Mark Morgan, President of Intelisys, sits down with RingCentral’s VP Marketing, Corporate Brand and Growth Strategies, Morgan Norman, to discuss how RingCentral is helping partners conduct business in this remote environment.
Mark: Hi, everyone. I’m Mark Morgan with Intelisys, and today we’re continuing the series of Mark having conversations with key players in the industry. And today we have the pleasure of speaking with Morgan Norman, who happens to be VP of Marketing, Corporate brand, and Growth strategies at RingCentral. How are you, Morgan?
Morgan: Hey, it’s great to see you, Mark. Thanks for having us here. We’re having some wild times over on the West Coast here, but looking forward to talking about what’s happening in remote work strategies today.
Mark: Tell us a little bit about what you do at RingCentral.
Morgan: Yeah, so I’m actually — I have a little bit of a bloated title. I’m the VP of Corporate Brand and Growth Marketing. So what does that mean in the simplest ways? I’m responsible for the end to end experience of prospects that interact with us as well as some of our customers. The way and the areas we touch on are the web, our signup flows and e-commerce, how folks are actually getting content, especially in this situation. We also are focused really big on digital events and all those touchpoints when someone interacts and signs up with our existing product or becomes a customer of our product.
Mark: I think your skill sets are being tested right now, as anyone in the marketing world most definitely.
Morgan: Without a doubt. Interesting times.
Mark: Yes, it is very interesting. As you think about what’s going on, both of us are channel companies. We’ve seen so much happen in a very small window of time, and we’ve seen new markets open, we’ve seen new markets decline. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of opportunity. We’ve seen not only for net-new business, but we’ve also seen a tremendous amount of opportunity to help people in the channel out, to help people that are outside of the channel in everyday walks of life. Give us an example of how RingCentral has helped customers, or maybe even non-customers, in this work go remote in COVID-19 world that we’re living in right now.
Morgan: Yeah, it’s a great question. The first thing is we pride ourselves in being a channel and a partner-driven company. And that really helps us from a distribution perspective, but also to kind of touch all these customers where we don’t have to have every foot on the street, if you will.
The first thing is, just like you said, is we’ve seen the market shift on a weekly basis sometimes. And some customers are in some really desperate situations. Some others actually made the pivot pretty easily into this remote world. And specific industries, we all know that now, were really hit, and some of them really hammered, where there was opportunities, and sometimes there was some more challenging directions.
The first thing we did was really do a specific COVID offering to help companies pivot as fast as possible with our partners to this remote-driven world. Our goal was pretty simple. We thought every communication company has a duty right now to kind of help rebuild America or rebuild whatever country or dynamic you’re from. And we offered this, obviously, a starting point was for education units. Obviously, folks in municipalities, public sector, hospitals, but also into the government arenas. And we just wanted to keep the country moving, if you will, as fast as possible.
We saw a ton of customers come on aboard to us. I mean, in the tens and tens of thousands. And most of them had a very common situation. It wasn’t about, do they have a lot of time? They wanted something very secure, they wanted something that could be booted up very quickly, but they just wanted their people connected, and they didn’t know what was going to happen next.
The other thing also, too, is we’re learning as we’re going. Right? One of the other areas is across small businesses that’s changing dynamically, I would say every week right now. And a lot of them are reopening. The thing that we’re trying to also spend a lot of our time, and I think you folks are doing a great job of this, is educating what we’re seeing and trying to help customers make this pivot. We did a lot of this partnering with actually, what materials are available for certain types of businesses? How can they find these existing resources? And that’s what they were asking us for. What was interesting, it wasn’t specifically communication.
So we wanted to kind of get this COVID offer out there. We wanted to also help these customers adapt, and we’re still in that today. We did a lot of digital events, and we’re still kind of building up that curriculum to help customers adjust right now and help their employees and customers adjust.
