You’re in a room with 60 technology vendor and partner representatives, with a no-holds-barred remit to make the deal of the century. What would you do?
It’s exactly what happened at our latest Channel Meet Up event, held in Google UK’s prestigious Town Hall.
Instead of the usual conference approach of presentations, we brought in Jim Wallman from Past Perspectives, a strategic gaming company, to create a scenario where our attendees could work together and explore possibilities that they don’t get the chance to in the real world.
The fun part? To make deals with competing teams in an environment where anything was possible.
The real deal? To create a platform for networking and conversation in a world where digital, mobile, and other technology advances – instead of connecting us – have in fact created a disconnect. Today it’s all too easy to hide behind social media, email and IM, but a lot of insight can get lost when we don’t get together in a room with our peers – and competitors – once in a while.
How our world is changing
Kicking off the day was a talk by Yvonne Cheung, Industry Head for Business Technology at Google UK, titled ‘The New B2B Journey’.
Yvonne shared several startling facts. Among these were that 49% of IT buyers do their research outside of normal working hours. 41% do their research at the weekends, and 21% on their holidays.
Small insights that make a big difference to how and when we talk to our audience.
The days of marketing during 9-5 hours, Monday to Friday, may well be a thing of the past if you want to reach the B2B decision maker when purchasing decisions are on their mind.
It reflects on the importance of coming together as an industry and talking – key to staying abreast of what’s working, and what’s not, in B2B marketing.
In addition to this, Yvonne made points about device preference, with 7/10 B2B decision makers using mobile devices to research their decisions. But actions, orders and purchases are predominantly made over desktop, so services need to be delivered appropriately.
With Yvonne’s insightful talk fresh in our minds and feeling inspired, it was time for the game.
Here’s how it went…
The purpose of the game
Gamesmaster Jim Wallman presented the structure and theme for the day: guests were put into teams, and given the task of creating a fictional company and strategy.
With this done, the teams had to go about setting up meetings and making (also fictional) deals with the other teams.
For the marketers in the room, it was about creating tempting offers to bring partners on board with. While for the partners, the objective was to get the most value from the vendors.
So, what’s possible in a room where anything is possible?
Amidst the laughter, joking and out-of-this world deals, some fundamental learnings became clear.
Remember the basics, reap the rewards
- Trust | The importance of building an open and honest relationship between vendors and partners was clear. The scenarios where either party changed what they were asking for when the deal was near final, were those relationships that broke down.
- Reliability | In close relation to the point above, reliability beyond the deal was also key. Staying fair and maintaining good levels of communications after the contract is signed is vital.
- Strategic fit | In choosing the right partner, it was agreed that sharing strategic goals is key – with the same corporate vision and similar direction for growth.
- Desired outcome | Deciding your goal before going into big deals is another critical step that can be overlooked. Do you want to go big with one company, or spread yourself wider and build lots of smaller relationships? This is where you can learn from your peers.
Strategies used on the day
- Widen your view | Don’t just focus on the big fish in the partner world, or those established names. You could cut a more beneficial deal with the start-ups and smaller partner organisations which could reap dividends later as they grow. And because you helped them in the beginning, they’ll remember you later on (linking back to that important point of trust and reliability).
- The right manpower | Make sure you have enough manpower to manage your relationships. Partners valued dedicated account managers, and the ability to keep face-to-face appointments – remember, communication is key.
- Tiered benefits | It’s ok to offer bigger benefits and rewards to bring in new partners, and then reduce these in the second and third year of a relationship (as long as it’s not reduced to such an extent that the partner no longer gets anything from the relationship!). For example, a tiered MDF programme to kick-start new relationships (£50,000 in the first year for a key partner, £20,000 in the second year, and so forth).
Resources to offer
With a little upfront investment you can create a platform of resources to help your partners get the most from their relationship with you.
- Co-branded partner marketing portal to help partners sell your solutions, quickly
- Marketing store for access to campaigns, assets and support
- Deal registration tool to speed up the decision-making process when partners register opportunities
- Marketing concierge service – bring in a third-party agency to deliver your partners’ marketing campaigns, funded by their MDF.
So, how did it go?
Ok, so ultimately the game was a bit of fun. As Olivier Choron of purechannelapps said, “we wanted to create a platform for networking, where you could talk and set up meetings, but without the formalities of a traditional conference. This was a great icebreaker that’s truly served its purpose.”
Games master Jim Wallman commented, “these games are great at pushing boundaries, and allowing each side to play around with deals and scenarios that they don’t have the chance to in real situations. But in doing so, they can glean some insights that could be put to work in the real world.
“How do I know it was a success? When we came to a break, and nobody stopped what they were doing. They just stayed heads-down and working – it was great to see.”
One attendee commented on the day “The issue is, we all think our challenges are unique. It’s only when you come to a day like this and actually talk that you realise we all have the same challenges. We’re too isolated today, we need to meet more as an industry to work together on our challenges, share best practice, and move forward .”