A large number of channel programs get stuck in the exact same place.
After countless hours of planning, building and executing a robust set of partnering strategies and mechanics, channel managers miss some very important steps in their go-to-market activities.
Having observed hundreds of channel programs and comparing their success in the marketplace, I have come to a couple of simple conclusions.
Firstly, some vendors win because their product wins.
Many of the successful vendors that you see headlining shows today were in the right place at the right time with the right amount of innovation.
Take the time to read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for a fascinating look at what might have happened if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs were both born five years later.
When a vendor’s product wins, building a channel is easier with thousands of partners lining up to get in on the action.
Likewise, other vendors win because they understand how to influence the channel, but this is much more difficult.
The channel is highly-decentralised, whether that be by specialty, geography, industry focus, customer segment, business model or myriad of other things.
What smart channel managers understand is that influencing this large group of disparate people involves a wide array of tactics, and a tonne of manual labour.
It is important to note that the channel is rarely fooled twice however.
There have been many examples of vendors becoming highly visible and not backing it up with the product, program, pricing, place, promotion and internal channel religion to make it sustainable.
Assuming your ducks are in a row, it’s time to execute the 10-part formula.
The formula boils down to a very simple concept. Partners are made up of people who, like all of us, need to feel part of something.
There are over 600,000 technology partner companies worldwide, with millions of professionals working at them, who all need to connect, learn and engage to be the best they can be.
According to analyst firm Gartner, peer networking, associations and communities are the highest ranked ways that small and medium businesses learn, form opinions, and in the end, make decisions.
However, these peer to peer connections are not made under some huge global umbrella organisation. This is the crux of the problem I started with above - and a large reason that many channel programs under-deliver today.
What if you were able to sit down with millions of partners individually and ask them the following:
- What do you read?
- Who do you follow?
- What events do you attend? Listen to? Watch?
- How do you make vendor decisions?
The answers would probably surprise you - there are hundreds of sources of influence in the channel and they tend to have a very loyal and engaged subset of followers.
Top 10 major sources of influence
1 - Industry Media
In the technology and telecom space, there are 16 sizeable media companies around the world - including ARN in Australia and Reseller News in New Zealand - who have been quick to recognise the communities trend, and have formed powerful offerings under their trusted brands.
Looking at their advertising guides, you will quickly notice that unique readers are high among all of them.