TCC research

Selling Dell: Vendor surpasses HPE, IBM and others in mindshare of storage partners

All major vendors rely on channel partners (resellers, distributors, managed service providers, integrators) to scale and serve different types of customers.

Enterprise storage vendors are no different. Their market share and revenue performance depends, often to a large extent, on how many channel partners they have and how they choose to promote their products.

There are many ways partners try to attract new customers, but SEO remains a key part of most multi-channel marketing strategies. The effort a retailer puts into getting customers to the top of the “sales funnel” for a salesperson is an indicator of that salesperson’s “mindshare” with their retailers, which should ultimately impact market share, although there are many other factors at play.

Independent research of channel partner SEO activities conducted in May by The Channel Company in the US, UK and Germany for storage vendors HPE, Dell Technologies, Pure Storage, IBM, NetApp and Lenovo found some significant differences in how resellers use research to build interest in those vendors’ storage products.

The study examined Google’s search optimization activities among 1,878 channel partners to understand three metrics: (1) intent, the percentage of the partner sample that optimizes search for a specific brand; (2) traffic generation, the percentage of partners who attracted visitors due to those SEO efforts; and (3) the average monthly traffic per partner for those products, which is an indicator of the feasibility of the partner’s effort to attract visitors.

TCC research
Intent, traffic and visitors for partners in the US, Germany and the UK

Dell ahead of the curve

The research found that Dell’s channel partners are generally the most effective at promoting that brand’s storage products across all three territories, the US, UK and Germany. Dell has more channel partners than its competitors, these partners show a higher intention to attract visitors and are more successful in driving traffic for Dell storage products.

Dell, of course, is a longtime player in enterprise storage. New vendor Pure Storage (founded in 2009) was also doing well for mindshare, with 1.5-2.5 times more visitors per partner than their competitors in the US.

Data on intent, the percentage of partners optimizing SEO for Pure Storage, was also favourable. HPE and NetApp, meanwhile, have lagged slightly behind Pure Storage in terms of partner mindshare.

“While NetApp has the second-highest number of visitors generated per partner, and by a significant amount, it and HPE have roughly comparable numbers of intent and traffic generating partners, essentially making them nearly neck and neck with Pure Storage,” he said. Tamina Carvell, global director analytics and insights at The Channel Company.

Best known for its end-user devices, Lenovo is a newcomer to enterprise storage, but it’s growing by leaps and bounds in terms of market share for storage. The relatively low SEO figures among Lenovo partners therefore present an opportunity.

“There is room for growth both in terms of the number of partners who will see an advantage in participating [Lenovo’s] storage ecosystem and, finally, the market share that can result from it. This shouldn’t be such unexpected news for the community, as Lenovo has made great strides in the storage market and is enjoying some success there,” Carvell said.

Meanwhile, IBM’s German partners are more successful in generating interest than those in the US and UK, as IBM is a trusted brand for some customers of its on-premises storage products in that country.

In the UK, only Dell and HPE see significant search optimization among their channel partners, suggesting that other types of demand generation activities are more prevalent. Or that UK retailers are missing a trick.

Storage – the Cinderella of the stack

Unlike, say, public cloud services, where there is a real battle for attention with over 70% of channel partners using SEO to attract more visitors, enterprise storage, with a corresponding figure of 10-15%, is a low-key affair.

However, storage is a critical component of any enterprise stack, and storage vendors should spend more time convincing their partners of their value.

“[The fact that they promote cloud] demonstrates that many of these same partners can and do produce vendor-specific content in volume, provided they see an advantage in telling that story to their customers. The burden of making that benefit apparent to partners falls on the vendors themselves,” he said Andrejs Bogdanovs, program manager for data science and market intelligence.

Principal consultant Vladyslav Kostyuk added that content and search are often overlooked in areas such as archiving by both the vendor and partner.

“Many partners don’t produce vendor-specific content for their websites. This isn’t surprising, as executing an ongoing content strategy is difficult. However, if partners aren’t writing content about a specific vendor and positioning it as a key component of their story for their potential customers, how much of their mindset does that vendor have, and where else might they have content gaps when they go to market?”

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