Mark: Yeah. If you think about Intelisys and how we’ve gone to market from an educational perspective, from a training perspective, it’s always been so upfront and personal. So right there with a big group of people, and the team has always done a great job with that. And we’ve made this transition, we’ve made it … Well, I say we made a transition. We executed very well on putting training and education programs in place that have garnered a lot of attendees and, quite frankly, a lot of attendees that stuck for the entire 45 minutes to an hour, that stayed, and we measured that.
But I just got off the phone here 20 minutes prior to you and I getting on this call, and asking one of our key partners, “What’s working, what’s not? And their response was, “What’s going to be your next iteration of this digital training and education thing, because we believe that there’s going to be a slow roll to things going” … and I hate saying, “New Normal,” or “Normal” whatever, but a slow roll to people feeling comfortable with face to face. Our guys, I know our organization is dying to get out to the customer. And it’s a split.
So what do you think the next iteration of this digital training, digital thing is? What do you think?
Morgan: Yeah. I love your thinking, Mark. I think one is we’ve learned a lot from our partners because if you can work together as a community like we have, we can learn faster. And that’s the first thing. The thing that we’re spending a lot of time on is that we’re doing a lot of research on a daily basis to see what’s working for some partners and what customers are expecting.
I do agree with you that everyone’s dying to get back out there. And I do think we’ll have a lot of more boutique-style events that kind of get folks together in every different region. That’s going to happen. When it happens exactly, I think will be different across different states, if you will.
Digital is … And I love that you said, “I don’t want to use this word, the new norm,” because it is getting tiresome. But I think the real key thing is going to be helping customers adapt, but also making sure that they can leverage these tools internally for their employee base. So a lot of it is education at the self, at the individual level, like IT, “Here, I need to know, is this secure? How fast can I boot this up if I need to change my office strategy?” That’s happening. But now the next wave is about how we are all going to work together in this situation. Do 20% of our employees never come back ever? Do they want to live on a ranch somewhere? Those are going to be these other types of areas.
The other thing I would say is that all of us as partners are going to have to think about doing things that break through the noise. There’s a lot of bad content out there, just to be really direct. It’s really self-serving. I think the way Intelisys is approaching it and how we’re partnering with you folks is a little bit different. We want to make sure they make that leap. So we’re going to have to think of some unique ways to break through that. And I also think smaller, bite-sized content is going to be really critical, where someone can jump in on a coffee break or in between meetings and see 10 minutes versus long form.
So those are the things we’re thinking about presently, yeah.
Mark: Those are great points. And when you say bite-size, do you think the size of the bite has grown or decreased?
Mark: People used to say, “Hey, three minutes. No more than three minutes,” and then it moved to four. What do you think?
Morgan: I do think it’s going to be less than 10, but I think it’s going to be a multi-part series. So let’s say if you have a really healthy dialogue and it’s meaningful, and even for your partners out there, it’s very easy to cut this same section into 10-minute increments and allow me to do it at my own pace. That’s also easier for me to share and allow someone to find the value in that that’s specific and meaningful. So I think it’s going to sit around there, but it’s not to say that the full curriculum isn’t there.
Morgan: I do think it’s changing so fast, a lot of the principles we know in marketing aren’t working right now. We’re having to rethink every way we approach campaigns and approach kind of webinars or events, if you will.
Mark: Yeah, we’re not looking for the biggest, the most flair, the most creative. We’re looking for the most impactful because of that moment in time. And by the way, I’ve always tended to believe everyone says that, “Yes, we provide value.” And I think value tends to be a … It’s one of the most overused buzzwords, primarily because value tends … You could have a 10-person organization, and value means 10 different things. So we’re in this quest for how do we find and understand what’s valuable to each individual inside of a partner’s organization?
Morgan: Yeah. You’re hitting some really big points worth thinking about, Mark. I think the one thing that we’re really debating right now on that value point is, is your ideal customer profile the same? And that goes back to the value points, right? Are they going to experience value in the product? And I think you nailed it, which is a value for a remote worker or a value for someone who’s now got to boot up offices remote is very different than how it was on a campus site, which we both dealt with together.
I do think that we’re learning, and it’s really important for all of us to kind of say, “Okay, what are we hearing out there,” and share these lessons in our kind of partner community, which we do. And then it’s the question is, when we pivot, what’s effective, what’s not?
