By Ross White, head of Avaya MarketLeaders, EMEA

It is now widely acknowledged that IT, and in particular communications, are central to any ambitious organisation and increasingly companies across a range of industries recognise that they need to invest in order to stay ahead.

Indeed according to the latest research by industry body e-Skills UK, technology is the UK’s key ingredient for driving private sector-led economic growth, productivity, global competitiveness and wealth creation. And this applies to companies working across all sectors of the economy, from multinational financial services and retail organisations, to independent healthcare providers and companies in the legal profession — not to mention the small business sector where technology can have a huge impact on productivity, growth and the bottom line.

This widespread and growing respect for the role technology can play in shaping companies for success is creating opportunities for communications vendors to promote productivity and customer service-boosting solutions as part of the overall technology investment. With the potential customer base widening, many vendors are focused in 2011 on driving a presence in these key growth markets as well as penetrating deeper into core customer segments.

But for committed vendors who see their channel partners as an extension of themselves, a strategic approach to tackling these new growth markets is required. As these markets open up, there is huge opportunity for resellers and distributors to find new and untapped sales opportunities and to use their expertise to acquire new customers. Vendors must play a supportive role in ensuring their partners are equipped to sell and succeed in these new markets.

In order to do this, they must provide resellers and distributors gearing up to sell new products to new customers with as much market information, analysis and intelligence as possible as well as access to collateral, training and expertise. One way for vendors to ensure their partners feel focused, informed and confident to take on new challenges and win new business is to bolster integrated, managed partner programmes.

Managed partner programmes give partners access to central resources such as sales and marketing expertise that can be tailored and customised to complement their own business objectives. This can be anything from targeted sales leads to advice on search engine optimisation all of which is managed by experienced marketing professionals. But as well as focusing on building the partners own brand and lead generation, today they also offer in-depth information about the markets they are serving and the customers they are targeting.

Virtual and interactive tools such as Avaya’s MarketMap solution provide partners with a holistic view of their target market eco-system as well as a detailed analysis of the marketplace. The analysis is taken from key market intelligence sources and provides relevant information on the industry bodies and associations operating in that market, who the most influential media and analysts are, and even more specific tactical details on which social media tools will resonate most strongly with customers in that particular target market.

The Account Profiling service is also helping resellers and distributors to better understand new markets. Profiling helps partners to get to grips with the potential of an account or group of accounts and to improve targeting. As part of the managed partner programme, the vendor will network around partner’s target organisation to build an account map, including organisational charts and invaluable information on the customer’s business objectives, buying processes, and technology and decision-marking structures.

With the tools at their disposal that feed into focused and targeted but holistic sales and marketing programmes, resellers can widen their target segment to take on new opportunities while remaining very focused on the customers’ needs. This approach will ensure vendors, resellers and distributors are on the front foot in 2011 and are armed to take on new challenges and win new business.