Six steps TO using CHANNELS AND AGGREGATORS to dramatically accelerate your sales
Written by Mike Cooch

One of my golden rules of success in growing a business where you are selling to the small and medium-sized business (SMB) market is to leverage channels and aggregators as much as possible.

Selling to SMBs can be tough and expensive.

By leverage existing channels and aggregators, you can dramatically accelerate your sales growth.

This is so important that I would go so far as to say that I would never start a business targeting the SMB market again without a clear strategy for leveraging channels and aggregators.

It's that important!

WHAT ARE CHANNELS AND AGGREGATORS?

Let’s start by making sure we are extremely clear on what channels and aggregators are in relation to the SMB market…

In general, channels and aggregators are places where your target audience (in this case SMBs) have already gathered, or been gathered by someone else.

WHY ARE CHANNELS AND AGGREGATORS IMPORTANT?

There are three extremely valuable benefits to leveraging channels and aggregators including:

#1 Cost

The cost of reaching the SMB audience at the size that it is will be incredibly expensive.That’s why you see huge companies raise TONS of money so they can aggressively go out there and tap the market at large.

They know the cost of reaching them is extremely high.

#2 Time

Another positive is time. If you can tap into a previously gathered audience, you can go from zero to sixty really quickly.

The time required to reach this type of audience goes down fast when you use this approach.

#3 Credibility

Working with channels and aggregators means you can oftentimes borrow their credibility.

If you are new in your business and going into this space for the first time then getting an existing, trusted aggregator to help you get into their audience is priceless. 

Your relationship with this aggregator will establish a perceived sense of credibility.

It’s a halo and it’s priceless.

By partnering with aggregators, you will see these three benefits and you will see them quickly which is key so you can ramp up fast!

EXAMPLE: ASSOCIATIONS

Associations can be found in many forms but their overall goal is to support small businesses in specific industries. 

Many industries have associations where the minute you launch a business in that industry, you are pushed to join the association to ensure you keep a good grasp on relevant news, education, events, etc.

Business owners sign up with associations to stay in the loop. Often, associations offer benefits like insurance, group purchasing discounts and more.

It’s a huge trend for small business owners to be active in their associations—they see a lot of benefits from these groups. Look at industries from chiropractors, real estate, dentists, lawyers, etc.

They all have multiple associations and some of them are huge.

In some cases, associations have physical events like industry trade shows that SMBs can attend. However, channels do not need to have a physical location for you to leverage them.

What’s important is that they are a collected group—online or offline.

EXAMPLE: WEBSITES AND FORUMS

Online channel/aggregators can exist in the form of websites and forums where publishers and the public are coming together to discuss news, experiences, and challenges around a certain industry.

Go to Google and search any industry name followed by the word “forum” and you will find tons of activity. It doesn't have to be just a forum where people are chatting back and forth either. It can be a niche-industry publication with articles that people are actively reading and commenting on.

Any significantly sized industry will have several of this kind of aggregator.

EXAMPLE: OFFLINE EVENTS AND CONFERENCES

Conferences are a huge business. SMBs will make sure to go to a few conferences every year for various reasons; they want to stay educated, connect with peers, make new connections and learn about new vendors in their space.

EXAMPLE: MARKET COLLEAGUES (NOT DIRECT COMPETITORS)

By “colleagues” I mean businesses who are selling to the same demographic but who are not competitive with you. 

This example is extremely important to understand.

It is probably the biggest and best opportunity in the channel/aggregator approach. What we are referring to here are other businesses that have already tapped into the market place you’re going after.

These business have already made the huge investment to build up a customer base and a list in this market. In this group lies the opportunity for you to strategically leverage their hard work without putting in the struggle and budget they were forced to upon entering the SMB market.

PEOPLE AGGREGATE ACCORDING TO INDUSTRY

This is a key point. It is an assumption that can not be overlooked in order for this approach to work for you. 

If you are going out there selling your product or service to every SMB under the sun—without any real focus—then you can’t really take advantage of this strategy because business owners congregate according to niche.

What’s the key takeaway here?

You have to break down your audience and focus on certain niches in order to see success with this strategy.

