In August 2020, VIAVI Solutions, a US-based network testing, monitoring and assurance company, purchased French data analytics company Expandium. The additional capabilities to monitor and analyse cloud-based operations, deployable in public and private cloud environments, is a major boost to Viavi’s portfolio. We caught up with Carol Ann McKeown, Director of Regional and Channel Marketing, to find out more about Viavi’s approach to partner marketing.
Carol Ann, tell us a bit more about Viavi’s partner marketing work.
There is a dedicated partner marketing team across North America, Latin America, EMEA, and Asia Pacific. We also have a marketing leader for each region, and both field marketing and partner marketing report directly to that marketing leader. We can work closely with partners, especially Elite partners, thanks to our investment in a specialised partner marketing team. We also do some ‘through marketing’ activities through ZIFT, a cloud-based comarketing programme, and these are free to partners. The split is about 80/20 with/through. Many of our strategic partners have marketing teams and platforms of their own with strong brands, so we all gain from working together strategically.
What types of joint activities do you support with partners?
Before Covid, we had a strong bias towards events. About 60–70% of partner marketing budgets went on face-to-face meetings, including third-party trade shows, seminars and partner training events. We also work with partners on activities like email campaigns, SEO and social media, and social selling.
How do you fund activities with partners?
We tend to work with partners who have channel account managers who can work with our regional partner marketing resource. We ask for equal contribution from partners, because we find this delivers additional emotional investment and a sense of partnership as well as ownership of the leads and the process of generating them. We invest around 80–85% of partner program funds into demand generation. Partners want leads.
How do you differentiate when selecting partners for strategic high visibility lead generation?
The channel marketing managers work with our top partners. My team of regional partner marketing managers each manage about 10–15 partners for joint marketing activities. They work mainly with the Elite partners who develop business and marketing plans with quarterly spending plans. Another added layer of complexity arises from the Viavi brand being relatively unknown. We need partners who have brand awareness and can help drive sales into new customer segments.
What kind of co-marketing activities do you use with partners, for example, case studies and thought leadership?
We are currently considering case studies and think they are a good way to share marketing and demand generation best practice. At the moment we are focused on delivering thought leadership on social media and digital marketing. We put a lot of content on LinkedIn, our primary social channel. We also have an engagement strategy with partners on what we’re sharing at corporate level. This helps them to share that information directly to their social media followers as well.
Do you prepare joint marketing plans with partners?
Yes, as part of the overall business planning process with partners in support of common goals. Most of our business is through strategic partners, so typically we’re working with a small number of known brands and contacts. In the past five years, many service providers have outsourced field testing and support to multiple smaller providers who operate at a local level. This has made marketing more important because now we need to reach the overall partner but also engage with and build brand awareness with contractor companies who go out testing and laying networks.
How do you provide sales and marketing enablement deliverables to partners?
In the past, we have hosted regional partner sales training conferences, which includes marketing enablement training. However, this may change with Covid, and we’re currently working on that. In the meantime, sales enablement materials and assets are available via our portal, which we use to provide different programmes and deliverables for partners. We also deliver webinars sharing best practice hints and tips on an ongoing basis.
What alignment challenges have you faced when implementing demand generation activities with partners?
At Viavi I’m always impressed by our company alignment and sense of common purpose. This culture is embodied by our leadership. We currently have a company-wide focus on 5G and Fibre, and this is reflected in our demand generation activities with partners. When we do encounter disconnects, it is typically around new partners and new markets as verticals expand and markets diversify.
Specialist capabilities need a nuanced approach to build market share. Viavi’s balanced approach to partner development and management is working well.