I noticed the first couple things we did just so when this first happened, we did some early responses to COVID, but we started moving to digital events. And I have to be direct with you is the first couple ones weren’t very successful. And that’s an example of that value point where you think you’re driving value, but it wasn’t what they were looking for. And what we realized is they were in a much more desperate situation, and they wanted very specific like, “Tell me what to do. I need to know what to do.” And we made a pivot. So I appreciate that angle, and I think I’ve got a lot to learn there in the next kind of quarter or so as well, yeah.
Mark: Yeah. That’s great points because I think one of the first late afternoon, and this was probably in week one, Rachel Casillas from Ring hosted a happy hour. There were probably 60 or 70 people there, and I thought, “Wow, this is awesome.” But four straight hangovers later … And there’s a lot of creativity going on there. We’re trying to address staying engaged, but most importantly, helping people understand where current and emerging opportunities are.
So I think that’s a good segue to a question of, you’ve been in the channel for a while, and there’s this tremendous opportunity to support businesses in a different way, so how do you see the channel and Ring coming out of this, and what do you see for the future for both parties there?
Morgan: This is years of dealing with it, the channel is always very authentic to themselves. I’ve always noticed that the companies really represent the people. And sometimes in technology, you don’t always see that. There’s a gap. Right? And I’ve never seen that in the channel.
One is that we have a brand new president, a brand new CRO that have both come from Microsoft and very channel-centric. I mean, one of the greatest channel player or strategy players out there. We believe that that’s what’s unique about our strategy. We’re actually going to invest a lot more in that, and that includes how we market together is going to evolve.
The thing that we need to understand with the channel partners is how far we can go together beyond digital events, how we can participate. Instead of just doing the event, what’s the campaign before it? What’s the campaign after it? How do we actually kind of continue that and plan together with it throughout a year on what we can do together?
I think the other thing that I think we can have a unique advantage of with partners is we can help them modernize. There’s a lot of things that are in the works right now. Some folks you’ve seen that we’ve launched video. There’s a lot of other stuff we’re launching that can enable a channel partner to jump forward many, many years that other players are not giving access to. You still have to get your leads and do the hand off. We’re thinking about it differently.
My ask of the channel would be is, where can you modernize today? And that doesn’t mean you need to be RingCentral, it doesn’t mean you need to be the most advanced company, but be really specific on where your skill sets are, where your skill set gaps are. And that’s going to help us figure out what channel direction and how would you market development with them.
Our goal, one, is obviously we need to build the right business for shareholders and employees and customers. But the other goal is we believe this is the opportunity for communications. I mean, Intelisys couldn’t be in a better position in the world right now, because you have so many different ways of approaching this. But we need to kind of figure that out is, there’s some partners that just have never experienced this stuff. Well, let’s help them get there. Let’s make it simple, let’s break it down into some campaigns, let’s do a couple together. And there’s some that are way more advanced saying, “Hey, how far can I go that helps me move into a non-phone world?” Or a phone world, depending on what area they want to focus in.
So I think it’s really partnering and a marketing side. It is all marketing at first right now. We are in a marketing-driven world, in a product-driven world, and a partner-driven world. There is no way we can reach the world without partners like yourself. And we take a different approach than a lot of the other players.
Mark: For us, we try to create the right marketing tools. We stay arm’s-length away from end users, but for us is, “where are the pockets of opportunities,” and “how can we help partners drive demand?” And Ring and Intelisys have done a pretty good job over the past couple of years of working together to go do that, so we appreciate that. And this has been a definite study in human behavior.
Morgan: Yeah, definitely.
Mark: And hopefully, we’ve learned a lot and we can all come out of this and continue to help the channel community and continue to help the businesses that we need so desperately to be reopened and start moving back in the right direction. So we’re happy to be a partner of RingCentral, we’re happy to be participating in whatever way we are in keeping businesses working today. I sincerely appreciate your time today. It’s been great chatting with you.