DLT Success Story: Marketing Differentiates VAR and Manufacturing Partners

(Reposted from Tech PRose)   When Christine Schaefer joined value-added reseller DLT Solutions nine years ago, the firm did not have a strong reputation for proactive sales and marketing in the channel.  Today, DLT is recognized as one of the Top 100 Government Contractors, and has its pick from a crowd of 300 technology providers who pursue it annually. At a time when government spending grew at three to five percent annually, DLT grew from $504 million in 2008 to nearly $800 million in 2010.   What enabled the organization to transform itself from just another fulfillment reseller to a top government value-added reseller for many of the leading technology brands?   Schaefer, a CRN Power 100 Woman of the Channel and current Vice President of Marketing for DLT, agreed to share the steps to DLT’s transformation in this channel marketing success story: CHALLENGE: DLT had a typical partnering model in its early years.  Similar to most resellers, the firm assumed more was better, undertook price wars to get business, and partners turned to DLT for fulfillment but did not get much value.  “The model wasn’t healthy for business or for our long-term relationships,” says Schaefer.  “Competitive vendors could win business by reducing prices, undercutting other partners and eroding trust in the channel.” SOLUTION: To avoid price competition and channel conflict as well as bring more value to partners, DLT decided to differentiate its offerings and become more selective with its go-to-market strategy.  In assessing its strengths and that of its partners, it saw that its top partners had exceptional technology solutions and strong brand recognition. The DLT brand was not as well known, yet it had a strong reputation for service and government technology acumen. DLT also offered a rare marketing capability. An agency veteran, Schaefer assembled a team to operate in agency-like fashion to support sales across the company’s six divisions. The team was guided by numbers and results, and offered complete transparency to potential partners, providing a clear differentiator for DLT. “Because we know our marketing has value, we now look for and promise a certain level of exclusivity to partners,” says Schaefer. “We want to be one of only a few VARs, so it was important that we are competing on value, not price.” DLT’s partner for IT management software, Quest Software, provides a good example of how the firm and its partners have grown together. Quest was just getting started in the public sector when it linked up with DLT in 1999.  There was strong chemistry with the organizations and a kick-off program was designed to educate the teams on their respective roles and capabilities. Once up and running, Quest had an open book into DLT’s marketing and sales operations. After a few years of success driving business for Quest Software, DLT earned the right to become Quest’s Master Government Reseller. While other VARs may charge manufacturers a fee for the use of their database, DLT is happy to distribute information on behalf of Quest and other manufacturing partners. DLT also aggressively markets and showcases Quest and other partners via a Web resource center, complete with white papers, video and virtual events: https://www.dlt.com/brands/quest . “Marketing is not a profit center,” says Schaefer.  “It is a significant part of the value that we provide our partners, and how we educate our customers to ensure they are purchasing the best possible solution for their agency.” By partnering with only a few select manufacturers, DLT has demonstrated that it is able to go deep with each of its partners, proactively marketing and selling only the leading products in each technology area. Rather than the 100+ partners listed at the time Schaefer joined DLT, the firm now has only 40 partners on its line list, and a variety of factors are considered before a partnering decision is made: -          Non-competitive with existing offerings -          Doesn’t vend through resellers who compete head-to-head with DLT (sometimes requiring a winnowing of resellers to ensure a fit) -          Ability to demonstrate solution’s impact on government operations -          Service levels consistent with government requirements -          Infrastructure to support government sales (affirmative action plans are a must have to sell to government, cautions Schaefer). RESULTS: The focused partner model has been a significant differentiator – delivering additional value as a trusted advisor, and earning the company accolades from partners, including: -          Quest Software Top Government Reseller -          Symantec US VAR of the Year -          One of Oracle’s Top Government Resellers -          RedHat Top Government Reseller -          Autodesk’s Largest Government Reseller DLT was also recognized this year by Washington Business Journal for the CFO of the Year: Government Contracting, and was named a Federal Partner of Excellence and CRN's 2011 VAR 500 Top 50. In a recent issue of Channelnomics, DLT Solutions’ CEO Rick Marcotte attributes his company's astronomical growth to the value delivered through marketing: “In less than 20 years, DLT has become a unique powerhouse inside the Washington beltway and a shining example of what a solution provider can accomplish when it’s focused on marketing, sales and value creation.”