One of the most common demands that resellers make of vendors is for assistance with marketing - not just in those cases where they cannot afford to do any themselves, but also to help channel marketers improve their performance.
So it was refreshing to attend an event held by Cisco in Paris last week which had marketing as the main topic on the agenda, putting the vendor's own product messaging firmly in the shade.
Speakers at Partner Velocity included well-known marketing specialists who covered topics including developing a personal brand, improving the way that resellers promote themselves, and how to gain an insight into the psychology of the customer.
But the main message that resellers received repeatedly over the three-day event was that in an era when social networking tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook are all free, the cost of marketing has become one of effort and intelligence, and not so much about big budgets.
"You can deliver cost-effective marketing, and you don't need Hollywood budgets to do video," said Luanne Tierney, vice-president, worldwide channels marketing at Cisco.
Embrace social media
Tierney urged resellers to embrace social media, and particularly Twitter, to network and communicate with vendors and customers. One of the areas where Cisco is particularly keen to get partners active is video, exploiting sites such as YouTube. It also urged partners to engage in the conversational style of communication that is emerging online.
"The way I see tweeting is that it gives me an opportunity to have a conversation with you and any partners on Twitter. I will follow you," said Tierney.
The overall theme of Partner Velocity was to accelerate out of the downturn.
Edison Peres, senior vice-president, worldwide channels go-to-market group at Cisco, said that marketing budgets had been under pressure, but those who invested would reap the rewards.
"We need to accelerate from where we were last year. A lot of the growth is going to happen because there is a lot of pent up demand that is going to be released based on the messages and techniques resellers use to explain the benefits of technology," he said.
Help for resellers
In an effort to put its money where its mouth is, Cisco is putting more of its marketing resources online and is prepared to offer more practical assistance to resellers looking for help promoting themselves in the market.
Most of the experts at the Velocity event emphasised the need to put effort into defining and improving brand as part of a campaign to add value to a reseller business.
Apple and Microsoft were held up as examples of brands that had managed to establish in the shorthand of a logo or a brief start-up theme an identity that was understood instantly by the customer.
Partners were encouraged to think about how they treat their identity, moving away from the average bland logo on headed notepaper to differentiate from the competition.
Cisco certainly used Velocity to show that it takes marketing concerns seriously, and for those sceptics in the channel concerned about budgets and campaign costs, the way forward seems to be more about using free platforms, with the main investment being time.