It’s no surprise that traditional reseller models with “one and done” on-premise sales are dwindling in the face of IT channel organizations pivoting towards a cloud services, recurring revenue model. With this shift, business transactions are more centered on customer engagement, driven by relationships, and built on trust. Adding to the challenge, customer retention grows more difficult because in the cloud, dissatisfied customers are ready and willing to switch providers without a second thought. With this new pattern, a personalized, integrated, high-touch approach is vital for growth.
Customer Engagement Programs – A Three Step Guide
We’ve identified three essential steps for IT channel organizations, which encourage customer engagement and retention: 1) satisfaction measurement, 2) customer intelligence and segmentation, and 3) development of personalized experiences.
You Can’t Manage What You Don’t Measure
The catchphrase “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” is still relevant today. Capturing a benchmark of your customers’ perception of your company, products, and services is the first step to developing and honing a winning customer engagement strategy.
There are several ways to approach this, and we recommend a light method such as collecting a Net Promoter Score (NPS). This survey-driven loyalty metric gauges how likely a customer is to recommend your product or service. Simply ask your customers a single question:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend [your company] to a friend, family member, colleague or business associate?
First, divide responses into three groups: Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) and Promoters (9-10). Next, subtract the percentage of Detractors from Promoters. For example, if 80% are Promoters and 10% are Detractors, your NPS is 70.
Along with this single question, we recommend prompting for optional, qualitative feedback on what’s working and what’s lacking. This way, a collection of actionable information is available to guide future business decisions.
What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
When you understand your customers, you can anticipate their needs – even before they do! And that level of awareness is critical to developing the right messaging, fine-tuning content, creating standout customer experiences, positioning ongoing services, and driving more revenue.
Marketers begin this journey by developing marketing personas, which are fictional representations of buyers. For example, you are likely to create personas for CTOs, IT leaders, line-of-business executives and other decision makers and influencers. Personas cover basic demographics, such as income, title, and education – but together with your buyers’ motivations, mindset, goals and challenges, the fictional characters come alive. Hubspot includes a wealth of excellent examples of personas on their blog.
To go about defining your customers, the following tools and resources will help jumpstart your research.
- Customer Service and Support: These teams possess a wealth of customer interaction data. Interview team members and collect data from chat logs and calls.
- Customer Surveys: Qualitative research from NPS and other surveys are key to understanding the typical challenges and needs of your buyers.
- CRM System: Here you will find a goldmine of qualitative and quantitative data to leverage for crafting buyer personas.
- Google Analytics and Marketing Automation Tools: User behavior, interests, keywords searched, demographics and other information are tracked and recorded.
- Real Customers: Discussions with buyers reveal challenges, interests, personalities, and typical characteristics. Reach out and interview them regularly.
- Sales: Nobody is closer to the customer than salespeople. Conduct interviews to gain insight into buyer motivations, challenges, and objections.
With 74% of marketers indicating targeted personalization increases customer engagement, getting personal is a high priority and major content marketing strategy in 2018. 
A natural start to getting personal begins with categorizing your current customers. Segment your targets based on characteristics that make sense for your business. From there you can create and deliver custom experiences for different groups in your customer base. For example, a subset of your customers are likely ready to extend workloads to the public cloud, making them prime candidates for VMware Cloud on AWS.
With this information, personalized messaging and content should be at the heart of your marketing communications plan so you are always prepared to intentionally reach and engage each customer group on a personal level. VMware’s Partner Edge marketing programs support this custom experience: Continuing with the cloud example, the VMware Cloud on AWS Partner Edge marketing campaign helps you identify the right message for your audience, allowing you to serve up relevant content to each persona.
What’s more, surely, you’ve noticed marketing tactics that serve customized website experiences, tailored to the wants and needs of customer segments. Partner Edge marketing programs support these tailored experiences – with customizable email templates, web content, social media posts, and co-brandable assets so you can engage with your customer groups on any digital medium.
Bear in mind, marketing teams can’t be held solely responsible for customer engagement. Marketing is only one piece of the larger engagement puzzle. It’s critical for sales and service teams to build strong, personal and engaging relationships with customers through a collaborative, harmonious approach, that’s cultivated throughout your IT channel business.
Start developing your customer engagement strategy today. Access Partner Edge marketing programs on Partner Demand Center for a full persona guides and campaign playbooks to get started.
 Econsultancy, The Realities of Online Personalisation, https://econsultancy.com/reports/the-realities-of-online-personalisation-report