That’s not to say you can’t serve multiple niches—it’s just that when it comes to your marketing, communication and strategy, you should pick one at a time, define your strategy and who you’re going to go after and once you have that nailed down you can move on to the next niche.

EXAMPLES OF THIS RELATIONSHIP WORKING
EXAMPLE 1: KUTENDA

Kutenda, my current venture, provides online marketing services for small businesses. 

The market we go after is computer support professionals, known as managed service providers, or MSPs. It’s a world I came from via past businesses of mine and I happened to have a lot of insight into the fact that they are not great at marketing (to put it mildly).

I knew they need a lot of help. Yes, all SMBs have a need for the services Kutenda provides, but I knew for a fact that this niche needed them desperately and that there weren’t a lot of marketing companies out there working to provide this service for them specifically.

So I crafted a solution to help them.

I was able to grow this business into a multi-million dollar business in a matter of 10 months. We ramped up very quickly with the help of three key aggregators:

1. Tradeshows

These are a hot thing as I mentioned earlier. 

They are generally held in nice locations and business owners tend to view them as a bit of a vacation -- a chance to get away and have some fun.

When we first started out, we would go to a bunch of conferences and we would see all the same people. We quickly realized this demographic LOVED attending these shows which meant these shows were guaranteed to be a location we could find them at.

Tradeshows can be expensive. They are probably the most expensive part of this whole approach but if you afford to do it, they are a great way of reaching your exact target audience while they are trapped in a room for a set amount of time.

Kutenda would always have a booth at the shows but more importantly, we would be sure to secure a speaking engagement.

This assured us we had the chance to communicate our expertise and build credibility with an audience that was not yet familiar with our brand.

I believe this was key to our success at these shows.

If you look at the cost of acquiring customers and leads through trade shows, it was actually a lot lower than a lot of other methods because the audience was so captive.

They are literally in the same single room as you for three or four days at a time.

This gave us the time to establish relationships with prospects that were far stronger than those that you would with your average lead gen program. That alone proved the cost of these shows to be a good investment for our business.

2. PRESS SHOWS

Another strategy we took was to attack the most popular news website in the industry.

We developed a relationship with journalists and editors who wrote for the website and we were able to accomplish a few things:

  • We got a reasonably priced sponsorship on the site where our ads would run on
  • We connected with the journalists and editors at tradeshows and by doing so we high traffic pages on a regular basis. We would then link those ads to various landing pages with form capture pages to grow our list.
  • We were able to get them to start writing articles about us, do interviews with us, call us up for our expert opinions on the marketing field, etc.

There is no better way to get publicity than to befriend a reporter with an active audience!

3. MAJOR SOFTWARE VENDORS

This is what really catapulted our business. Before signing up with these guys, we were bringing in 15-20 customers a month. 

After forging this relationship, we were seeing 100-200! This opportunity resulted in huge growth for us.

In our case it was major software vendors that were actually in the industry that all of the computer support professionals used to run their businesses. This included software such as CRM systems that were tailored for their industry, and other tools that allow these businesses to deliver their services well.

We were able to go to these vendors and say, “If your customers were more successful, would that help your business?”

The answer was of course “Yes.”

At that point we would ask what their customers struggled with in order to achieve success and their answer was that they aren’t selling enough deals and aren’t moving forward quickly enough because they weren’t doing any marketing.

It was like music to our ears!

“Marketing, you say?” Well it just so happened that Kutenda could help them do more business by executing their marketing for them as that was in fact our main service offering.

So we asked “Would it help if we were able to help your customers get more business?” Of course it would.

This approach allowed us to open up a dialogue and start the relationship with these vendors form an angle where they were benefitting in the long run from our expertise. So we pitched that we would do regular webinars to their audience teaching them marketing strategies we practice so that they were able to build their business more effectively.

In those same webinars we were able to introduce our services to this audience for the first time.

This was an absolute launch pad for us. Vendors needed their customers to be successful.

By putting our education and training into their hands for free, they were bettering their relationship with their customers and bettering themselves as their customers started to see more success.

This solved a problem for them, their customers and us.

For that reason, we developed an incredibly strong, organic relationship that began to thrive and we reproduced this relationship with multiple major software vendors in the industry.

