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Published on: Channel Marketing

Channel Development: 5 Keys to Being the Ideal Partner

As a global partner marketing and channel development agency we work with clients from every part of the tech ecosystem. The thing that connects all of these disparate service providers, resellers and integrators are their status as a channel partner. No matter the tech or path to sale they choose to use, they ultimately have become part of a channel program for a vendor who sees and respects their business, acknowledging the impact it could have on their bottom line through a constructive partnership. All this got us thinking, how do these relationships come about? How do partners choose which vendor relationships to hold and more importantly what criteria do vendors use to decide who to partner with?

The Channel Development Solution

With that in mind we’ve compiled a short list of 5 top things you can alter about your process to become the generic ideal partner for tech vendors. A short something to help you along the path to more healthy and numerous vendor relationships, hopefully putting you at the top of their pile, garnering the most input in time and resources due to your expertise and well-rounded set of values.

A small thing to note is while we have a fairly powerful short list of 5 key factors that can affect how vendors choose their ideal partners, and what you can do to be a more attractive prospect as a partner, this list is by no means exhaustive. The sheer amount of products, services and factors affecting how useful partners are to specific vendors is near limitless, and growing all the time. While we fully support looking into all the areas we have listed, the best strategy is to research the vendors you may want to partner with from the ground up, looking at their current partners, past partners and business model to determine what you can best offer and pursuing their needs dynamically.

Without further a-do let’s take a dive into the 5 areas we think will help develop your vendor partnerships from day one:

Dedicated Services

The scale of partners businesses is often part of the reason vendor relationships are so tempting. Being able to utilise assets the vendor provides is a great boon for a smaller partner, and in some cases the vendor as it promotes a more unified strategy. But it’s important to remember this goes both ways, vendors while needing to control the messaging about their offering much prefer to have not only sales but also marketing and business development assets within their partner organisations. A business that understands and can undertake marketing efforts that will generate leads, not to mention continue the nurturing of those leads from is worth infinitely more than one that only offers a landing platform for the vendors own marketing. Ideal partners often further their usefulness by creating in house business development and initialise their own growth.

Be Engaged

This one is no surprise, vendor and partners have always had what seems from the outside like a mutually beneficial but strained relationship, vendors with a singular focus on pushing their product, but partners often in multiple partnerships and trying to keep everyone happy, all too frequently, unsuccessfully. The best way to overcome this, being aligned and truly engaged with the vendors objectives. 

By having not only tactical but also strategic alignment between vendor and partner goals as well as consensus on how the partnership should be lead and overall aims, the relationship 

Staff Flexibility

One of the most telling examples would be that of partners who formerly managed and maybe also sold servers and storage components to their end customers, but who have transitioned to delivering cloud-based products and services and gradually built up competencies in those areas. Their revenue mixes have shifted, dropping dramatically for transactional components like hardware, software or warranties, but substantially increasing for higher margin service businesses. Service delivery is in essence a matter of process and organizational structure. Yes, people develop and deliver services, but in a complex technology delivery and support environment, having a properly documented process and decision hierarchy is critical, as is an organization’s ability to prove to customers that their employee skill sets are adequate to the task. In a successful partner organization, as in any other, commitment to goals, standards and deliverables rules the day. Defined processes for service delivery have been in place for a while now, and talented technical staffs tend to migrate towards organizations where they have the opportunity of maintaining a career path. Translated into everyday activity, this usually means achieving certification on relevant aspects of their scope of work. It follows that channel partner organizations that have a programmatic approach encouraging vendor certification – especially from strategic vendors – tend to grow their talent pool much faster, build competitive advantage and also retain talent. This evolves into a core competitive advantage both for delivering better value and for sourcing talent without paying high premiums, and also growing that talent to encourage long term retention. Partners in this happy situation also tend to have higher retention of key personnel. And, even if there is employee turnover, since the deeper nature of the engagement with the end client does encourage poaching, partners with a talent development process in place can bridge this loss relatively quickly.

Automation In-built

First things first: when it comes to service delivery, automation is always a priority focus for a successful channel partner. A plethora of tools is in use today – from higher-end management suites such as those available from HP, BMC and Dell to entry-level products like Connectwise, Autotask, and other Professional Service Automation (PSA) platforms. What’s important here is to ensure visibility, predictability, security and accuracy in service delivery. Again, our research shows that the partners who take a longer-term approach and embrace marketing automation by leveraging both their internal tools and their technology vendors’ Partner Relationship Management or Partner Marketing Management platforms, tend to outperform the rest consistently.

Domain Value

The ability for a partner to bring domain expertise and add value is extremely important. No matter what solution or vertical, domain expertise is vital. If a partner can add deep domain expertise, they will have the ability to extend the product to a specific market or vertical. This, in turn, allows the partner to carve out defendable space where they operate and develop competitive advantages.

To circle back to the first trait, verticalization and defendable space also provide for more targeted messaging while executing lead development campaigns. This focused marketing approach has proven to be the difference in consistently developing qualified leads and eventual sale.

Bonus: Staying Power

Like everything in the enterprise software industry, things don’t happen overnight. A respected trait of a partner is a long-term vision for the partnership and the success that can develop. Channel partner success is a two-way street and both parties need to have a long-term vision for the partnership. The vendor must also be committed to educating partners and continuously enhancing the partner program to ensure partners gain value from the relationship.

Let us help with your Channel Development

Should you want help making the most of your channel marketing automation solutions or just choosing the right one for your business; please feel free to get in touch and talk about the services we can offer to help you stay relevant and competitive.