With lockdowns seemingly over and pandemic restrictions easing, HP New Zealand is looking forward to building and rebuilding deep and more personal partner and customer relationships.
Last week, the company delivered its delayed partner awards for 2021 (you can find the winners and finalists here) and country manager Ollie Hill is looking forward to the return of a live, in-person event for 2022.
HP New Zealand took a very different tack to the now familiar virtual event for last week's awards for a reason, Hill said to deliver more value to partners.
"We had to innovate a lot, as everyone has," Hill told Reseller News. "We think our awards are one of the highlights in the industry. A lot of time and effort went in to make them very special."
While outwardly the seventh HP partner awards were all about the humour, they were also designed to help partners demonstrate the value they deliver to customers.
In 2021, everything was looking positive for a return to an in-person awards until lockdowns arrived again. HP pushed its event out in the hope of pulling off a live event, but time dragged on and the 2022 awards loomed.
"Our view was you can't just let it go," Hill said. "The amount of effort ad work that has gone in from partners is greater than ever. We needed to recognise them."
People were over virtual events, he said, so the question became how to deliver the most bang for buck and enjoyment.
With creative by communications agency Acumen and video producer Type 40, a series of high quality, humorous videos were produced, working closely with HP to tell the story of why partners had been so successful.
Hill learned a few things himself that hadn't come through in his regular partner engagement.
"It was great to hear some of the work they are doing, whether around marketing, customers or sustainability, things we don't see day-to-day," Hill said.
After HP produced a successful video for its 2020 awards, partners were lining up to participate. Carefully selected cameos helped realise the potential for running jokes built around industry relationships and individual quirkiness.
"I think that's something unique to the New Zealand channel compared to some other countries," Hill said.
"There is a deep connection. Maybe it's a size thing, maybe it's a culture thing but when we travel overseas as a group everyone is not just trying to be nice to each other, they genuinely like each other. There is a real community sense within the New Zealand channel."
HP is already looking ahead to its 2022 partner awards, which will be held in November.
"People are so desperate to get together it will be very well attended," Hill said. "There's no question about that.
"We are confident, seeing what is happening in other countries and the direction of travel here, that we'll be able to have something in-person. We'll even be able to have people from overseas here at that point.
"Hopefully it will be the start of a new era, or at least being able to get back to what we used to do and finding that in-person connection."
While virtual engagement can be highly productive, Hill said, you lose some "peripheral vision".
"You can't sense what people are not saying and it's really hard to iterate on top," Hill said. "You can cover more ground and talk to more customers in day but you can't go as deep as you want to."
Coming up with the right solution can also be more challenging virtually because the in-person energy you get from partners and customers helps you to create better solutions and to bring "the best of what you do" to the table.
As for the market, Hill expected continued strong demand driven by customers seeking efficiencies through the use of technology.
"I think there is going to be more focus on outcomes from that technology, but the market will remain strong," he said.