Can vendors really run a New Zealand channel from Australia?

Can vendors really run a New Zealand channel from Australia?

Channel managers that rule in exile from Sydney and Melbourne are facing a dilemma in New Zealand. Should they go big or go home?

Separated by just over 2,000km of Tasman sea, a few hours time difference and two stars embroidered onto a flag - Australia and New Zealand are seemingly much closer together, than they are apart.

In business, the widely used slash holds holds together the alliance grammatically, turning an iconic bank in ANZ into a combined market strategy through A/NZ.

Specific to the channel however, confusion remains.

On the Australian side of the fence, early year intentions remain strong until emails become overloaded, travel to overseas conferences becomes overwhelming and public holidays become all the more confusing.

A true story…

Economy flights from Sydney to Auckland - $750

Three nights accomodation in the Viaduct - $900

Dinner with top performing channel partners - $1500

The look of anguish on the face of a Sydney-based vendor marketing manager after realising that tomorrow’s partner advisory breakfast falls on the morning of Waitangi Day - Priceless

So, can vendors really run a New Zealand channel from Australia?

A tongue-in-cheek example above perhaps, but the very question of whether vendors can operate a channel turning over billions of dollars in revenue from remote shores remains to be seen.

This isn’t some patriotic rambling in the defence of all things Kiwi however, rather an analytical attempt at understanding the pros and cons of setting up shop in New Zealand.

Represented, vendors most certainly are of course, by exclusive distribution agreements, online portals and select partner engagements.

But in the physical sense, very few vendor boots are on the ground, meaning partners have to go through the tedious ritual of round after round of Australian handshaking tours and executive dinners.

Because the Kiwi channel knows the score. A suited and booted channel chief crosses the Tasman on an obligatory official visit of New Zealand almost every quarter.

[Usually during the first week of the next quarter actually, because said channel chief was either slammed in Sydney or had meetings galore in Melbourne.]

During this tour, handshakes are forced, deals are debated and promises are plentiful.

Then Friday afternoon comes, and with it, the famous 4pm ‘let’s get the hell out of here’ flight, expertly provided by both Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Air New Zealand.

With meetings running late, and boarding time fast approaching, the mad dash across the city during peak traffic follows, creating a stressful end to another wise benign week.

But for the trans-Tasman executives ‘running’ the country from Outlook and Skype, ‘showing face’ remains a crucial exercise in keeping local channel relations sweet for another six months.

On the ground

The rise and fall of Symantec in New Zealand is living proof of how a vendor can get the local market so spectacularly wrong.

Revealed exclusively by Reseller News in February 2015, the tech giant’s insistence on making all Kiwi roles redundant in favour of a centralised strategy - dictated from offices nestled on the Sydney Harbour Bridge - proved to be incredibly costly for the channel.

Despite being supported tremendously by local distribution, the PR ramifications of such a very visible retreat from New Zealand left a long-lasting mark with local channel partners.

How could the market leader of security abandon Aotearoa?

As one Dunedin-based partner told Reseller News on the condition of anonymity; “One minute Symantec was supporting New Zealand, the next it was gone. It seemed to happen overnight. Distribution was great in filling the gap but the move had a very damaging impact on my business.”

Because in a world in which Symantec tastes the same as McAfee, which self-respecting channel partner would side with a vendor actively pursuing strategies to exit New Zealand?

The advice is clear. Either stay put in Australia and rule in exile, or commit troops to the ground and make New Zealand a permanent home.

Read more on the next page...

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