EXAMPLE 2: LOCAL SALES LAB

You know this site!

Local Sales Lab is a business where we train people on how to go out and get new local customers for offline marketing services.

We were able to grow this business from 0 to 2,000 customers in 60 days. We did this via affiliates.

An affiliate is someone who has a list of the type of customers that we’re going after who are willing to promote your product or service. 

We reached out to a group of affiliates who had lists within the demographic we were trying to reach and those that liked our offer were more than happy to promote it via email blasts to their massive previously aggregated lists.

They would promote us as having an awesome product and we were able to grow to over 2,000 customers in no time.

This was a very quick launch.

EXAMPLE 3: GEEK SQUAD

This is a very famous example of leveraging an existing channel to launch a business. 

In fact, the success Geek Squad saw was covered all over the media so it is possible you’ve heard it before.

What’s important about this example is that I want to back sure you’re thinking big.

Before Geek Squad had their deal with Best Buy, they were a tiny business based out of Minneapolis with 3 small offices. 

Now they are a massive brand!

What happened to them was that Best Buy offered to let them set up some kiosks at their stores. 

It took off like crazy because they were accessing the foot traffic that Best Buy was already receiving. 

Shortly after, Best Buy ended up acquiring them, and now you see Geek Squad help desks all over the country.

They’re a huge brand and everyone is aware of them. You know you’ve seen their Volkswagon Beetles around town!

Now that we’re clear on the value of channels and aggregators, here is how you can go about developing them for your own business.

SIX STEPS TO GETTING STARTED WITH CHANNELS AND AGGREGATORS
STEP 1: SEGMENT

Before doing anything else, you must segment your target audience to the niche market that is best for your business.

This goes back to the point that there are all kinds of SMBs who could potentially want or have need for your product or service.

One of the biggest risks you can take in selling the SMBs however is getting distracted. 

Working with too many niches in the SMB market can cause you to get pulled from one thing to the next because that are so many opportunities presenting themselves to you.

It is key that you focus for a period of time.

Consider the following questions to help you determine the right niche to pursue:

Which Niche Most Resonates With Your Offer?

Which niche will produce easy conversations where people understand your offer and say, “Yes, I could use that!”—without a ton of convincing?

Don’t waste time convincing niches who aren’t interested in learning about your offer. Make your sales process easier on yourself!

Which Niche Has A Problem Your Offer Can Solve?

This is obvious but important nonetheless. You must have a niche that will be happy with their purchase, a niche that you can service and service well so that you get referral business and you end up processing cancellations and refunds less often.

Which Niche Consists Of Responsive Buyers?

This is something I didn’t understand until I got into more unique business opportunities.

There are certain niches that will more easily open up their wallets and buy. For whatever reason, that’s the reality. Whether it’s the dynamics of the industry, the psychology of the industry, the budget ... different industries buy at different speeds.

Some are easy to get their attention and other are more difficult. It’s vitally important that you consider which ones seem to be the best fit and may be most responsive to what you’re offering.

STEP 2: FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON YOUR NICHE

Focus! Focus! Focus!

I’ve said it a few times at this point but you MUST focus—at least for a period of time if you want your business to grow at the rate we’re talking about here.

Again, you can grow your business selling to everyone under the sun, but it will be years before you see success.

If you want to have your business take off to a new level quickly, you’ve got to focus like a laser. This doesn't mean give up other niches. But it does mean you need to tailor your approach until you’ve seen success in one place before moving to the next.

A few reasons and considerations to taking this approach:

  • Targeted messaging: If I’m sending out my message about how valuable my product is to a list of dentists and real estate agents, my message is watered down. If I choose just one vertical to speak to, I can address their problems specifically and talk about how my solution can address their issues, using language that resonates with their industry.
  • The solution you provide can be tailored to the market you’re going after. If you can learn the real nuances to the market you’re targeting, you can deliver a product that perfectly aligns with their needs, wants, pain points, etc. In this scenario, you will become the provider of choice.

Better yet, you’ll also be able to charge more for it!

A more tailored offer is worth more to these businesses—leverage that.

