likes”, hashtags, clicks, etc. All of those are good leading indicators, but the measurements that matters are actual registrations, leads and SALES.

To be clear, I’m not against digital marketing and I’m not arguing that you should stop e-mail and other forms of online marketing – I’m saying those shouldn’t be your ONLY forms of communication with your clients. Much of our digital marketing is lifted by the direct mail, telemarketing, articles in PRINT magazines, newsletters and trade shows that we do, and those offline media drive people ONLINE to subscribe again or otherwise engage..

Of course, the argument against direct mail, print newsletters and the like is that it’s “expensive.” But that’s a very limited, short-sighted response. I would argue that the loss of connection to your clients is the piece that is MOST expensive and a far greater loss than the postage stamp. That is harder to measure, and requires a sophisticated understanding of client value, ascension percentages, lifetime value and long-term ROI on marketing. Another argument is that “our clients prefer digital.” That is also a flimsy argument. If asked, a certain percentage will say that – and your should continue to do digital. However, if you look at RESULTS, and what campaigns are most impactful, memorable and deliver the highest ROI, you will often see they are driven by offline efforts like direct mail, telemarketing, magazines and newsletters.

So where do you start? Undoubtedly, you need to have a print newsletter going out to all clients in addition to all the digital marketing you’re (most likely) already doing; that’s a minimum. Doing so will allow you to connect with your clients. And since most people don’t “opt-out” of direct mail, you will get a higher delivery rate. Further, as abysmal as it is, I actually trust the post office’s delivery more than e-mail these days.

Don’t have the time or staff to do your own print newsletter? Let us do it for you! We can do everything from writing the articles, designing and printing: to mailing and updating/appending your mailing list to ensure you have accurate data. We know MSPs and IT services companies and have the ability to create and customize a company newsletter for YOU, taking care of writing relevant articles, highlighting client success stories and creating promotions. We can also assist you in selling ads to offset the cost. For more information and actual newsletter samples, e-mail us at or call the office at 615-790-5011.

There’s no doubt about it: Robin Robins has helped more MSPs and IT services companies to grow and prosper, liberating them from stagnation, frustration, drudgery and low incomes. For over 18 years, Robin has been showing MSPs and IT services firms how to implement marketing plans that attract higher-quality clients, lock in recurring revenue streams and secure high-profit contracts. Her methods have been used by over 8,000 IT services firms around the world, from start-ups to multimillion-dollar MSPs. For more information and a FREE copy of The MSP’s Ultimate Guide To IT Services Marketing And Lead Generation, go to