Oli Thordarson, CEO of Alvaka Networks, is one partner doing marketing right. Here's how he's racing his way into the hearts and minds of his customers.

Alvaka Networks is a southern California-based IT and network solutions provider with a focus on infrastructure monitoring, management and security services. Thordarson founded Alvaka Networks in 1982 with the goal of providing customers with around-the-clock solutions for monitoring their enterprise services at a hardware level. Thordarson has also served on the Editorial Advisory Council for CRN and VARBusiness, and spent six years on the Board of Directors for CompTIA, including head of the audit committee.

In his free time, Thordarson enjoys racing his Corvette Z06 in regional and national competitions. So much so, that he's incorporated his racing into some of Alvaka's marketing efforts, including an annual "Alvaka Networks Fast Friday Speed and Feed event," offering the chance for customers to enroll in a performance driving class and take a few laps around a track in a race car (with a driver, of course), in addition to lunch and an IT expo.

TVG: What type and how much marketing does Alvaka do in an average month?

Thordarson: We don’t do any more telemarketing. It might work for others, but the ROI is low for us. We have not done print advertising in well over 10 years. Lunch & Learns work well for user education and as a front end to the selling cycle. L&Ls are easy to organize, clients find them valuable and the ROI is good. Personal networking is a great way to meet prospects and gain credibility. The trick is to find the right groups to navigate. With the right person from Alvaka and the right social group, the ROI is quite good.

I am mixed on social marketing. I can’t point successfully to direct leads, but it is an important component to building our brand awareness and brand credibility with prospective clients. Search engine optimization (SEO) in southern California is tough. We are still working on that effort. We are getting good search rankings; now we are now working on improving our landing page impacts.

TVG: What has been the most successful method of marketing for your company?

Thordarson: The Lunch & Learns and the Speed & Feed events. Lunch & Learns are short, low-cost and easy to plan events that deliver value to our guests. The Speed & Feed event is so unique because it brings in all sorts of qualified new prospects and makes them aware of the Alvaka brand. Since the event runs from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., we spend a whole day with the clients and prospects. They are completely removed from their regular business dealings and immersed in a whole new experience. Alvaka always has many of our staff on hand as well as some of our business partners that help deliver solutions to our clients.

The opportunity to imprint the Alvaka brand in a fun and exciting way, coupled with the ample opportunity of my staff and existing clients to bond with prospects … it all adds up to a huge credibility build with current and prospective clientele.

TVG: How do you measure the success of your marketing efforts?

Thordarson: I measure the number of new prospects we get, how much we are quoting in the sales process, how much we close and where the lead came from.

TVG: Do you have an in-house marketing program or do you outsource?

Thordarson: Our marketing efforts are fairly lean. We do most of our own marketing work in-house with the exception of some recent SEO work we are outsourcing.

TVG: What advice would you have for VARs/solution providers that don’t have a regular marketing program in place?

Thordarson: I recommend that all VAR/solution provider marketing activities be focused on developing the brand of the solution provider, and not the vendor community.

I still remember a day back in 1999 when I went to visit the CEO of a client company. The CEO had another friend there visiting, another CEO. As I walked in the office he said, “Oli, I am glad you here. I want you to meet my friend Larry.” He then went on to say, “Larry, Oli is our 3Com guy ...” It hit me like ton of bricks. I thought to myself, “There must be 600 other potential 3Com VARs in southern California. Of all the valuable services Alvaka provided that client in his mind I was just a 3com guy." I had no brand of my own. I went back and took off all the vendor logos and references off my website and now I focus on building awareness and value for only the Alvaka brand.

If your organization has a particularly interesting marketing strategy, email VAR Guy Associate Editor Michael Cusanelli at Michael.Cusanelli@Penton.com, and he’ll ping you with an email as soon as he can.

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