Forrester hosts its Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 4 and 5, 2013. Attendees will engage as a community with a shared focus on driving revenue, hear success stories in process from their peers and leading B2B practitioners, become immersed in the latest thinking and data from Forrester including face time with analysts, all in the comfort of the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. Over the next three weeks, I will spotlight the themes of the forum through a series of Q&A sessions with attending analysts. First up, I will answer frequently-asked-questions as a general introduction to the forum, and then Tim Harmon and Jonathan Silber will delve into the forum’s don’t-miss value for clients who market and sell through the channel.
So Brad, who should attend a forum like yours? Good question. We cover a breadth of angles on the B2B revenue challenge, so to take full advantage; my answer is leaders and teams should attend. The main stage presentations reinforce the theme and are intended to inspire and incent change and new direction for your team. The tracks are focused on specific execution requirements, from customer intelligence, to demand gen, to sales force effectiveness, so dividing up the tracks and sticking with them end-to-end means splitting them up among a few people. We will provide detailed documentation on all the sessions, but brining a team is the best way to get the full value from the event. That way, you can regroup and take action when you all get back and compare notes.
What is new about the event this year? Forrester is doubling down on the SE challenge, so you will see that we have doubled the number of tracks to broaden the execution oriented sessions we offer. We are also at an inflection point in our economy and this role, so this year will be laser focused on the practicable ideas that are working for our clients and your peers, and Forrester’s frameworks you can take back and apply at your company. Making things happen and taking action is the focus this year.
Why did you move the event from San Fran? We love San Fran too, we just outgrew the Palace, so we figured you would enjoy a few days in nearby Scottsdale where we can expect some warmer weather and enjoy a bit of the desert in March.
Brad: Hi Jon and Tim, thanks for doing this, this will be the first of several Q&A sessions for the Sales Enablement blog. You are leading the track “Strengthening Your Channel Partnerships” at the upcoming Sales Enablement Forum in Scottsdale, Arizona, on March 4 and 5. Can you talk a little about what you will be discussing during that track?
Tim Harmon: There are a few very big problems that B2B tech companies in particular are facing today regarding their channel ecosystem; one of those is channel partner loyalty. Just like consumers are faced with a plethora of companies vying for their consumer dollar, same thing goes on in the tech industry channel ecosystem. Lots of tech vendors are vying for a finite number of channel partners’ attention, wallet share, and allegiance. We’re going to be exploring what it takes to improve or increase that channel partner’s allegiance and wallet share for a tech vendor.
Brad: Sounds good. If there was one theme you hope attendees will take away from attending the forum, and, specifically, the Channel Partnership track?
Jonathan Silber: The track I am primarily responsible for is channel marketing. We’re pulling in three big names in the industry to create a panel, so a key takeaway for those attending the event really is to learn about best practices for channel marketing today, find out what leaders are planning for 2013, and discuss what other companies could be doing to catch up with the top performers. We’re going to be helping them strategize and improve what they’re currently doing and helping them understand what to introduce in terms of new, innovative marketing tactics and best practices. We're also giving them the opportunity to speak with some of the leaders in the space today, to pick their brains, so to speak.
Brad: Attendees will get to interact with these leaders, right?
JS: That is correct. The panel will have a set of questions planned out ahead of time, but we plan to open it up to a few questions from the greater audience as well. And there is time built into the schedule for peer conversations and interaction, so attendees can learn from each other. And we analyst will be taking one-on-one meetings with attendees throughout the event.
Brad: For someone who has never attended a Forrester forum, how would you explain the value of attending over simply reading reports? This can be for the forum in general or your track in particular.
TH: Specific, actionable recommendations. That’s one of the key things that a Forrester forum delivers. It’s not learning about generic ideas; there are very specific action items you can incorporate into your programs that are going to see results. For this particular track, we’re going to give you data and actionable recommendations on how to better engage your channel partners for co-marketing activities. We’re going to give you very specific incentive models and algorithms that you can incorporate into your partner programs, and we’re going to do this all in the context of cloud computing. Cloud computing changed the vendor-channel relationship. The reality is that most tech vendors have it figured out for the old-school, on-premises enterprise license model. Not very many have it figured out for the new era of cloud computing.
Brad: Good thing we’re here to help. Obviously at the Sales Enablement Forum there will be different tracks, themes, and speakers outside of your own. Is there anything in particular which people who focus on channels may not expect to get value from, but will in attending the forum?
TH: I think the most relevant one, in terms of cross-pollination, is going to be Lori Wizdo and Peter O'Neill’s track “Modernizing Demand Management For New Business And Markets.” Our audience for the “Strengthening Your Channel Partnerships” track is tech vendors who they are trying to engage channel partners, but aren’t directly engaging the customer. So while Lori's and Peter’s track is going to be end-user oriented, it still follows closely with Jon’s track session on partner marketing and co-marketing activities. What they learn in that track about developing and nurturing leads they can develop and deliver to their partners.
Brad: Is there anything I may have missed that you would like to talk about? Are there any specific reports, webinars, or blog posts you recommend attendees to view before the forum?
TH: There is one other report that is germane to this. Jon wrote it and it is not published yet but will be soon. It’s his report, “The Cloud Has Changed Channel Sourcing Dynamics For Software.” The overarching idea is that the cloud changes everything. Not only for customers, but the cloud changes everything for the channel. The channel has been around for 20-25 years and it’s had a chance to mature, but with the cloud, it’s virtually back in its infancy. I think both tech vendors and channel partners are still groping for how to best work with each other in this new type of technology delivery model.
JS: When it comes down to it, the cloud has changed the traditional channel ecosystem. With the report Tim referenced, we dive into what those changes mean to vendors, how they need to respond and revamp their partner programs so that they can ensure they are selling to the right folks. There is also another report that is working its way through publishing right now, “The 10 Most Innovative Partner Co-Marketing Tactics,” which will be valuable for those attending to take a look at. And of course we just went live with the Channel Partner Loyalty Playbook, and we recommend attendees read all the reports in the playbook to be fully informed at the forum.
Brad: Those two reports are set to reach the website in the next month, so our readers should check them out, while the playbook is live now and is suggested reading for all tech vendors with a channel strategy. Tim, Jon, thanks for talking today. We’re looking forward to the forum and, specifically, the Strengthening Your Channel Partnerships track.
TH & JS: Thanks, Brad.
Thanks for reading, check back next week for a Q&A with Peter O’Neill and Lori Wizdo to discuss their lead-to-revenue management track at the forum.
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Images from JW Marriot Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa website