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10 VAR Marketing Tips for Tapping into User Groups

10 VAR Marketing Tips for Tapping into User GroupsWhile there are many VAR marketing channels that generate leads, the name of the game is attracting very high quality leads. One of the best ways to do this is by getting involved with local organizations where your target market is already hanging out.

And while many automatically assume this means the local chamber of commerce, user groups can many times be a much better, much more targeted choice for promoting your firm’s background and unique expertise.

In this post, we’ll look at 10 VAR marketing tips for effectively tapping into the power of local user groups to influence future sales:

  1. Be genuinely helpful. User groups allow you to demonstrate your firm’s expertise. So when questions come up about solving a particular problem, be there to offer advice. By doing this consistently and selflessly, you’ll almost always be considered first when user group members go looking for vendor assistance or a firm to partner with.

  2. Get visible in your local community. Many VARs decide to get involved with local user groups to become more visible and build brand-name recognition. And while this is an excellent intermediate- to long-term strategy, it’s critical that you approach user groups with that long-term mindset. Visibility and branding generally don’t drive hard metrics. As a result, impatient VARs may often give up too soon. For increasing visibility, repetition and endurance are the name of the game.

  3. Take the stage when you can offer great value. Often user groups scramble to keep their calendars filled with engaging, relevant, helpful speakers. If your field experience can be packaged into a presentation or demo, by all means raise your hand when the groups’ leaders are seeking volunteers to speak. And it should go without saying – but worth mentioning – your talk must be 100% pitch-free. Definitely make your e-mail address and Twitter handle known. But anything more than that will likely rub members the wrong way.

  4. Build a closer relationship with the platform’s vendor. Although most VARs get involved with user groups to meet potential clients and influencers that are passionate about a particular platform or set of technologies, many times as a byproduct you’ll get to know local field reps from the platform’s vendor. Often these local reps can be invaluable resources for escalating technical issues, introducing you to other channel partners, and recommending you to prospective clients.

  5. Meet other third party vendors in that platform’s ecosystem. In addition to building invaluable relationships with local vendor reps, many user group speakers and sponsors will be affiliated with third party vendors that are involved with that platform. So this can be yet another category of invaluable networking contacts for solving technical problems and facilitating introductions.

  6. Tout your user group involvement to build up your credibility. Although the vast majority of your clients will have little interest in attending user group meetings, be sure to let clients and prospective clients know about your involvement with the group. And freely extend invitations to attend meetings as well. Your involvement and commitment alone generally speaks volumes about your passion for that technology and can be an enormous credibility builder – especially if you’re in a leadership position with the user group or have given talks to the group.

  7. Never hard sell. The single most important mindset issue for navigating local user groups is quite simple: don’t sell. Ever! You’re there to listen, chime in with helpful advice as a resource, and build friendships. Nothing undermines that faster than people feeling like you just see dollar signs (or your local currency equivalent) atop their heads.

  8. Prepare for the long-haul. If you’re expecting to go to one or two meetings and walk away with a stack of leads, you will be sorely disappointed. Getting involved with user groups takes a lot of work. At the minimum, you’ll need to attend meetings. Better yet, volunteer to help run the organization – so you influence future topics. As others who are active in the organization get to know you and your expertise, business benefits will follow.

  9. Be patient. If your company is desperate for leads, user groups are not the right VAR marketing channel for you. Since there generally isn’t any immediate gratification with building meaningful relationships, you need to be patient. Just like that 1979 pop hit from The Orleans, “love takes time. And it's hard to find.”

  10.  If no local user group exists for your niche, start one. Whatever your company’s niche and target market, if there is no group of passionate users that gets together regularly to share tips and war stories, consider starting a user group or Meetup group of your own. And if your group will be anchored to a particular software platform, many times that platform’s developer can provide free promotional resources to help you get the word out.


While it takes time to build relationships that generate leads within user groups, the prospective clients that you meet often will be ready and able to make a purchasing decision. This shaves month, even years, off your typical sales cycle length.

When was the last time you attended a local user group? If it’s been a while, you might be missing out on a terrific VAR marketing opportunity to increase your company’s local presence.

What tips would you offer to VARs looking to tap into user groups? Please share your tips in the Comments box below. 


And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on the Top 10 IT Marketing Strategies For Consistently Attracting New Business Clients to Your Small IT Business

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