LAS VEGAS – At the HPE Global Partner Summit here, Hewlett Packard Enterprise made a series of channel support announcements around their new ‘Pro’ series, a combination of both enhanced and net-new initiatives that have been designed to provide partners with additional support in marketing, sales and technical solutions.
Jim Jackson, HPE’s CMO, situated the Pro Series within a three-pronged marketing strategy for this year during the GPS keynote.
“The first is a shift to digital,” Jackson said. “We know that 68 per cent of customers start buying decisions digitally, and that more people are now involved in the buying process. This means that we have to engage key decision makers earlier in the buying journey.”
Jackson emphasized that this will be a very partner-centric process.
“Our focus is to direct a large portion of our digital opportunities to partners and as we continue to leverage, you will see us do more of that. You will see additional investment focus to engage customers.”
Doubling down in the SMB space is another key priority.
“You will see us ramp up a new campaign with more awareness, more pull and more digital leads,” Jackson said. “We will bring our ‘IT Monster’ campaign downstream to the SMB customer, and we will start ramping that up over the next couple of weeks.”
The other pillar is new marketing investments for partners.
“Social is absolutely critical as we get our message out,” Jackson told partners. “We are deepening our social media with thought leadership content, and we will make all this content available for you.” We have had 21,000 social media shares to date, and 11 million impressions to date, and we want to turbocharge this to help you accelerate your business.” The social media that has created the most engagement is items that showcase partner capabilities in the form of a story, and which use real customer stories to draw people in. LinkedIn is the most effective medium, with Twitter a distant second.
Two new marketing investments are being introduced, the online Digital Marketing Partner Learning Center and the Digital Marketing Accreditation program,
“We launched the Marketing Pro Academy a year ago, and it is an umbrella for marketing initiatives,” said Chris Ogburn, VP of Global Marketing at HPE. “Last year, we introduced marketing content, face-to-face workshops and a social media centre. Now we have added the Accreditation program, and the new Partner Learning Center.
“The Partner Learning Center allows partners to educate themselves on recent trends in digital marketing and selling, which are becoming more integrated,” Ogburn said. “We think this will help educate sales leaders as well as marketers. The Center is based around on-demand videos, and will go live on November 1.
The Digital Marketing Partner Accreditation Program, which is also coming on November 1, teaches how to deliver digital marketing campaigns more effectively.
“It is a set of on-demand videos on strategic and tactical topics on building a plan and driving demand in a digital-centric way,” Ogburn said. “There is an accreditation badge for completion. We think this concept will become more standard in the industry, although the main purpose, frankly, is to get knowledge in peoples’ heads, to help partners transform their business models.”
The Social Media Center, introduced last year, and which over 5000 partners are now using, has more Curated Influencer content and posts available.
“Partners tell us that they want third party and influencer content,” Ogburn said. “We have also added a real-time event section during events with the latest news and updates.”
Last year, the Digital Maturity Assessment was introduced, and Ogburn said that a year later, over 750 have been completed, with 60 per cent of partners being in the upper levels of digital proficiency.
“We have seen a clear shift in results that show the partners involved understand its importance and are making more investments, so that 1s and 2s scores are moving to 2s and 3s,” Ogburn said. “Feedback has allowed us to improve the questions and provide more personalized recommendations, which is important because the customization is the purpose of this.”
Ogburn said that partners remain weakest in this area in analytics.
“They need help with data science and propensity models,” he said. “We are looking at how we can help them with that since they don’t typically have that on staff. That’s the next frontier for us to help partners with.”
HPE commissioned work with some consultants on company growth strategies, which found that companies that were growing faster were investing more MDF in demand gen and marketing than into sales enablement.
“Marketing-led investments can deliver a better return than sales led ones,” said Paul Hunter, HPE’s Global Channel Chief.
“Building out the Pro series of communities is a key part of how we win and collaborate together,” Hunter also indicated.
The Tech Pro Community for solution architects was just introduced in March, and is now being enhanced.
“Since the launch, the response has been fantastic,” said Steven Hagler, HPE’s Vice President, Global Sales & Partner Enablement. It involves communities to help engineers better connect, share ideas, and ask questions. It also involves events. Three held this spring in APJ, Europe and North America drew 32 per cent more partners than the year before. Recognition and rewards are provided for being certified and are focused on the individual, not the company.
There are two sets of enhancements to Tech Pro. One is the introduction of two new Hybrid IT Architect certifications, a new ASE Hybrid IT Architect certification and a Master certification. The new Master ASE certification will be available on November 1, 2019.
“The Master level ASE will help engineers better understand and architect solutions, and provide flavours they can specialize in,” Hagler said.
Another enhancement is the immediate availability of a full suite of continuous learning paths which provide job role-based learning on the latest HPE and industry technologies This will be followed up on November with the launch of continuous learning digital badges to recognize completion of each learning path.
“The learning paths take a curriculum-based approach like university, where it is self-selected, and an individual can opt for a specialized or generalist focused,” Hagler indicated.
The third new Tech Pro element is an actual reward and recognition program for Tech Pro Community members that will provide additional benefits, higher recognition, and deeper levels of access to content and resources based on their investment in enablement with HPE.
“We are building this program out now,” Hagler said. “It will be like an airline rewards program where the benefits, including things like access, will scale up with commitment. It will roll out throughout the summer, and will be formally launched on November 1.
HPE Sales Pro Community is the complete net-new component, and was formally launched at the event. It is designed to use a global approach to drive both HPE and partner sales, using the same collaborative, learning path and enablement focused methodologies as the other two communities.
“We have had a lot of great sales material but hasn’t been the easiest to understand,” Hunter said. “We have united things with the same Connect, Learn and Grow philosophies.
The Connect component here is all about consistent engagement, through enhancement to their Seismic platform, which provides communications form HPE to both their internal and channel sales forces.
“It’s a much more consistent and prioritized approach,” Hunter said. Communications previously was more regionalized and more local, and HPE is now creating a more standardized platform. Seismic also contains a chat function to get a connection with the right live expert in your geo.
The Learn component will incorporate modules from multiple existing and new sources including HPE Partner Ready sales certification and HPE’s internal sales accreditation program. HPE Sales Pro Community will also deliver certificates and digital badges.
Growth will be facilitated by improved sales pricing policies.
“We are simplifying pricing to get faster pricing for sales reps,” Hunter said. “We have had lots of different programs, but we are coalescing them into a single one this summer and rolling it out geo by geo. It will be consistent on special pricing and deal reg. We will also have a single demo program aligned across all geos, to acquire demo gear, both physical and virtual, and to provide access to experts for Proof-of-Concepts.”