Building partner business one tale at a time

 |   Ashlea Lynch

Good Seed Trust

With a trusted network of resellers and access to the full suite of Microsoft cloud and ISV solutions, Microsoft distributor Exeed is a leader in supplying cloud-based IT for any New Zealand organisation. Every day, its partners customise those Office 365, Azure or LeapThought platforms for their own customers, ramping up productivity and growth across the country. 

Before, those amazing transformation stories were going untold, and unheard. Not any more. With its Through Partner Marketing programmeExeed is helping its partners share their successes with the world. Its campaign celebrating iT360’s innovation not only helped boost the reseller’s business, it’s reaping rewards for the whole partner ecosystem.  

The New Zealand reseller channel does great things. But Kiwis are a reticent bunch when it comes to blowing their own trumpets.  

For many of our resellers, marketing just isn’t on their to-do list – they don’t have a marketing person, let alone a marketing team. Even when presented with the opportunity of effectively free marketing, they can be hesitant because they don’t know where to start, or they just don’t have the time,” says Janine Brittain, Modern Workplace Business Development Manager at Exeed. 

Yet marketing – and particularly telling stories of their successes and showcasing examples of technology in action – can enable resellers to reach more customers and increase their brand and revenue.  

Helping resellers sell their own businesses 

Exeed partners with a number of these resellers, and it saw the opportunity to help tell their stories better. iT360 was a textbook case. It helped not-for-profit Good Seed Trust solve some very frustrating issues that were impacting services, but like many Kiwi businesses iT360 was too busy focusing on its own service delivery to consider how both organisations could help each other. 

Good Seed Trust is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping build strong families. It runs four childcare centres and playgroups in Auckland, as well as providing wraparound services to help parents provide a nurturing environment for their children and strengthen local communities. Services include 1:1 family engagement workshops and coaching, “SuperGrans” lessons in household management, cooking and parenting, transport and after-school care. 

Spread across five sites, with an unreliable server and ageing PCs storing multiple copies of the same document, making a difference for Auckland children and families was even harder work than it sounds. It was impossible to find information – assuming it was in the system in the first place. 

“At our centre in Otahuhu it took 10 minutes to upload a photo. Often the computer crashed. It just wasn’t working,” says Grace Ikuia, CEO of Good Seed Trust. 

iT360 stepped in with a clever cloud-based solution. Doing good in the community is now much easier, with Azure-based cloud computing, Sharepoint to store and share documents, Exchange Online managing emails and Microsoft Teams enabling seamless collaboration. Productivity boomed, unnecessary travel was cut out, and cloud migration has also saved Good Seed Trust on expensive infrastructure to the tune of $40,000. Good Seed’s team was singing iT360’s praises. 

What Ikuia loved about working with iT360 was: “the way they treat you like part of the family, not just like a customer”.  

But iT360 had no way of helping other organisations hear what its customers were saying – and what it could do for them. They were doing so much to help other organisations grow, but very little to help themselves, and that’s why we wanted to show them how much more they could achieve with digital marketing,” Brittain says. 

From small stories, flourishing businesses grow 

Well aware of Kiwi businesses’ modesty, Exeed launched its Through Partner Marketing programme in 2019 to help its partners amplify their successes and reach new potential customers. Exeed worked to identify resellers who were willing and able to be part of the campaign. Some were willing but didn’t have the time. Some were able, but didn’t understand how valuable marketing could be in securing new businessEffective storytelling is not the same as placing a newspaper ad for a Microsoft product – weaving the right message, tone and narrative into a compelling story that will captivate the audience takes time and effort.  

 To get our partners started on their marketing journey, we needed to show them how it could be done, and get them some ‘runs on the board’ in the hope that it would encourage them to continue with further marketing on their own,” Brittain says. 

Exeed approached Microsoft for help with funding for a digital marketing campaign. Exeed’s Microsoft Business Development Manager, Janine Brittain, worked with prospective campaign partners to identify which customer stories they could tell – and iT360’s stood out. 

As Sarah Bowden, One Commercial Partner Director at Microsoft New Zealand, explains: “Helping our partners tell their stories to the world is a key part of Microsoft’s strategy, because we know how transformational it can be for their business – and ours. Human stories and real-life case studies are what really resonate with customers, meaning so much more than facts and stats on a page – they’re highly effective in driving new business.  

“And whenever a partner’s business grows and succeeds, ours does too. We were delighted when Exeed came to us for support to amplify their own partners’ successes, because this really does grow the entire partner ecosystem.” 

Exeed arranged for a 4-page written case study to be developed on iT360’s work with Good Seed Trust to go on all three organisations’ websites, along with a video featuring interviews with Ikuia and the Exeed team, social media posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, a downloadable paper for other businesses on critical business challenges and a placement in the North Harbour Business community newsletter.  

The results won Exeed an award for Channel Development at the 2019 Microsoft Partner Awards – but for iT360, the benefits were even greater.  

Realising the power of marketing 

Thanks to the Through Partner Marketing campaign, partner business at iT360 grew more than 25 per cent. Thousands more people are now aware of the Good Seed Trust story (and iT360’s great service). Via Microsoft’s News Centre, the case study reached more than 42,000 people during the campaign period, and more than 800 people have seen the video on LinkedIn or iT360’s website. Social media has also been highly valuable, with almost 2,000 people seeing the story on Facebook, not including the more than 500 who saw the North Harbour business newsletter in their inboxes, on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. 

The positive feedback and engagement it’s received from customers has now given iT360 the confidence to go out and do it again. 

“It’s been so encouraging to see how the campaigns have enabled the partners to learn a lot more about harnessing the power of social media and platforms such as LinkedIn for marketing. iT360 is now posting great content and making its own videos for LinkedIn, including some great video posts from Inspire 2019,” says Brittain. 

Callum Galloway, iT360 Operations Manager, says “Exeed’s support in our new marketing endeavours has meant we have been able to finally share our stories with our community. We wouldn’t have been able to do this and start going down this path without their support and invaluable encouragement. 

“The relationship doesn’t feel like B2B and hasn’t for some time – it feels like we’re doing business with friends. At multiple levels there are extremely skilled people that have always been able to assist us in all areas and empower us to help deliver better outcomes for our clients.” 

Where next for partnership programmes? 

More resellers are now keen to join the Through Partner Marketing programme and realise the same benefits for their own businesses. One Exeed partner’s business has grown by more than 50 per cent as a result. 

Exeed has also run a partner enablement programme, MPower, across Microsoft 365 and Azure to increase knowledge in the partner base, as many weren’t aware of what value both platforms offered customers. MPower provided training modules, delivered high level positioning, overview, features and benefits of Microsoft 365 and Azure, with the incentive of prizes for completing the training.   

More than 200 individual resellers from 91 partner organisations took part in the programme. As well as training via webinars and online Microsoft training resources – with a reward for completing online pop quizzes for both Microsoft 365 and Azure – the campaign featured a sales incentive to reward one partner with a $5,000 marketing package. Eighty-six individuals completed and passed all the Microsoft 365 training with 106 completing the Azure training. Seventy-six passed both the Microsoft 365 and Azure quizzes.   

Exeed is now seeing an uptake in sales of Microsoft 365 and Azure revenue. 

As Bowden notes: “Through such clever partnerships and storytelling, New Zealand’s digital landscape is flourishing – and so are our IT businesses.