  • When you go to talk to channels and aggregators, you won't be the only one approaching them. But when your message and offer are tailored to their audience, YOU will win them over as everyone else coming at them will likely be presenting a more generic option.

You then have the option to say that you developed your products specifically for their market, and the channel will feel most comfortable promoting your offer above the rest.

STEP 3: RESEARCH YOUR NICHE’S HABITS

Answer the following nine questions for every niche/industry you approach:

I. What are the unique problems and characteristics of this niche space?

II. What resources does this niche use to learn and grow?

III. Where do they get their information from? (Everyone learns somewhere)

  • Associations
  • Online communities
  • Companies that are already selling to them
  • Industry educators

IV. What resources does this niche use to function?

V. If you are going after a particular industry there may be:

  • Software program they use
  • Training program they sign up for
  • IT services they have to leverage
  • Fulfillment companies they outsource work to

VI. What are the major vendors businesses in that niche turn to?

VII. Where does this niche gather to have fun?

  • Events
  • Forums
  • Social Media

VIII. What are the habits of this niche—where is their focus?

IV. Who is communicating with this niche currently?

STEP 4: MAKE A LIST OF FRIENDS IN THE RIGHT PLACES

Once you have done your homework, you want to get out there and start creating these relationships with the the channels and aggregators that can be a leverage point for you in the industry.

STEP 5: UNDERSTAND YOUR CHANNEL PARTNERS’ GOALS

One of your main goals should be to understand what the people behind the channels/aggregators are trying to accomplish.

In the case of the software vendors we went after, they needed their demographic to be more successful so that they would have more budget to spend with the vendors.

That meant that I needed to help their customers with their marketing challenges. I would not have known that if I did not reach out to the channel directly to see what their pain points were.

The idea of needing your customers to be more successful is a common one for channels.

Take associations for example; they charge for memberships each year and they aim to provide those members with things that will help them grow and succeed. 

If you can help the association offer something of value to their members, you increase their value and their relationships with their members tenfold. 

Associations are always on the lookout for new products and services that can help them meet this goal.

In some cases, channels are looking for more sales/revenue. Others could be looking to retain more customers. 

Do a little digging and see what you come up with.

STEP 6: BE OF SERVICE

The most important way you can help channels meet their goals is to be of service. 

Don’t approach this from a perspective of selling them something.

Instead, think about how you can add value by offering services that facilitate a relationship in which the channel(s) feels a sense of respect and gratitude.

Because if you present channels with a product or solution that’s going to help them accomplish their goals, they are going to do whatever they can to help you become successful.

A few things to think through that can help you accomplish this:

  • Provide Uniqueness To Their Offer

In a competitive world, certain channels are pinched in their marketplace and are struggling to stand apart from their competition. 

Think about how you can help them stand out with a unique offer that leverages your product or service in combination with theirs.

  • Offer A Solution To A Problem Their Customers Are Facing

We’ve been over this with the marketing solution Kutenda provided but it should not be overlooked as a successful approach.

  • Improve Relationships Between The Channel And Their Existing Customers

Generally this goes hand-in-hand with the other approaches. The goal here is to be able to help the channel present something that resonates with their customers. Something their customers will thank them for later.

MAP OUT YOUR PLAN TO USE CHANNELS AND AGGREGATORS TO GROW YOUR SALES

Hopefully I've convinced you of the importance of leveraging channels and aggregators to grow your sales, and the six points I've outline should give you a good start on a plan of attack!

Whatever you do, don't just click away from this post and go back to doing things the way you've been doing them (unless you were already leveraging this strategy)!

That's the mistake I made for years at my first business, Everon, and it cost me a small fortune!

I won't make that mistake again, and neither should you!

Map out your plan and take action this today!

All the best,


Mike Cooch and the Local Sales Lab Team

Mike Cooch

Mike generates 6-7 big ideas before breakfast (conservative estimate). LocalSalesLab.com CEO & founder is a “serial entrepreneur” with Texas-sized passion for sales & marketing, business development, and technology. He is an expert in local and digital marketing. His businesses have been named to the INC Magazine List of Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row, and were also nominated as a Best Place to Work in their respective cities. He is married with three children, and is learning to surf in his new hometown of San Diego (lifestyle design, baby!).

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