The massive vertical marketing opportunities created by Covid-19 and virtual RTs


Written by Jonathan Calver, CEO, StrategyMix


Covid-19 has forced a global reset with far reaching implications across the global economy, many of which were not predicted. The consequence of these implications have yet to be fully appreciated.

Our story starts with a BDM called Joe. He lives in Glasgow (but he could live anywhere). He works for a small IT reseller. He’s a generalist. He sells a bit of everything, some cyber, some hybrid cloud, some data storage.

After quite a few years, he had built up a portfolio of loyal clients, including two in healthcare, a few local councils, some schools and two major engineering firms (who both focus on ship building and large-scale civil construction projects). The rest of his sales are fairly ad-hoc, but still contribute to his annual commission.

Everyone likes Joe because he’s dependable. All seems well but the clouds are gathering.

The first seemingly trivial event occurs on the other side of the world in Australia, when a marketing company specialising in roundtable events discovers the phenomena of “cohesity”. Put simply, this means that when they invite prospects with similar job titles (CIO or CISO) from a single industry, they inevitably increase response rates, delegate satisfaction scores and consequent conversion rates.

The second not so trivial event (as it turns out) also occurs on the other side of the world. This time in China. Covid-19.

Perhaps, like a Chess player, you can already spot the connection between these two events and appreciate why Joe is now so vulnerable. Or perhaps not.

One of the unexpected outcomes of Covid-19, has been the sudden and massive adoption of video conferencing technology, like Zoom. Grandparents now regularly meet their Grandchildren online. They could have done this in January 2020, but very few did.

By late March, everybody was doing it. In the corporate world, most switch on their webcams by default, when previously many were reluctant. It is the new norm. We have all become comfortable “doing business” in a virtual world. Some of us even prefer it. No more daily commute for a start.

By mid-April 2020, the concept of virtual roundtables (which are completely different to webinars) had already been proven. Joe was still not concerned. He was working from home, like everyone else and conducting business as normal.

And then.

Another reseller emerged on the scene. And they were not from Glasgow.

They were based in London and had been focusing on healthcare for many years. Their client list included 9 of the 12 teaching hospitals in London. They had hired many of their technical and even some of their sales staff from within the healthcare industry. This was an industry that they understood deeply.

But their growth had been constrained by geography. To make sales and service their clients, they assumed that they had to operate face to face. That was the accepted wisdom

And then it wasn’t. Because they were suddenly working from home, just like their clients.

Obviously, it wasn’t long before they started to run regular virtual roundtables focused on the healthcare sector throughout the UK, on a range of issues that they understood better than anyone else.

Soon after, they morphed their ad-hoc events schedule into a strategic plan, where the primary objective was to position their brand as the dominate IT provider to the entire UK healthcare industry.

The Heads of IT from Joe’s two healthcare clients couldn’t help themselves.

They were loyal to Joe, but they were also very attracted by the roundtables and the opportunity to discuss common problems and emerging opportunities with their peers, other heads of IT in the UK healthcare sector.

They were also deeply impressed by the industry insights and thought leadership provided by this “new” reseller.

Joe as a generalist, didn’t stand a chance against the thought leaders from his new “left field” competitors, with their superior industry knowledge and proven track record for innovation in the healthcare industry.

You can guess what happened.

Joe lost those two healthcare clients. It wasn’t long before a dominant IT provider with national aspirations emerged in the schools sector and then another, in local government.

Joe lost 6 of his top 8 clients.

So, what did Joe do next?

He focused on his Ship Building Engineering clients and became the dominant IT provider to large scale civil engineers in Europe.

But what about the rest of channel industry?

Some outcomes are obvious and easy to predict. Others have yet to be worked through. Here are some of the easy ones:

    1. IT vendors and resellers restructure themselves based on industry verticals rather than geographical regions.
    2. Generalist BDMs are replaced by industry-experienced Trusted Advisors.
    3. Lead generation is abandoned as the primary channel marketing objective. The new focus is on building trust in the brand.
    4. Channel marketing becomes more strategic, replacing quarterly ad-hoc budgets with annual marketing plans.

Thank you for reading this blog. Please post your comments or questions below. If you would be interested in attending one of our virtual roundtables for IT vendors and resellers, then please check the event schedule on our home page, or subscribe to receive priority invites.