Exactly what does ‘mobile first’ mean for the channel?
Some think it’s jargon, others a catchy headline, but for partners it may just be a sales strategy
What’s in a slogan? Well, it depends on what it is, who’s asking and who’s listening.
Big business, particularly the IT industry, loves buzzwords, jargon, catchphrases and easy-to-remember slogans. Some are meant to convey an idea, others an attitude, and with technology companies in particular, some refer to a union of products, platforms and trends.
Some of us from ‘back in the day’ may remember the ‘Year of the LAN’ or the long wait for ‘multimedia’, a platform perpetually in search of matching technologies. Now, in the last two years, with the proliferation of mobile and cloud technologies, we have new taglines, chief among them IBM’s ‘MobileFirst’, Microsoft’s ‘cloud first, mobile first’, no one in particular’s ‘mobile first’ and IBM’s reference to mobile as a strategic imperative.
Certainly there’s more. They’re catchy to be sure, but what do they mean to partners? While IBM’s MobileFirst references a platform for building mobile applications for the enterprise, Microsoft’s cloud first, mobile first is a statement of mobile’s omnipresence and the vendor’s place in it.
Which is more meaningful to channel partners?
“‘Mobile first’ is a great headline,” says Graham Bevington, EVP and President of UCC provider Mitel’s Enterprise Division.
“But if I’m a channel partner, what am I going to do differently because my vendor has a mobile headline? That’s the question for partners about ‘mobile first’.”
Let us be perfectly clear here – the implication isn’t that Microsoft, IBM and others sporting mobile headlines aren’t also offering substantial channel programs behind the phrases, because they are; it’s just that others in varied disciplines are doing so as well.
Why is that important? It’s because it imparts to channel partners a sales context to ‘mobile-first’ beyond the promotions of the big boppers.
For example, according to Bevington, Mitel is in the midst of a campaign to retrain its channel partners to start customer conversations not about “how great and sexy mobile UCC is” but instead about their mobile strategy and, specifically, their mobile bill.
“We ask our channel partners to talk to enterprises first about their mobile bill [because] no CIO is going to be happy with it and some don’t even know what [the dollar amount] is,” he says.
If Mitel’s partners begin the conversation asking customers “when did they last change out their PBX or how much per user per month for a PBX extension, they’re nowhere”, Bevington says.
But it’s a different story if the discussion begins with “what can you do about my $200 per month, per mobile user phone bill”, he notes. “Some [of our partners] have stepped up to that.”
Mobile’s ice breaker
In that very literal sense, ‘mobile first’ is an ice-breaker for Mitel’s channel partners, says Bevington.
That’s certainly the approach some mobile-centric channel partners have adopted.
“Customers don’t pay us for jargon,” says Jake Vande Hey, EVP for Enterprise Systems Group (ESG), a Little Chute, WI-headquartered IT solution provider specializing in telecom and network infrastructure.
“Millennials have incorporated in the secure business environment all the same things, such as video chat, that they used as consumers on the desktop into mobile,” he says. “And we’ve led with that.”
Still, it’s ‘mobile first’ that has enabled ESG to sell a process to evaluate technology, to show [customers] the features and technology and “how we bake it into their business to better serve their customers, increase revenue and communicate with their employees”, says Vande Hey.
Perhaps the in-practice meaning of ‘mobile-first’ is a channel partner’s ability to tailor technology to meet the different needs of users in different departments within an organization, such as sales, accounting, executives and design engineers, he notes.
“It’s about not giving people a huge engine if they don’t need it. Mobile is a broad topic, but if we add tangible results from having a ‘mobile first’ approach and show how it fits into their business, we can help [customers] define the process,” Vande Hey explains.
Jennifer Anaya, Ingram Micro’s VP of U.S. Marketing, notes that from a marketing best practices point of view, ‘mobile first’ “talks” to the buyer’s journey and the seller’s approach to the customer experience.
“Channel partners must ensure their website and other digital content delivers the right ‘mobile experience’ for customers, partners and prospects – namely across smartphones, tablets and laptops,” she says.
The bottom line, she adds, is that the customer experience should be consistent, regardless of device or system. “That’s the ultimate goal,” she notes.
Article written by Howard Fast. Click here to read more articles from Channelnomics.